Pour it on

It’s easy to add flavour to bar­be­cued food with sauces made from scratch

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

It’s easy to add flavour to bar­be­cued food with sauces made from scratch.

Bar­be­cue sauce is a per­sonal thing.

For some, it means a thick, sweet red sauce. For oth­ers, it is mus­tard-based. For those who grew up in North Carolina like I did, it’s vine­gar-based. Re­gional dif­fer­ences aside, these days bar­be­cue sauces are made from ev­ery­thing from blue­ber­ries to espresso to or­ange juice, maple syrup, te­quila and beer.

And I love them all! The term "bar­be­cue sauce" has be­come a catch-all for a quick sauce to go on meat, poul­try and fish, ei­ther as a fin­ish­ing glaze or a dip­ping sauce, and truly any­thing goes!

Doc­tor­ing up a pur­chased prod­uct is one way to get a per­son­al­ized bar­be­cue sauce. But my pref­er­ence is to start from scratch. That way you don’t have to spend time cov­er­ing up any­thing you don’t like. In­stead, you can layer on the flavours you love. And you’ll be shocked by how easy it is.

The most pop­u­lar bar­be­cue sauces start out with a base of toma­toes. I like to use crushed toma­toes be­cause they are uni­form and al­ready bro­ken down. If I want the sauce to have a more savoury flavour, I sweat some aro­mat­ics, such as onions and gar­lic, be­fore adding the crushed toma­toes. If I am look­ing for a lighter sauce or glaze that com­ple­ments the food with­out cov­er­ing up the nat­u­ral flavours, I start sim­ply with the toma­toes.

Af­ter that, the most im­por­tant thing to keep in mind is to make sure the sweet­ness is off­set by an acidic in­gre­di­ent, such as vine­gar, wine or cit­rus juice. You want to make sure there is a per­fect bal­ance of sweet, salty and tart notes.

If us­ing the sauce as a glaze, make sure to add enough liq­uid to make it easy to brush on, and you need to add enough sugar so it will caramelize as it cooks. Carameliza­tion is key to a great bar­be­cue sauce. But sugar cooks very quickly, so brush bar­be­cue sauce on the food only dur­ing the fi­nal 10 min­utes of the cook­ing time. Oth­er­wise, the sug­ars will burn be­fore the food is cooked.

And if you want the fa­mil­iar bar­be­cue sauce flavour, don’t for­get the Worces­ter­shire sauce. The tamarind in the Worces­ter­shire sauce is what we all as­so­ciate with that clas­sic flavour.

SASSY BOUR­BON AND BROWN SUGAR BAR­BE­CUE SAUCE

This sauce (and the clas­sic spice rub that goes with it) is great on ribs, chicken, pork and hearty fish, such as salmon and cat­fish. I’ve also used it on por­to­bello mush­rooms, charred onions and slabs of grilled pota­toes! Start to fin­ish: 50 min­utes Makes 4 cups 28-ounce can crushed toma­toes 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 2 tbsp mo­lasses 1/2 cup bour­bon 1/2 cup Ketchup 1/4 cup chili sauce (such as Heinz) 1/4 cup cider vine­gar 2 tbsp red wine vine­gar 1/4 cup Worces­ter­shire sauce 1 tbsp clas­sic spice rub (recipe be­low) 1 tbsp unsweet­ened co­coa In a large saucepan over medium, com­bine all in­gre­di­ents. Stir well, then sim­mer for 30 min­utes, or un­til the sauce has thick­ened. Let stand off the heat for 10 min­utes, then trans­fer the sauce to a blender. Puree un­til very smooth. The sauce can be re­frig­er­ated in an air­tight con­tainer for 2 weeks. Nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion per 1/4 cup: 120 calo­ries; 0 calo­ries from fat (0 per cent of to­tal calo­ries); 0 g fat (0 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg choles­terol; 400 mg sodium; 24 g car­bo­hy­drate; 1 g fi­bre; 21 g sugar; 1 g pro­tein.

CLAS­SIC SPICE RUB

The best bar­be­cue starts and ends with a great dry rub. This recipe is my favourite. I use it as one of the key in­gre­di­ents in my bar­be­cue sauce. But I also like to sprin­kle the dry rub di­rectly on the meat prior to cook­ing (and bast­ing with the sauce). That way you get a dou­ble dose of this great rub. Start to fin­ish: 5 min­utes Makes 3/4 cup 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 tbsp sweet pa­prika 1 tbsp smoked pa­prika 1 tbsp ground black pep­per 1 tbsp ground white pep­per 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt 2 tsp gar­lic pow­der 2 tsp onion pow­der 1/2 tsp cayenne pep­per In a small bowl, com­bine all in­gre­di­ents, mix­ing un­til evenly blended. Can be stored at room tem­per­a­ture in an air­tight con­tainer for up to 6 months. Nutri­tion in­for­ma­tion per ta­ble­spoon: 25 calo­ries; 0 calo­ries from fat (0 per cent of to­tal calo­ries); 0 g fat (0 g sat­u­rated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg choles­terol; 720 mg sodium; 7 g car­bo­hy­drate; 1 g fi­bre; 5 g sugar; 0 g pro­tein.

AP PHOTO

Sassy bour­bon and brown sugar bar­be­cue sauce is a de­li­cious ad­di­tion to bar­be­cued foods. Made from scratch, like all good sauces it fea­tures a mix of savoury and sweet flavours

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