A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for BBQ sauce – a classic, sweet, molasses-y sauce that’s great with beef, especially brisket. This sauce has a different flavor – it’s a little more of a Tennessee style, vinegar-based sauce. It isn’t as sweet – a little more tangy. It’s especially good with pork and chicken. When you grill and smoke meat as often as the men in my life, there’s room for a bevy of sauces.
This particular recipe comes from none other than Aaron Franklin – of Franklin’s BBQ fame. I think his has some “secret” ingredients, but this is the recipe he’s willing to share and it’s pretty stellar. There’s also something to be said for the combination of the smoker smell happening outside and the sauce cooking inside – your mouth basically waters all day.
Vinegar-based Barbecue Sauce
2 sticks of butter
1/2 of a yellow onion
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
half of a lemon
1. In a saucepan over high heat, melt the butter. Chop the onion finely and add to the butter, cooking until translucent (note that the smell of onions cooking in butter is one of the best in the world!). Add the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices. Stir everything together and cook until it comes to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer on the stove for at least 30 minutes, until it has reduced to a thick sauce.
2. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to combine. This sauce has no emulsifiers, so the butter and vinegar will separate. I store mine in a jar and shake it up before I use it.
I am truly embarrassed at how much of my life I spent buying salsa instead of making it myself. Homemade is fun, it tastes better, it’s cheaper, and totally customizable! I typically double this recipe and fill many jars to store and give away, but even the recipe as-is will give you a good amount. Start with the base and then taste and add things as needed, especially peppers.
I make mine in the food processor, but I’ve done it in a blender in a pinch – you just have to do smaller amounts and stir together. I generally start with the big can of the tomatoes and one can of rotel to break it down, then move a good amount to a mixing bowl just to free up some space in the food processor. If you don’t, some of the garlic and onions tend to get lost and don’t break down, but you won’t find them until you’re pouring it into jars and it will irritate you.
28oz can whole tomatoes
2 cans rotel
half of an onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 jalapenos (you’ll start with half of one – they can really vary in heat), stemmed and seeded
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
handful of cilantro leaves
1-2T lime juice
1. Process the tomatoes and one of the cans of rotel until they reach the desired consistency. Pour half of the mixture into a large bowl. Then add the other can of rotel, the onions, and garlic, and process until all of the garlic and onion bits are broken down adequately. Add half of a jalepeno (the whole jalepeno if you know you want it hot), and the spices. Blend again. Add the cilantro leaves and lime juice, blend again.
2. Pour everything else into the big bowl and stir to combine. Give it a taste – add more jalapeno, salt, garlic or lime to taste. Store in jars in the refrigerator. If well sealed, they will last a few months. If you need it to last longer, I’d recommend freezing.
My family is definitely a cooking family. Some of my best memories in life center around the kitchen – bustling around with my parents and brothers, my husband and sister-in-law, and now my kids. As with anything, after you’ve cooked enough meals together everyone sort of falls into their own specialty – my dad will set an alarm every three hours all night to feed the smoker, my grandma makes amazing potato salad, my mom pulls together insanely good sides, I typically make dessert, and, in the case of a bbq, Ross always makes the sauce. The recipe comes from one of our dearest friends, James, and exists only in an email sent from him to my husband 8 years ago (it’s a picture taken of a recipe). I haven’t changed anything about the recipe, but I’m tired of searching through the archives of Ross’ email every time I want to make barbecue sauce so I’m sharing it here. James is one of the best barbecue-ers (meatists?) I know, so his authority on sauce is commendable. It’s only fitting that I share it now, as he’s about to move across the country and we won’t be seeing him for a while (though, he offers us an excellent excuse to visit L.A.!)
The smell of smoking brisket and homemade barbecue sauce is one of my favorite smells in the world and given that our sense of smell is tied so closely to my memory, it’s no wonder I have so many wonderful memories of cooking. If you’ve never made your own sauce, give it a try – it’s not very hard and it tastes a million times better than what you could purchase at a store. We’re hoping to try some new varieties this summer (I’ve grown some awesome peppers in my garden, so a spicy version is on tap for the near future). This makes about a quart of BBQ sauce, enough to serve and have plenty left to keep in the refrigerator. It you reduce it enough it fits perfectly in a large mason jar.
James’ BBQ Sauce
3T olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup chicken broth
3T soy sauce
6T brown sugar
3T red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, until fragrant.
2. Add the other ingredients, stir, and allow the mixture to come to a boil. When it does, turn the heat to low, and allow the mixture to simmer and reduce for 20-30 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.