Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer is still going strong - Root Beer Barbecue Sauce

Nothing says that summer has truly arrived like the first barbecue of the season. Steaks, burgers, chicken, hot dogs, there are many ways to ring in the rapidly heating days of June. There would be some who say you can't have a barbecue without having a good barbecue sauce. I'd disagree, as I find that marinades, brining and simple good seasoning are all tried and true methods that can bring out the best in your many preparations of grilled meats. 

However, there is a lot to be said about a well executed sauce. With the right combination of sweetness, depth and tang, a sauce can really accentuate the taste of your grilled goods.

Root beer barbecue sauce isn't anything new, but it's novel enough to turn heads. 

Here's what you need. A saucepan, a good amount of rootbeer (there it is in that container. I needed the two liter for the previous post), ketchup, spices, citrus juice. For spices I'm using of of Penzey's chili mixes and I'm also experimenting by using up some apple butter, as I think it would be an interesting substitution for brown sugar. There's also a saucepan I thankfully decided would be far too small for my needs before getting started. The thing about reductions, which a root beer barbecue sauce essentially is, is that they bubble quite a bit, often rising as much as 5 times the height of the stuff was originally before actually reducing. So be on the generous side when selecting your pots people.

Here we've got the root beer bubbling with some of the ketchup. I went with at least 2.5 times the amount of root beer as I've got ketchup. Part of this was from rinsing the bowl of ketchup with more root beer to get everything cleaned off.

A nice healthy sprinkling of chili spices for the heat and flavor of the sauce. Note I'm not adding any salt because I intend to use this with a rack of ribs that I will be salting the night before. I think the sweetness and tanginess of the sauce will mix well with this long salting method.

Now for the X factor, the apple butter. I'll... let you know if things don't go as well as planned. But so far so good.

Have to stir the sauce up as we start to boil, just to keep it from scorching. It's going to be a while.

As things get active, you get a lot of steam, which you want to happen. More escaping water = A reducing sauce.

It's hard to tell, but here the bubbles start to become a bit more solid, rising in larger bubbles with walls supported by a thickened liquid. When the bubbles start to calm down a bit from this rush of bubbles test the sauce by lifting up a spoon of it. It's pretty obvious when it's not ready, as seen here.

This thickness is about ready. It probably could have reduced even more, but I was getting hungry for other things and wanted to move onto a late brunch. Sorry, just human folks. Anyway, take the saucepan off the heat and let it cool and set a bit.

Then when you're done "attempt" to pour it nicely into a clean container to use later. If you could be messier than this I'd appreciate it. And there you  have it. A root beer barbecue sauce. I'll be using this on some pork ribs later, stay posted!

Basic root beer barbecue sauce:

1 part ketchup
At least 1 part root beer, can go high as ten or more
Spices of your choosing (pepper, Italian seasoning, chili seasoning, cayenne, if it sounds good go for it)
.25 parts citrus juice (optional)
.5 parts sugar (optional)
Salt if you aren't going to salt your meat

1. Mix your ketchup, root beer and other wet ingredients into a saucepan large enough to deal with a bubbling sauce. Set heat to high.
2. Mix in any spices and other ingredients.
3. Stir the sauce as it heats.
4. Once it reduces down to either a sauce or a syrup, you're good to go. If you've hit a thick syrupy consistency, it's time to stop because it won't get much better than that.
5. Allow sauce to cool. Use right away or store for later.

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