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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Awesome Sauce!

Which would you buy?

Miss Ginger's FABULOUS! Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients: Tomatoes, Onion, Bell Pepper, Brown Sugar, Cider Vinegar, Garlic, Spices, Salt


Kraft Thick and Spicy Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce


Sorry! You can't buy Miss Ginger's awesome sauce (yet!) But if you, like most people, are trying to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup, and the shitstorm of chemicals it takes to make "modified food starch", you can make this delicious barbecue sauce at home, and preserve it to last for up to a year on your pantry shelf, without chemical preservatives! The work is satisfying and not hard to do, and you won't need a lot of specialized equipment, although there are a couple of cheap tools that make it easier. It does take the better part of the day, if you start with fresh tomatoes.

Miss Ginger started with about 24 large tomatoes that she bought at the local produce market.  She'd love to tell you that they were farmed by local nuns that use the proceeds to feed the homeless, but they were trucked up from Mexico, just like the ones at the grocery store.  They were cheap and fresh, just like her, and after being at the produce market, needed a good bath- just like her! She rinsed them in a tub of diluted cider vinegar, just to get any dirt or oil off of them.

Next, she cored them with her little plastic tomato corer thingy (you can use a paring knife if you're brave) and got them ready to peel.

Peeling tomatoes is not as tedious as it sounds if you know the hot/cold trick.  Drop the tomatoes into a pot of simmering water for 3-5 minutes, just until the skins start to crack.  Then, dunk them in ice water to stop the cooking and cool them down enough to handle.  The skins will slide right off, and you'll be left with a slimy, naked tomato, ready to give it guts to become part of your handiwork!

This part gets a little messy, so put on an apron!  You want to get the seeds and "goop" separated from the meat of the tomatoes, so you won't have to boil it for 3 days to get it thick enough!  You can slice them and scoop with a spoon, but Miss Ginger found it easier just to tear them apart with her bare hands, creating 2 separate containers of tomatoey carnage!

So here on the left is the tomato "meat", and on the right is the "leavings".  This lady says that the leavings are all you need for barbecue sauce, and that the meat should be canned for later use. She thinks it's a waste to use the good part of the tomatoes for sauce, but waste be damned, let's move forward!  

Actually, I did run the "leavings" through my juice mill, and was surprised to get over a quart of beautiful, fresh tomato juice, and just a tiny container of seedy pulp to add to the compost heap! 
(PS- you can skip ALL of the previous mess and steps if you use canned tomatoes!  Find a brand with no added salt or preservatives and it's pretty much the same.)

In a stainless stockpot, combine the tomatoes with 2 chopped onions and 3 chopped bell peppers. (The pot MUST be stainless to avoid a chemical reaction with the tomatoes. Do NOT use aluminum!)  Set on the stove over medium heat, and in a few minutes the tomatoes will give off a ton of liquid. Keep simmering, with an occasional stir, for about 45 minutes.

When all the vegetables are softened, puree them with an immersion blender, or a regular blender, or a food processor, or a food mill- whatever! Just blend the shit till it looks like:

this!  It took 2 batches in Miss Ginger's huge food processor. Once it's all pureed, return it to the stockpot and bring back to simmer. (Real life hint: If stuff has dried on the bottom of your stockpot while you were pureeing, wash it out so it won't scorch when it goes back on the stove!) Simmer for about an hour; the liquid should reduce by about half.

Now add the additional ingredients: 

1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
and seasonings to taste. I used:
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon canning salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
a few shakes of Lea and Perrins
a buttload of tabasco

A couple of comments on substitutions, based on my research (yes, I DO research all most some the really complex blog posts!) You may substitute granulated sugar, molasses, honey, or Splenda® for the sugar in the same amounts.  You can use white vinegar instead of cider, but do NOT use malt vinegar, it will make your sauce bitter. Use should be able to safely increase the amount of vinegar, but do NOT reduce the amount! You must have at least 1 1/2 cups per 20 or so tomatoes in order to process safely. Canning salt is pure salt that has no anti-caking ingredients in it, which supposedly can caused preserved foods to appear cloudy. You can get it wherever you get your jars.

Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours more, stirring frequently as sauce thickens to prevent scorching.  Once it's reach the desired thickness, it's ready to use, freeze, or can.  The recipe makes about 2 1/2 quarts of sauce, which is 5 pint jars.  Frozen sauce is far less convenient than jars, since you have to allow time for thawing. I also find the freezing/thawing process thins the sauce a bit, so I end up having to re-cook it, which is a pain! It's worth taking the time to can it, which is about an hour, start to finish. 

By the way, if you've never canned anything, sauces are a great 1st project!  They contain plenty of acid, which is what keeps the food fresh.  And they have long cooking times, so you don't have to worry about rushing things so they don't overcook or get soft!

You can accomplish the process in any pot large enough to cover the jars with simmering water; it does not have to be stainless, since it won't touch the food. Bring the water to a steady simmer, and sink the jars, lids, ladles, and anything that will touch the food in there to be sanitized. BTW, you must use specific jars and lids made for home canning- save your leftover mayonnaise jars for other crafty projects! 

Here's my little "operatory" all ready to go. I've got my simmering canner, my hot sauce, and my simmered pint jars and lids, along with a sanitized ladle and butter knife.  I also have a couple of paper towels handy, a pair of tongs to handle the hot jars, and a glass of wine. Duh! 

Fill each jar, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. This allows the liquid to expand and contract without breaking the jars.  Once all the jars are filled, adjust the headspace if needed, and clean the top of the rim with a damp paper towel.  Set a pre-simmered lid on each jar and hand tighten the rings to hold the lid in place. Don't over tighten, just finger tight. Using tongs or a jar lifter, place the covered jars back in the simmering water bath, and let them simmer for 20-35 minutes, depending upon your altitude. Use a canning rack or add enough empty jars to fill the pot so your filled jars remain upright.

Keep the water at a steady simmer; if it boils a bit, just turn it down some, no harm done. If for some reason it stops simmering, turn the heat up, and restart timing from zero once it's reached a simmer.  After simmering for the correct time, carefully remove the jars from the water, and let them rest, undisturbed, on the counter for 14-24 hours, until they are completely cool.  Shortly after they begin cooling, you will probably hear each one "ping" as the pressure reverses and sucks the lid down into place, forming the seal that keeps it fresh on the shelf!  Once they are cool, unscrew the rings and lift each jar by the edge of the lid.  If the lid stays on, you know the jar sealed properly and is shelf-stable.  If the lid comes off, you didn't get a good seal.  You can reprocess that jar with a new lid, or keep it in the refrigerator and use it within a week. 

Add a cute label (don't forget the date, as Miss Ginger did on these!) and store them on a shelf in a dark, cool place like your pantry. Once they are opened, keep any unused portion in the fridge for a week or so. 

Concerned about the safety of home canned products? Knowledge is power, and there are 2 important sources of knowledge to help you put up food safely.  The USDA has a website specifically dedicated to helping you safely preserve food at home, and it includes 7 printable guides that form the "bible" for home food preservation.  This recipe is based on the recipe given in guide #3, which is all about tomatoes.

The other website is maintained by Jarden Home Brands, which probably manufactured the jars and lids you are using, at least in America.  has a variety of recipes and techniques using Ball® and Kerr® products.  Both sites include processing times for all altitudes, as well as lots of tips to make canning safe, healthy, and easy! 

Fresh barbecue sauce just in time for the summer holidays!  What should Miss Ginger make with it?!


Anonymous said...

We are ready for the dinner party with this being served. Looks great. MBC

Ken Riches said...

Definitely Yours!!!


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