I am one of those crazy people who loves grilling so much that I do it all year long. Yes, even when it is raining or the temperature dips way down. Umbrella in hand, bundled up with gloves on, I’m out there checking to see if the food is done. I am always on the lookout for good BBQ sauce recipes because The Artist is allergic to artificial smoke flavoring. Both this flavoring and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS – another ingredient I try to avoid) are found in nearly all bottled sauces. I would much rather make a sauce from scratch where I know every ingredient that goes into it than risk his discomfort with poorly labeled store-bought products.
Using sodas in sauces is an old tradition in the American South and the root beer in this recipe adds a wonderful flavor. It will have people scratching their heads trying to figure out what is in the sauce.
I found the original recipe on Epicurious.com. Have you found them yet? They feature the recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines. With Gourmet no longer being printed, this is the only way to get their recipes. Epicurious also has videos on a huge variety of topics that can be invaluable to beginning cooks. Articles range from seasonal and holiday menus to restaurant and equipment guides. It is a wonderful place to get inspiration and learn some of the tricks of the trade.
If you don’t have the time to make a sauce from scratch, you can start with a bottled version and spike it up with some sauteed vegetables, a sprinkling of herbs, a little honey, and maybe a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Just because you don’t have all the time in the world to spend in the kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t serve special treats to your guests and family!
This sauce can be used in a lot of different ways. You can toss it with some leftover slow cooked pork or chicken, put it on a hoagie roll and have a pulled meat BBQ sandwich. You can brush it over grilled meats or poultry right at the end of cooking. You can use it with oven-cooked ribs for an outdoor grill flavor. Of you can be like me and just eat it by the spoonful, LOL!
There are many reasons to look for and buy organic products whenever you can afford to that go far deeper than just eating healthier. HFCS is chemically altered into a type of sugar that your body struggles to metabolize. This means you pack on more pounds when you eat it (this is obviously a VERY simplified explanation). The other main reason I try to buy organic is much more insidious. GMOs or Genetically Modified Foods are foods that have had specific changes made to their DNA with genetic engineering.
First introduced in the early 1990s, the most common products that have been modified are soybean, corn, canola, and cottonseed oils. The safety of GMO technology is the basis for heated bioethic debates in the food and biotech industries. The issues are complex and difficult to dissect, but I am concerned for the small independent farmers in this country. The sheer size of the major agricultural corporations squashes the efforts of the mom-and-pop farms. They are a dying breed and one that I cherish.
Suffice it to say, the more organic products you buy and consume, the healthier you will be and the cheaper the products will eventually become. Only with volume purchasing will the cost come down for us. I have great hopes that this country will get on board the organic “train” in a BIG way soon before it is too late.
There are many different types of barbecue sauces, many specific to a region of the U.S., but I love the savory/sweet/sour combo of tomato-based sauces with fruit juices and sugar. When I was growing up my parents always used a bottled sauce with a little extra brown sugar thrown in. I would love to hear about your favorite BBQ sauce recipes. What style do you like? What are some unusual ingredients that you use? While I love vinegar and mustard based sauces, I will probably always return to my childhood mainstay.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Liquid smoke seasoning is a great way to get the smoky flavor of the barbecue without lighting any charcoal. If you are looking for more natural alternatives, Smoked Paprika and Chipotle powder, which is made from smoked jalapeño peppers, add a touch of heat and natural smokiness.
Kitchen Skill: How to Measure a Reducing Sauce
To know when a liquid has reduced to a specific amount, before starting the recipe, measure 1-1/2 cups water (or whatever your final volume is supposed to be, depending on the individual recipe) and pour into the saucepan you will be using. Place the handle of a wooden spoon vertically in the water and mark the level with a pencil. Pour out the water and wipe the pan dry. Prepare your sauce as directed. Checking the depth occasionally with the spoon, cook your sauce until it is at or below the pencil line on the spoon handle.
Homemade Root Beer BBQ Sauce
Jane Evans Bonacci – The Heritage Cook © 2010
Adapted from an Epicurious.com recipe
Yield: about 1-1/2 cups
1 cup root beer
1 cup organic ketchup (see discussion of HCFS and GMOs above)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tbsp bourbon, optional
3 tbsp soy sauce
1-1/2 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp mild-flavored/light molasses, not blackstrap
1 tsp liquid smoke seasoning, smoked paprika, or chipotle powder (see Tips and Hints above)
1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 med onion, minced
Combine all ingredients in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring until smooth. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 1-1/2 cup (see Kitchen Skill above), about 20 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Cool slightly.
Pour into a blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender), put the cover on with one corner up to release steam. If you don’t do this, it will explode all over your kitchen! Cover the lid with a kitchen towel, and with your hand on it (just in case), blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Transfer to a container. Cover and refrigerate. (Can be made 2 weeks ahead; keep refrigerated.)
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