A couple weeks ago I blogged about a watermelon gazpacho and I mentioned that my family recently got together for a summer party.
This year – true to my family’s slightly competitive nature – a rib challenge was thrown into the mix. Four “nuclear” families, four kinds of ribs and time for me to perfect my signature BBQ sauce. Each style of ribs was very different from one to another, which made for a nice variety to taste and none that outdid the next. We had: boar ribs cooked sous-vide, maple lacquered ribs, classis southern BBQ ribs and my Mexican mole inspired ribs.
Today’s topic though is not on how to cook ribs, it is much greater than that. In this post I will unlock the mystery on how you can put together a signature BBQ sauce with your name on it, one you can be proud to call your own!
The main reason I wanted to develop my own BBQ sauce (aside from the obvious…) is because I wanted to avoid the added sodium, preservatives or any other unpronounceable ingredient you can imagine. I’ve read many recipes that call for lots of refined sugars, ketchup and soy sauce. I wanted to make my sauce from scratch from fresh/dried/unprocessed ingredients. That is exactly what I will share with you today, the unprocessed basics of BBQ sauce making!
Let me break this down: you need (1) a tomato base, (2) a vinegar, (3) a sugar, (4) some aromatics including onion and garlic, or perhaps other veggies – it is your sauce afterall, and finally (5) a spice blend. The flavour of your BBQ sauce depends on what you choose for each of those items, especially the spice blend. Play around with each of these until you find something that truly represents your palate.
BBQ Sauce 101
2 cups tomato base, you can use fresh tomatoes pureed whole in a blender
½ cup vinegar, play around with cider, red wine, or even balsamic vinegar
¼ to ½ cup sugar, quantity varies on how sweet you like your sauce, but think of combining different types of sugars like brown sugar, molasses, honey, etc.
1 onion, chopped
Crushed garlic cloves, I opted for 6 cloves but choose as few or as many as you like
¼ to ½ cup of aromatics, this is your signature spice blend
¼ cup oil of your choice, or a combination of fats perhaps
1 to 2 cups water
Begin by putting together your secret spice blend: think of combining some hot chillies, fine herbs, nuts or seeds, and don’t forget some salt, even if it just a couple pinches just to balance out the flavours. It doesn’t matter if your spices are whole or ground. After mixing and combining, put all your spices in a food processor to ground it all together. Take the time to play around and taste as you go. Even after you’ve blended your spices you can always add more but remember you cannot remove it once it’s been added – tread carefully.
Bring a large pot to medium heat, pour in the oil, add the onions and garlic, and sauté until soft. Add your spice blend and cook for a couple of minutes. Don’t worry if it sticks a little at the bottom of the pot, because the next step is deglazing. To deglaze, simply pour in the vinegar and stir. You will find that your ingredients and the brown bits begin to unstick from the bottom of the pot; at this point add your tomato base, sugar and one cup of water. Stir well, turn the heat down to low and simmer for about an hour until the sauce is reduced down to two thirds of the quantity you originally had.
Allow your sauce to cool, pour into a blender and process until smooth. If the sauce is too thick to blend smoothly then gradually add some water until it reaches the desired consistence. Return to the pot, taste and adjust any seasonings as needed. If you are adding seasonings to your sauce then bring it to a simmer for another 15 minutes to an hour to ensure the flavours are well combine. Just remember that the longer you cook your sauce, the thicker it gets. It will also thicken when it cools. On the other hand, if your sauce is too bland or too liquid, then cooking and reducing it for another hour will thicken and help concentrate the flavours.
Now you are ready to store it in the fridge, freezer or in jars (for preserving, make sure you follow proper instructions and this is a great place to get started). Makes a great gift and is also fantastic when cooking for a crowd. Not only can you use it on all sorts of grilled meats and vegetables, as a topping for burgers, but it is something personal you can bring to any party. Save a little extra in a mason jar to give as a gift to the host or hostess.
Now, get some people together for a BBQ and get ready to brag about your own signature BBQ sauce!