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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saucey thoughts

So, an old friend looked me up and asked what I thought about BBQ sauces and how he might replicate the ones he remembers from when he lived out west.  It got me thinking, I don't use much sauce anymore for cooking and provide it as a condiment when serving.  Sure, I will glaze the occasional rib or chicken (see photo below), it gives it such a nice sheen.  In part, this comes from my preference for tasting the meat (beef, pork, chicken or fish) over tasting a sauce.  Most BBQ sauces are rather simple in taste and overly thickened to provide a compliment to the primary component of the dish.

 When I do use BBQ sauce in a cook, it is often thinned to a consistency of a glaze or reduction type sauce.  Most often I will 'doctor' a commercially available sauce to serve my purposes.  Lately I have been enamored of Blues Hog BBQ sauce and Sweet Baby Ray's.  I will think the BH with bourbon or sherry, the Sweet baby Ray's gets a vinegar boost (more on this down the page).  I find thinning the commercial sauce makes them glaze better, have a lighter more complementary flavor and allows me to taste the meat better. Here is an example of Blues Hog that was mixed with pan jus from the chicken as it cooked, I simply took the warm jus and added enough Blues Hog to replicate a reduction sauce...

I gotta stop getting artsy with the food shots, that looks horrible.  Anyway, back to the idea of home made sauce.  I have been working on this for some time now.  Currently, I am big on assembling sauces to try and create some 'texture' in the flavor of the sauce.  I start with vinegar (apple cider, Japanese rice or champagne) and make a reduction of the vinegar with whatever spices I feel will fit the profile of what I am going to use it on.  I start with 3 or 4 cups of vinegar and reduce by at least half with the spices in it.  After filtering, this gives me a slightly thickened vinegar with pronounced spice and sweet layers of flavor. I then will heat to flowing some honey, molasses, alcohol and ketchup.  These are blended to make the sauce, bearing in mind, I prefer a thinner sauce.  Lately filtered fruit puree has been making it's way into the blend as well.

I don't usually cook from recipes, but, if I start with 2 cups of reduced vinegar, I will use somewhere around the same amount of the syrup portion of this recipe and work up or down the sweetness scale to get where I want.  More sweet for chicken and beef, more sour for pork.  If I want heat, I prefer to use chile powder in the vinegar and not use products like Tabasco as they have a flavor impact all their own.  I only use as much salt as necessary to lift the taste of the sauce.  Honestly, when I can produce ribs like these, I just prefer no sauce...


  1. Okay, I sent a fish recipe. Have you tried a good balsamic vinegar as a component of your glaze? It seems to add a depth of flavor and some sugar for sheen. Yes, the artsy photo was a bit off. Where are my seasick pills?

  2. I really like your idea of starting with a spiced vinegar reduction. That alone would give you a ton of flavors to work with. I'll have to give it a try after I cook though my last order of Carnivore sauce.

    Have you ever tried a balsamic reduction?

  3. I have not tried a balsamic yet. It is pricey to boil off half of the balsamic. But, perhaps I can find a way to incorporate it after the reduction.

  4. I like to cut commercial sauces with cider vinegar or beer too. If there is any thickening going on, I want my fire to do that.