Archive for April, 2012

Click to enlarge (aka: to examine just how blurry this picture really is).

My 11 year old daughter provided the charcoal sketch of the Whiskey Jack. My talented wife designed the label. And I took the terrible picture.

I tried about ten times to keep my hand steady, but when you drink as much coffee as I do, you still end up with blurry pictures. Anyway, recipe done. Label done. Bottles ordered. Let me know if you want some sauce!


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In the Pacific Northwest, the Gray Jay is often called a Whiskey Jack. They’re rugged, fearless birds, that will steal your lunch right out of your hands. Not kidding. So, I believe we’ll be calling this Whiskey Jack Sauce. I hope you like the name.

Here’s the recipe at last. Next challenge, learning how to bottle the sauce, not the botulism.

By the way, those who know me also know I’m not much of a drinker. I’m good for about half a beer. And you better make that a light beer. So, I’m no expert when it comes to spirits.

But I did learn today that some people don’t consider Jack Daniels to be bourbon, technically speaking, because it’s made in Tennessee. I’m told connoisseurs claim real bourbon can only be from Kentucky — something about the water. Well, I’ve been to Kentucky. Many times. Beautiful country. But I have to say, the water tastes pretty much like the water in Ohio. And Missouri. And Washington.  So, I’m not buying it. However, next time I make the sauce, I do plan on trying to cook with an official Kentucky bourbon. Let me know if you have any suggestions on which one.

 The recipe

Makes roughly 12 to 14 ounces of sauce:

In advance: Boil down 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to 1/2 cup, and set aside.

Melt over low heat:

  • 1/3 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of cayenne pepper (people who like a very spicy sauce will want to add more. For those unsure, don’t worry, you can always add more later.)

Then Add…

  • 1 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
  • 1 Tbs of vegetable oil

Bring to a boil over medium heat, then boil down, stirring for 6 minutes

Remove from heat, let rest for 5 minutes.  Then add

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar (boiled down from 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup molasses  (or a little extra for a sweeter sauce)
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Not quite ¼ teaspoon of Hickory style liquid smoke
  • A pinch of smoked salt (e.g. http://chefshop.com/Alderwood-Smoked-Sea-Salt-P6636.aspx )
  • Now is a good time to add more cayenne if you’d like the sauce extra spicy.

Reheat to a simmer. Boil down for a thicker consistency, but note, this is a thinner sauce.

Notes: Tastes strongly of whiskey, so save some ketchup for the kids. Also, the sauce is thin. There are ways to artificially thicken the sauce, but that didn’t appeal to me. I assume you can boil it down some more after adding all the ingredients.

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I had to eat an unfortunate number of pork ribs in order to taste all these sauces.

Hang the banner on the battleship. It took two weekends and sixteen different recipes, but we’re declaring it ‘mission accomplished’ here at Blue State BBQ labs.

As I was saying in my last post, the goal was to invent a drunken barbecue sauce with a little kick. Something boozy and a bit spicy, so we’d have a good alternative to my very favorite sauce.

So, to get there, last week I made seven very different bourbon based sauces. I confess, the most fun part was naming them. There was “Whiskey Bomb,” “Sugar Brown,” and “Molass-kicker.”  If names were enough, we would have had seven winners. 

But alas, we went with a family taste test instead. We tried all seven sauces on pulled pork, and we all agreed that one represented the right direction. That is, with the exception of my 11 year old daughter, who tried one of the bourbon-y sauces, spit it out and ran to the bathroom to wash her tongue. I suppose it’s somewhat comforting to know that she hasn’t yet developed a taste for whiskey.

This weekend, I took the one recipe that we liked from last week, and made nine additional variations on it. No clever names this time, just 1 through 9. Thanks to few slabs of slow cooked ribs, and a bbq appreciating guest to help keep us honest, we feasted, then unanimously agreed on the best of the bunch.  The champion is still unnamed. For now we’re just calling it delicious.

A few of the ingredients I used to concoct something my daughters would despise.

The recipe includes Jack Daniels, apple cider vinegar, molasses, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper and a handful of other ingredients, all of which I will share on my next post. (First, I need to build a recipe with actual measurements as opposed to my “one unit” of this, and “half a unit” of that).

Stay tuned.

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After 20 years of loyalty to my favorite barbecue sauce, I’ve decided to invent make my own for two reasons. First, for a little variety. And second, because I secretly just want to make up an amusing name and design a label.

Going into it, I gave myself only a couple of guidelines.

I want something with a bit of heat, because my usual sauce is sweet and smoky. And because Ms. BlueState BBQ likes her the little brown jug (insert hiccup sound here), I promised my recipe will include some bourbon.

People who know me know I’m a man of data, so that’s where I started.  I collected 25 5-star recipes for barbecue sauce, weighting the list a bit with those that had bourbon in the ingredients, and then dissected the recipes so I could get a better understanding of what’s inside great sauces.  This exercise revealed more than 40 ingredients a sauce designer might choose from.

Here are a few of my observations:

1)      Most recipes are mostly ketchup. I knew that my particular favorite sauce was ketchup based. But I had no idea that SO MANY sauces start with ketchup, and lots of it.

2)      Cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and fresh onion are the next most common ingredients.  But, it’s not automatic. Pairings matter — for example, molasses appears to match up better with Bourbon than brown sugar. And texture matters — onions tend to be included in sauces that have other crunchable items in them, which I have to say, doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

3)      Surprising, and surprisingly common, were butter, garlic and liquid smoke seasoning.  Many recipes start with melting butter, and softening up some garlic, onions or both.

4)      Then there’s a fairly long list of customary, but apparently not must-have ingredients, such as dry mustard, honey, cayenne pepper, salt, tabasco and chili powder.

5)      Finally, there were some head-scratchers like thyme, coriander and oregano.  But hey, to each their own.

So, my plan is to hit the lab asap.  The only problem is, I don’t have any bourbon and it’s Easter Sunday.  Darn it, Easter Bunny, why didn’t you bring me any? Or maybe you just drank it all.

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