Labor Day Special: Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

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At the risk of needing to rename this blog The Thirsty Mouse, here’s my recipe for Bourbon Barbecue Sauce.

This is what I’ll be putting on my pork ribs this Labor Day weekend. It’s quick and easy to make, as barbecue sauces go. (Barbecue purists beware: File this one under “halfway-homemade,” since we’re starting with ketchup.)

This is a great all-purpose barbecue sauce. It’s sweet and spicy. It’s thick but not too thick, which helps create a nice crust when you lacquer on a few layers. The onions and peppers all but dissolve during cooking if you dice them small enough, so you wind up with a very smooth sauce.

The alcohol in the bourbon will cook off, leaving you with a distinctive tang that’s not overpowering. However, since it’s a main ingredient, make sure you use a bourbon that you like. As it simmers, the flavor is only going to become more concentrated.

This sauce is fairly hot. For more or less heat, fidget a little with the amount of cayenne. There should be more than enough salt from the ketchup, but do taste and adjust the seasoning as you go.

Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

2 Tsp. olive oil
1 Tsp. butter
2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
2 Tbls. dry mustard
1 Tbls. chili powder
1 Tbls. smoked paprika
2 Tbls. cayenne
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups bourbon
2 Tbls. molasses

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the olive oil and saute the onion, garlic, and bell pepper on medium heat until soft.

Lower the heat a little and add the dry mustard, chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, cumin, and brown sugar. Saute for a few minutes to start melting the sugar and blend all the dry spices together well. Stir constantly, as you don’t want the sugar to even remotely burn.

Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, bourbon, and molasses. Whisk slowly until they’re well incorporated.

Raise heat back up to medium and bring the sauce up to a simmer. Cover the pot (to save your stove top from splatters) and crack the lid (so steam can escape).

Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until thick.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce. Keeps for roughly a month in the fridge.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.