My sister-in-law, Tough Yankee Broad, spent the last week visiting a girlfriend and her husband who have moved to Missouri. They took her out to eat several times, mostly to eat barbecue (the husband is big on barbecue apparently). Our conversation (via Yahoo IM) went like something this:
TYB: They sure are big on BBQ out there, and so is M – personally I don’t care if I see anymore BBQ sauce till Labor Day – and that might just be too soon.
Me: ROFLMAO – I miss barbecue!
TYB: For me, a little BBQ sauce goes a long way and the places we went to seemed determined that the chicken had to drown in the stuff before it was cooked and then eaten! It was like it had simmered in in a gallon of sauce.
At that point I went, well, ballistic. If you think I’m picky about chili, you haven’t seen anything until I go off on a tangent about barbecue. I once wrote an email to a restaurant that claimed to have “authentic Texas barbecue” (because, excuse me, it wasn’t) that was apparently so scathing they took the claim off of their menu.
Just to be perfectly clear, barbecue is not a sauce; it’s a method of cooking. The sauce is almost incidental. To whit, the definition of barbecue that is accepted by most authorities is “meat or other foods, cooked in close proximity to a fire of coals or wood, usually with a sauce applied.” Note that it does not say “always” (to say nothing of “drowned in sauce”); in fact, I’ve had some damn fine barbecue meat only dressed with a dry rub or even just plain, with a little sauce served on the side if you want it. Even then, the sauce is usually not applied until the last 15 minutes or so of cooking – any good barbecue sauce is going to contain sugar (but not too much) and/or tomatoes. The sugar will burn and tomato can become bitter with long cooking.
Barbecue purist say you can’t call it barbecue unless it’s slow-cooked in a pit all day, but most of us are not quite that stringent (who wants to have to dig a pit in their back yard?) – a barbecue grill is certainly sufficient. Having said that, if you have a gas grill you’re stretching it – real barbecue should be cooked over a wood embers or charcoal.
As I mentioned earlier, unless you’re a Kansas City Barbecue fan (and I won’t hold it against you if you are…you poor thing), barbecue sauce isn’t supposed to be real sweet. It should have a good tang to it, and if you’re a hot head it’s perfectly okay for it to have a some kick. If you’re going for a bottled sauce, the original Sweet Baby Ray barbecue sauce is pretty good, although a tad on the sweet side (they also make some damn fine marinades/mopping sauces that the barbecue sauce compliments wonderfully), but if you want to make your own, this one is pretty damn good. It lends itself well to modification, too, and makes a ton. The original recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, but I tend to object to mint in barbecue sauce. But give it a whirl, if you want.
3 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup honey
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup chopped, fresh parsley
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 cups ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Cover and cook, at lowest simmer, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Slow cooking is the secret of this sauce. If your sauce should become too thick, thin it with a little white wine.