Food lab: Homemade barbecue sauce

I have been meaning to make homemade barbecue sauce ever since I made Southern style pulled pork where the accompanying barbecue sauce was Carolina style which is apple cider vinegar based (and not the sweet, tomato based barbecue sauce that I’m used to). I just happen to have a recipe for homemade barbecue sauce in one of my cookbooks and the author boasts that he has yet to find a sauce, prepared or homemade, that beats this recipe. I just had to try it.

First thing I noticed, it’s a pretty long list of ingredients. All I can say is thank goodness for Bulk Barn. I can’t imagine having to buy all these ingredients (many of which I don’t use on a regular basis). All these ingredients just to make barbecue sauce? Considering that you can buy a bottle or barbecue sauce at the store for $2-3 a bottle, it’s going take some major convincing to make barbecue sauce from scratch. The ingredients alone cost $10 (but the recipe makes the equivalent of 3-4 bottles worth). So from a cost standpoint, it cost pretty much the same amount to buy it from the store compared to making it from scratch.

So really, it’s going to come down to taste to see if it’s worth the time and effort to make barbecue sauce from scratch. Here is the list of ingredients and what’s involved:

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Recipe from the Nordstrom Friends and Family Cookbook

2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground mace
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of ground cloves

3 cups water
3 cups light corn syrup
3/4 cup cider vinegar
4 cans (6 oz each) tomato paste
6 Tbsp dark molasses
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

That is a long list!

Combine the salt, granulated garlic, onion powder, black pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes, cumin, oregano, ginger,  mac, allspice, cayenne, and cloves. Set aside.

In a 4- to 6-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the water and corn syrup and bring to the barest simmer, stirring occasionally. Whisking constantly, add the dry spice seasoning mixture to the pan along with the vinegar. Continuing to whisk, add the tomato paste and cook for 4 minutes. Add the molasses, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and mustard and whisk to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken and coasts the back of a spoon, about 25 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and let cook to room temperature. Transfer to jars with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate for up to 3 months.

The preparation for making the barbecue sauce seemed easy enough. Measure out the spices, heat a solution of light corn syrup and water in a pot and add the spices, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard. Let it cook until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon, about 25 minutes.

I have to admit that when I was buying all the spices I was really intimidated and didn’t think it is really worth making barbecue sauce from scratch. Half of the spices I never cook with so unless you use these spices in your everyday cooking it isn’t worth buying them all just to make homemade barbecue sauce.

However, once I had all the ingredients and had them all measured out, the rest was easy. You just mix them into a big pot. My kitchen smelled amazing and the homemade barbecue sauce is really tasty! And it keeps for three months! With this in mind, I think it would be fun to make a batch of barbecue sauce – I can make it once and have it on hand to use up throughout the barbecue season.

However, the results of the taste test indicated that the store bought brands tasted just as good as homemade so it’s really only worth making if you have a top notch recipe and have an opportunity to use it all up.

The good news is, that you can buy many of these spices loose and in the amounts that you need from places like Bulk Barn and spice shops (there are a couple at Kensington Market and St. Lawrence Market) so you do have options. If you are fortunate to have a store where you can buy these ingredients in the specific amounts, I would encourage you to try making homemade barbecue sauce at least once. The process is quite easy and your kitchen will smell amazing (make sure you have something to grill on hand because I guarantee that you will end up with a huge craving for barbecue)!

And the good news is that barbecue sauce keeps for up to 3 months in the fridge so you can make a big batch and use it throughout the barbecue season. You can also pack some into mason jars and give them as gifts to family and friends. Homemade barbecue sauce makes a great host/hostess gift whenever going over to someone’s place for a barbecue.

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