What with the rise of football, I don’t know if baseball is still America’s pastime. But I do know this: Barbecue sauce is America’s condiment.
Ketchup. Tabasco. Salsa. Lately, Sriracha. All have laid claim to the title, but from before the establishment of the Republic, barbecue sauce has been there. Whether an eastern North Carolina-style vinegar-pepper sauce, a South Carolina-style mustard sauce or a Kansas City-style tomato-based sauce, this accompaniment to grilled and slow-smoked meats reigns supreme, in part because it comes in so many regional varieties.
Unlike the French, who define what they call the “mother sauces” with precision, Americans don’t bother with definitions. We’re a crazy, individualistic bunch. If we call something a barbecue sauce, it’s a barbecue sauce.
In recent years, barbecue sauce has even been loosed from its traditional regional moorings. It is made now with ancho or pineapple or whiskey. It’s practically as individual as snowflakes.
A few weeks ago, Hill Country, a Texas-themed barbecue restaurant based in New York with a second outlet in Penn Quarter, announced that its two sauces were being carried in Harris Teeter stores.
The thing is, Texas is said to be anti-sauce. Fact is, though, even in Texas, barbecue joints serve sauce. From the thin black-pepper, tomato-inflected jus at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor to the tangy orangeish sauce at City Market in Luling to the tomato-based sauce at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, sauce is common. The difference between the Lone Star State and elsewhere is that sauce is typically not used on the meat while cooking, but on the side. Still, there it is. Sauce.
Now, it’s your turn.
You’ve got little more than a week to show the world your sauce. I’m talking about the second annual Smoke Signals Barbecue Sauce Recipe Contest. E-mail your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 2; put “SAUCE CONTEST” in the subject line.
Last year, we received some fabulously diverse entries; even the basic tomato-based sauces were different from one another.
We’re excited to taste what we get this year. The contest details are here.
Do it for the bragging rights. Do it for the prizes. Do it for your country.
To stimulate ideas, here’s one of mine, published almost two years ago.
Makes about 2 cups
This deeply flavored sauce mates well with pork ribs, Cornish hens and meaty fish, such as salmon. Brush on in the final minutes of cooking.
MAKE AHEAD: This sauce can be refrigerated for a week.
1 cup tomato puree
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped
1 cup strong coffee, brewed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer until thick, about 20 minutes.
Refrigerate the sauce in an airtight container for up to one week.
Waxing poetic. Barbecue is known for the fierce love it inspires in the souls — and bellies — of men and women. Now you can express that love in the second annual BBQ Haiku contest. It is sponsored by the Washington food truck, BBQ Bus, to celebrate its first-year anniversary. Details are here.
Send ideas, tips, opinions to me at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @jimshahin .