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East Texas Bar-B-Q Sauce

This is hard sauce to reproduce.

This sauce is so hard to get right, that I'm thinking of renaming this page "East TX BBQ Sauce-A Diary".

I aim to re-create the sauce from east Texas. Its what I grew up with, and it puts the tang in tangy. My parents tried to reproduce it from memory this Christmas, but they didn't get it quite right. After all, its been at least 20 years since I last remember them making it.  I'll personally be working on it before I go back to Texas (or have guests in New Mexico), but I know enough now to understand its essence. Here's what I've come up with so far after watching my Dad attempt it (many moons ago, he was the master of this sauce).

Update Nov. 10, 08: I've tried this at least 6 times and I think It's a near perfect recreation. I could probably stop experimenting at this point and claim success. Took me less than a year.

  • Two medium-large Lemons. Use all of the juice from both. Cut the peel of one of them into thin strips, removing as much of the white pith as you can, and throw them in (you want the "zest"). Use everything but the seeds and stems from one and just the juice from the other.
  • Juice from 1 large orange.
  • One medium Texas Spring Sweet or 1015 (AKA Texas Super Sweet) onion, chopped. By medium, I mean small for a 1015, because 1015s run big. You want something a little larger than baseball size, not softball size. You might also want an onion with some spunk if you want a stronger sauce, which would preclude a 1015.
  • One 15 oz (by weight) can of crushed tomatoes. Tomato sauce will end up giving a flavor too much like spaghetti sauce. Using a crushed tomatoes-paste-honey combo is the way to go as I think that this sauce was originally ketchup based--before ketchup became the red corn syrup goo we know today.
  • One 6 oz (by weight) can of tomato paste.
  • 3/4 cup of honey or 1/2 of brown sugar. I like the version with honey.
  • 1/2 tbsp of brown mustard. Probably 1 tbsp won't hurt.
  • 1 level tsp Molasses. Be careful to go easy on the Molasses because it can make the sauce too bitter in large quantities. Molasses is not a substitute for honey or sugar.
  • One chopped Jalepeno pepper for some heat. I think this isn't technically part of the original sauce but heat never hurts in Texas, especially in South Texas. Cayenne pepper will also work for heat. Hell, add both.
  • 2 tsp of ground black pepper. This is technically optional but I've found that a lot of black pepper gives a real nice flavor to BBQ sauce. I call this "Fredricksburg Style" sauce.
  • One large clove garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup of white vinegar (5% acid)
  • Stir well and bring the sauce to a simmer on the lowest heat you can simmer with. Simmer for about 1.5-2 hr. You'll know its ready for the beer when it is erupting instead of simmering
  • Add 8-12 oz of Lone Star Beer. Maybe Perl (brewed in SA). The choice of beer here can personalize your sauce. I've used a pale ale with success. Your best bet is to use Lone Star until you get it right.
  • Simmer about 45 minutes until the beer has evaporated. Let it evaporate longer for a basting sauce and shorter for a dipping sauce. I'm a chemist and I certify that this step will theoretically evaporate any and all alcohol from the beer because alcohol is very volatile compared to water, so this sauce will always be Baptist friendly. But if real beer still makes you uncomfortable, non-alcoholic beer should work as well.
  • Add another can of beer and cook it down again.

Now, if you really wanted to do this right, you would have started yesterday, put the sauce in the fridge, and let it meld overnight.

To make a glazing style basting sauce for something like pork ribs, you can mix two parts of this sauce with one part honey and just enough chili paste (see below) to give it enough heat for your taste.


Some Options

Here are some ideas I've tried and am going to try in the future for variety:

  • 1 tsp of chipotle in adobo sauce (embasa brand). This is to provide a smoky flavor and is optional as the meat should provide any smokiness. You don't want too much of this as it can dominate the final sauce. Your best bet is to finely chop a chipotle pepper, add some fraction in, stir, taste, and repeat until the adobo just hints of its presence. Liquid smoke is another way to achieve a smoky flavor--but is also probably unnecessary if you know what you are doing on the grill.
  • 1/2 tsp cloves -- I haven't tried it, but cloves are an ingredient in several BBQ sauces I've seen around.
  • 2 tbsp of what I call "chili paste". Officially, this is called "Chili Garlic Sauce". The bottle says "Tuong Ot Toi Viet Nam". You can get this at any Asian market. This stuff is canned heat with some serious garlic flavor, so watch out.