I, too, am looking for a great BBQ sauce recipe. The best local joint has two killer sauces the standard brown/tomato one seems to be slightly crossed with mole sauce. I know it has some chocolate and heat in it. For a little while, they sold it in bottles complete with the required ingredients list. Still haven't come close to it though.
They also serve an awesome mustard based one. A little smokey. A hint of sweet but more sour, with a touch of heat.
Steve Raichlen's three books How to Grill, Barbecue Bible, Barbecue Bible: Sauces, Rubs and Marinades are great starting points for sauce work. His mustard sauce in How to Grill] is pretty good, but very different than my cloning goal.
I'm beginning to suspect a few things about my goal sauces. The vegetable bases are first smoked to imbue them with authentic flavor. An onion cut partially through into almost quarters, oiled and hit with a spice rub with a while in the smoker makes a great sauce base. The vegies are then cooked and pureed and strained to create a great sauce. The final sauce may also spend some time in the smoker to reduce and pick up flavor.
I also believe some of their dry rub is added for some harmony. Not a lot of it though. Might just be the rub on the vegies.
Here is how I make my standard home BBQ sauce. I really can't give measurements as I have never taken any and they change according to my whim. That is one of the true joys of BBQ, you can individualize it as much as you want.
-All of these are smoked, or at the very least slowly grilled for a smoky flavor
-I put these in a pot then deglaze with whiskey (watch the flames!!!)
-Next I add
a little mustard (yellow-not dijon!!)
1 orange (sliced but not peeled)
-Mix these together and allow to cook for a minute or 2, then add
ginger (ground, not too much)
cinnamon (ground, very little-you do not want to really taste it)
-Allow to cook until everything is nice and tender and then puree in a blender.
-if you want more heat add some tabasco or cayenne
I have a really great N. Carolina style sauce but it is packed away for the move. As soon as we start to unpack I will locate it, because it rocks!!!
I believe that the smoke flavor in barbecue should come from whatever is being cooked on the grill, not from the sauce. Of course, in this world of gas grills, that can be difficult unless you use packets of wood smoking chips. Following is a post I entered months ago about the barbecue and sauce that my husband and I make. This is a repeat, so please bear with me and my southern inclinations:
'Cue done right...the Tarheel Way
You will have to pardon my prejudice. Since I'm from North Carolina, I have a special love for down-home Pig Pickin's as Barbecue is referred to in my home state. Barbecue is a religion there, and always made with pork (NC is the 2nd largest pork producing state in the nation.) People guard their sauce and technique recipes fiercely. As to the sauce style, this varies even within the state. Down east, in the coastal plain, barbecue sauce is hot and vinegary, sometimes made with only crushed red pepper, white vinegar and a little sugar. Toward the west, in the piedmont and mountainous regions, barbecue sauce is thicker (though still runny), darker, tomatoey and sweeter.
I've included here a recipe for the authentic NC barbecue that my husband and I make every year at our Labor Day BBQ party. The sauce is a lovely marriage of the eastern and western NC styles. I know it's long, but the true 'Cue experience requires a labor of Love. Enjoy!
Carolina Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 3 quarts
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses
1 bulb garlic, unpeeled and broken into cloves
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
3 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
8 dried New Mexico chilies
2 dried ancho chilies
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cans (26 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
1 quart apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
1/4 cup salt
In a large stock pot combine the honey, molasses, garlic, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, chilies, and bay leaves. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is caramelized, but not scorched.
Add the tomato paste and tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently to break up the tomatoes. Add the vinegar, water, and salt; the sauce will be thin.
Simmer, uncovered for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours (much better), stirring occasionally. Remove any large pieces of garlic skin and bay leaves. Puree sauce in a blender or food processor. (I like to use a food mill using the smallest sieve-plate.)
Note: This sauce will keep for at least 6 months in the refrigerator, but tends to loose its hot-kick, though the flavors are, otherwise, just fine. It's the perfect combination of the eastern and western North Carolina pork barbecue disciplines. It's great on chicken, turkey, stronger fishes (tuna, salmon, grouper) and beef, but just plain weird with lamb. Goat I have not tried, but who knows?
Scott Howell (the chef at Nana's restaurant) suggests you marinate pork shoulder in 1/3 of the sauce for 2 days, mop the pork as you smoke it with 1/3 and reserve the rest to drizzle over your pulled pork. I find all that is a lot of trouble. It wastes a lot of sauce during the marinating process and leads to tomatoey-tasting pork. If you try to mop the pork during the smoking process, you loose a lot of heat and smoke by constantly removing the lid lengthening the cooking time considerably.
Here's how to smoke Carolina-style barbecue on a Weber kettle grill:
Prepare a brine by dissolving 1 cup of kosher salt in 1 gallon water. Submerge 2 7-8 lb. pork shoulder picnics in the brine, cover with cheesecloth. Allow to soak for about 24 hours, turning occassionally.
Soak 2 cups of hickory chips in water for 30 minutes. Start a slow fire with natural chunk charcoal. Pile the chunks on top of several wads of newspaper, then light the paper and allow to burn for 15-20 minutes-never use lighter fluid! When coals are lit, push them to one side of the kettle. Drain and sprinkle half the wood chips on the coals. Place a drip pan with 1" of apple cider, beer, ginger ale or water next to the coals. Attach the grate and arrange the pork shoulder on the opposite side from the coals and above the drip pan. Cover with the lid, adjusting so the smoke hole is above the pork. Maintain the heat at about 200°F (you should be able to hold your hand about 2 inches above the grate for 10 seconds without becoming uncomfortable). You'll need to occasionally add more charcoal and wood chips as the fire burns low. This is the only reason to lift the lid! Smoke in this fashion for about 1-1 1/2 hours per pound of meat until internal temperature reaches 165°-170°F. We usually smoke 2 pork shoulders at a time for about 7-8 hours leaving lots of time for preparing side dishes and drinking long-neck Buds.
When the pork is cooked, tear it from the bone for delicious pulled pork. I also like to chop it gently with the back of a chef's knife to break and seperate the threads of meat. Drizzle with sauce, serve with ice-cold slaw and soft, fluffy buns for the true 'cue experience.
Foodnfoto - Looks like a great BBQ recipe, but I must gently question the 'authenticity' of it; traditional NC bbq sauces usually don't have New Mexican or Ancho chiles in them. The hotness comes from a bottle of hot sauce. You're right, tho, about the different regionalities; my hubbie's family hails from eastern NC, and he remembers a jar of vinegar, peppers, salt/sugar sitting on Grandmama's kitchen window and being used on their chicken 'ques, and also at pig-pickins'. I find it quite ironic that the hot vinegar/pepper sauce is so used, because most of the other dishes traditional to that region are pretty bland, with hardly any spice or hotness at all.
And don't forget that yellow, mustardy sauce (I lived in Charleston for 15 years), a la Maurice's and Bessinger's BBQ. It took me quite a while to get used to that!!!!
My sauce recipe is a marriage of the eastern NC (vinegary) and western NC (tomatoey-closer to Memphis style) styles of sauces; hence, not exactly authentic as you say. What I've found is that it makes a lot of people who have varying expectations of 'cue sauce very happy. Remember, too, that NC and SC barbecue disciplines are very different. Many people think that North and South Carolina are the same state and are surprised to hear differently.
BTW, New Mexico and Ancho chilies are really very mild. I love the deep, rich, almost chocolatey flavor that anchos lend to a dish while the New Mexico chilies are bright and peppery, though not especially hot. While on the subject of chilies, can I express my boredom with jalapenos and especially cayennes? To me, they are just hot and scalding without any redeeming fruity, herby, or fruity notes. My favorite really hot chili is the humble serrano. It's hot, sometimes scaldingly so, but the burn clears from the tongue quickly and leaves an aftertone of melons, citrus and herbs. Yum!
Charlestonians would DIE if they thought the public didn't know where Charleston was!! They're still fighting the 'Northern Aggression'!!
I like serranos for salsas, but for me they seem to fade a little when they're cooked. I agree with Jalapeno, there's not much behind them when you get past the little bit of heat. I just found a little chile in the local Latino grocery store - called ajicito; looks like a miniature habanero, has loads of flavor, but not nearly the heat of a habanero. Wonderful for adding tons of flavor!! And I love poblanos for the depth of flavor they bring to a dish.
Unfortunately, unless you live in a Latino-populated area, the availability of a variety of fresh chiles in the groceries is woefully lacking. Even the Latino grocery in my neighborhood carries only fresh poblano, serrano, jalapeno and habanero. They DO stock a huge variety of dried chiles, all displayed in bushel basket bins - a wonderful sight to look at! If you like that kind of chocolaty flavor, but with a bit more heat, try some guajillo or pasilla dried chiles. Guajillo adds a lot of bulk, and color, too, to a sauce. And the dried chile negro (a very dark green poblano) adds a real depth of color as well as flavor.
Most of the dried chiles can be mail ordered; if you need sources, let me know.
Marmalady, I would love those mail order sources. Living in Chicago, I have found almost every chile I could ever need, but I imagine that, with this move to Wisconsin, I will have trouble finding such things other than the mainstream peppers.
As far as my favorite chiles: I am a big fan of habaneros (great flavor if you know how to tame the heat, and are great in ceviches), chipotles (love the smoky flavor), cascabels (a very mild pepper with a wonderful flavor), and poblanos (they are great on just about everything, and I usually sub these for green bell peppers as I am not a fan of bell peppers).
Petey - You can stock up on poblanos before you move - they freeze really well, and if you'll be using them in sauces, not salads, it doesn't matter if they're soft. Just roast 'em off and peel them, then pkg. in zippies and freeze. I can just see you with a cooler full of frozen chiles! I've also frozen whole fresh chiles from my garden, just washed and dried them, put them in bags; I have some from three years ago!!! Caveat - they DO get hotter in the freezer!!!
Mail order - CMC Company 1-800-CMC-2780 - call for the catalog; they have a website I posted here somewhere, but I can't find it. They're a great source not only for Mexican ingredients, but other Asian and Indian supplies as well. I love 'em.
I use Penzey's ancho and chipotle powder - I think it's the best I've tasted.
Monterrey Foods, in LA has good dried chiles, too; 213-263-2143.
Sorry I don't have websites for these. You could also stock up on canned goods like chipotles en adobo, and probably some of the dried spices from the Mexican markets in Chicago. I'm jealous of the availability of Mexican products there! Most of the Latino population around here is from Central/South America, and while they have fascinating products on their own, I feel I have to ground myself in Mexican before I start zooming off on other national cuisines!
If I think of any more, I'll post 'em; I'm a little brain dead right now.