Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Barbecue Sauce Recipes - A Taxonomy

Before the untimely death of my old log burner, I was quite serious about barbeque. At one time I had several hardwoods curing on a rack in my backyard, including oak, hickory, pecan, persimmon, and fig. My idea of a good day was to get up at 7:00 AM on Saturday in the Fall and start a couple pork shoulders on the pit. I would tend to the fire all day so I could have them ready to serve my friends during halftime of SEC Game of the Week on ESPN. I would serve the pork pulled on rolls with homemade barbeque sauce and one of my specialty coleslaws. My horseradish coleslaw is always a crowd-pleaser:

Horseradish Coleslaw
  • 2 packages for shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon of prepared horseradish
  • salt and pepper to taste
Salt cabbage in colander and set aside. Blend remaining ingredients and chill. Once the cabbage has lost some water, place it in a bowl (I use a 2 gallon ziplock) and pour dressing over. Refrigerate AT LEAST 4 hours to overnight mixing periodically.

Over the years I have managed to visit several of the legendary barbeque joints and sample many of the the regional varieties of barbeque (See my recommendations). Barbeque is one of those foods that lends itself to opinionated folks, so I fit right in. (I once got in an argument over which was argued over most often: barbeque, chili, or gumbo. Everyone knows its gumbo of course.) For as opinionated as I am, I will probably like any dish that involves meat cooked with smoke from a hardwood fire. You might say I'm down with OPP (Other People's Pork).
As I result of my travels, I began experimenting with my own sauces. I have developed several of my own, a couple of which are really good. If you are interested in making your own, I'd suggest reading Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces. This is a fantastic book which will influence your thinking on seasoning food. His section on "flavor prints" is fascinating.

Here is one of my sauces if you need something to get you started:

The Swine Spectator's Sweet Sauce
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 TBS beef drippings (or rendered beef fat)*
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 cups tomato juice or V8
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 TBS paprika
  • 1 TBS black pepper
  • 2 TBS kosher salt
  • 1 TBS celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp brown mustard seeds

In a non-reactive pot, sauté' onion until translucent. Stir in mustard, ketchup, tomato juice, and vinegar. Bring to simmer. Stir in molasses and sugar until incorporated. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate. Allow to sit in icebox for a day or two before using.

If you would like to learn about the various styles of barbeque sauces
Barbecue Sauce Recipes - A Taxonomy is a great place to start. This guy pretty much nails it, with the exception of his Louisiana sauces. We have a darn good regional sauce in Louisiana. It is actually mustard-based like sauces from certain parts of the Carolinas, but loaded with onions. Check out Jack Miller's if you are interested.