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July 1, 2011

The Grill and the Barbecue Sauce

by Anne Paddock

As daytime temperatures soar and the days get longer, most people think less about turning the oven on and more about grilling outdoors. When I married my husband 21 years ago, one of our wedding gifts was  a Weber gas grill which we spent our honeymoon putting together.  There must have been 1,000 parts and although stressful to assemble, we completed the project with our marriage intact.  Last year after 20 years of reliable service, we decided to replace the old Weber with a new grill, the question being:  do we choose gas or charcoal?

A gas grill is easier to start and the heat is immediate and reliably consistent because the propane tank provides a steady source of fuel whereas charcoal takes time to ignite and heat up.  The temperature is also harder to maintain in a charcoal grill because as the lumps or briquettes burn down, the grill master needs to add more and this isn’t always easy or convenient when in the middle of grilling. Charcoal grill users also report a more smoky flavor to the meat grilled over charcoal versus gas.

We debated the pros and cons all summer and then decided to buy a Weber charcoal grill with a propane starter, which is kind of like cheating in grilling circles as there seems to be two distinct camps of grillers: the self-starter gas users and the purist charcoal devotees..… both of which stand firm in their devotion to their respective types of grills. Leaning more towards simplicity and flavor,  the combination grill appeared to provide a negotiated balance:  I could have the smoky flavor from charcoal and the ease of starting the grill by pushing an ignite button that would light the charcoal cubes. There would be a longer wait time as the lumps or briquettes heat up the grill but this seemed like a small price to pay for real smoky flavor.

The grill master in our home is my husband while I have been enthusiastically relegated to menu planning and preparation.  Choosing the meat is always the easy part but picking the barbecue sauce turned into a challenge. For years, I would buy bottles of commercially prepared barbecue sauces as grocery stores offer a wide variety  – hickory smoked, honey mustard, thick & spicy, mesquite to name a few – but as I became more aware of additives and started to read labels, I realized that more often than not,  the commercially prepared sauces contain high fructose syrup or artificial additives and flavorings. And, some ingredients simply perplexed me:  what exactly is natural smoke flavor and how is it bottled? I wanted a barbecue sauce made with as many fresh ingredients as possible blended with spices from my pantry. But, I also wanted something that was simple, easy to make and full of flavor so I started researching barbecue sauces.

Barbecue sauce is a general and somewhat vague term.   A blend of vegetables, sweeteners, and spices, barbecue sauce is primarily used to add flavoring to barbecued or grilled pork, beef, chicken, seafood, and vegetables.  Most people have a general idea of what barbecue sauce is with its many variations but they don’t realize how easy it is to make at home because the French word  “sauce” conjures up feelings of inadequacy and intimidation. But, making your own barbecue sauce is surprisingly easy.I came up with the following recipe by choosing my favorite ingredients and adapting a recipe from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook called “Mean, Meaner, Meanest Barbecue Sauce”  to reflect my desire for a sauce with less pepper and garlic and instead a slight sweetness accomplished with honey or maple syrup.  This thick barbecue sauce can be used at the end of the grilling process and as a sauce that can be placed on the dinner table and ladled onto your food.

Barbecue Sauce
2/3 cup of olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 green scallions,chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped or pressed
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 orange pepper, chopped
1 26 ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey or 1 tablespoon maple syrup, based on preference
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Juice from 2 limes
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • Pour 1/3 cup of the olive oil in a large pan and heat over medium.
  • Add the onion, scallions, garlic and peppers. Cook for 12 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and puree in a food processor and pour it back into the pan.
  • Pour the tomatoes, sugar, honey or maple syrup, and olive oil in the food processor and process until smooth.
  • Add the tomato blend to the mixture in the pan and stir to blend.
  • Stir in the chili powder, oregano, cloves, lime juice, worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and vinegar.
  • Simmer uncovered over low heat for 45 minutes.

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