This time of year the supermarket shelves are fully stocked with all the essentials for a great BBQ. The amount of shelf space dedicated to dozens of merely mediocre BBQ sauce astounds me. How many times have you heard friends and acquaintances brag about their secret sauce only to find out it is some generic corn syrup and tomato paste that millions of other people also claim is their secret? I remember about 20 years ago or so ago, there was a new dark brown sauce on the market and as soon as it got a little market share some conglomerate bought the rights to the name and took all of the good stuff out (including the love) just to make a few bucks. My suggestion is to put the love back into your BBQ and make your own sauce, it is simple…here is how to start.
I start with my favorite (organic) tomato ketchup, for convenience sake because we definitely want to make this simple. (Later in the summer we can discuss making your own ketchup, it is simple, inexpensive, and the flavor is not to be believed.) Then we put about half as much brown sugar (or any kind of sugar you want for that matter: white, demerara, turbinado, evaporated cane juice, agave syrup, honey or whatever floats your hydrometer) and finish it with about half as much Worcestershire Sauce. So the basic recipe looks like 4 parts ketchup, 2 parts sugar, and 1 part Worcestershire sauce. This makes a very nice sauce which should only be the basis for your final sauce.
I have added fruit purees, chilies (both powdered dry and pureed reconstituted chilies), coffee, beer, wine, gin, spices of every variety, onions, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce…you name it (maybe even a little salt and pepper). This one is nice because it just comes together that quickly and can be adapted at a whim. Here is one idea I did a while ago that turned out great:
Meyer Lemon BBQ Sauce:
- 1 clove garlic, shaved on a micro-plane (¼- ½ tsp)
- 2 Tbsp Meyer lemon juice (from 1 lemon) + zest
- ¼ cup brown sugar packed
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ very ripe banana
- 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
The perfect cookout would start with brined chicken legs cooked slowly over natural wood with an extra kick of smoke and then just when the chicken was done slathering this sauce all over it to thicken over the warmth of the fire for about 10 minutes until the sauce takes on an impeccable shine and deep flavor. I always caution people not to put the sauce on too soon because it will burn with all of the sugar in it. I love to serve this with plenty of home-made salads like potato salad, coleslaw, tomato salad, watermelon salad…or whatever tickles you at the time (I don’t ever decide until I see what is good at the market). Have a great cookout!