Monday, May 13, 2013

On the Grill Sweet ‘n Smoky Barbecue Sauce

Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs. – William Shakespeare 

This is one good barbecue sauce.

It wasn’t very pleasant yesterday here in Nova Scotia but the weather is warm now and summer is on its way. It may (or may not) be sunny this weekend, but we may as well prepare. That means making your own mustards (search this blog), ketchup, relish and barbecue sauce.

Photo: Wiki CC
There’s one recipe I’ll be making and posting here in the near future, chipotle ketchup, but this barbecue sauce will have to do for now. It keeps in the refrigerator for weeks if well sealed.

Making your own barbecue sauce can be a tricky business. It needs to be thick  so it doesn’t get watery, and flavourful. That’s one thing I find lacking in many of the store-bought sauces – good flavour.

But 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 – 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?

Liquid smoke
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.

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 above, 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 is what the sauce looks like at the start of simmering.

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” way back 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 sauce is a “must have” and I say that with no puffed-up sense of pride. It’s very simple, deep tasting and delicious.  

To me this tastes like what I believe barbecue sauce should be. It 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.

For a great accompaniment look here. It's a three bean salad that even people who usually dislike it can get enough of.

This is a good little sauce. I cant wait to try it on tofu for
a vegetarian friend of ours. I have a mean three bean salad
that would go perfectly with this. Do a blog search.
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

Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan. Saute the onion until slightly browned. 

Add the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil and then let simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid it sticking. The sauce will become very thick and darken in colour considerably. 

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


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