Monday, May 21, 2012

Essential Recipe: Sweet ‘n Smoky Barbecue Sauce

I didn't claw my way up the food chain just to eat vegetables. – As seen on an BBQ apron

My best barbecue sauce yet.
I’ve made many barbecue sauces in my time, and two even made it to this blog: Mango Fusion and Jack Daniels® Glaze. One that didn't – and should – is my chipotle pepper. I'll have to rectify that omission in the future.

Photo: Wiki CC
Although all three are very good and very different, there’s always been a taste that I wanted to incorporate but just couldn’t seem to. That flavour? Smoke.

It’s the quintessential taste of barbecue. It’s that deep, sort of sweet flavour that permeates your barbecued goodies and makes them so delicious. To incorporate that flavour you usually have to actually use wood chips to smoulder on your coals.

There is another way, and until recently I thought it had to be a chemical cocktail. But I was wrong – it's pretty much as natural as “smoking” with wood chips. The whole process of barbecuing is sort of carcinogenic so why let a little more bother you?

The secret is “liquid smoke.” Liquid smoke…even the name sounds like something very artificial. That’s a misnomer, because it consists of only two ingredients. It is made by smoke being passed through water.

Actually this product is cited in a document released by the World Health Organization. They state “Their [liquid smokes'] use reduces contamination by carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and enables the intensity of the flavour in the final product to be accurately controlled.”, page 12. (There's more about it on page 15.)

There are many different types of liquid smoke, depending on the wood used to make it. I used hickory, the same as the picture at left, but my brand was different.

Liquid smoke certainly adds smoky flavour to whatever it is used in, without the necessity of wood chips. Now there will be purists that will say there's no substitute for the real thing, but in blind taste tests many people couldn’t tell the difference.

This what it looks like at the start of cooking.
Liquid smoke sounds like something out of a bad 1950s lab, but it actually has been in existence for over 110 years. It all started with a man called Ernest H. Wright who began bottling and selling a product called “condensed smoke” in 1895.

Condensed smoke may well be a better term for this ingredient because his inspiration of the product was water he saw condensing on the wood stove pipe in a print shop where he worked. Not a very appetizing-sounding start, but it's the genesis none the less.

His company grew to become a national USA brand, and in 1997 Wright’s Liquid Smoke was purchased by B&G Foods. They continue its manufacture to this day. Other brands in B&G’s stable include Emeril’s, Mrs. Dash, Sugar Twin and Cream of Wheat.

This barbecue is a “must have” and I say that with no puffed-up sense of pride. It’s very simple, deep tasting and delicious. I checked my recipe against several others using liquid smoke – all with very high ratings. 

To me this tastes like what I believe barbecue sauce should be. I guess I chose the best parts of the recipes that inspired me. This barbecue sauce doesn’t even need a barbecue to have that outdoor flavour. Broiling works every bit as well.

The recipe makes about 1-1/2 cups, so for your one hour investment in time you will have enough barbecue sauce to thrill a crowd, or last for a good portion of the season if you’re not a hardcore barbecuer.

This is it after 45 minutes. Very much darker and the onions
have almost completely cooked into the sauce.
Sweet ‘n Smoky Barbecue Sauce
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook 45 min  |  Yield: 1.5 cups
1 tbsp oil
3/4 cup onions, chopped
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper

Saute onion in oil until slightly browned. 

Add remaining ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes. The sauce will become very thick and darker in colour. 

Place in a jar and refrigerate. It will thicken further as it cools.


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