I know that there is a cult of barbecue sauce. I know that for some, sampling sauces is not unlike wine-tasting in Napa, collecting hot sauces, or sussing out the subtleties in various kinds of dark chocolate. Noble pursuits, to be sure, but barbecue sauce was never a biggie in my life. Perhaps that’s because I grew up in Ohio – not exactly ‘cue country (though my hometown does have an annual “ribfest” along the shores of Lake Erie…). Barbecue (how I instinctively want to spell it: barbeque or BBQ) sauce is kinda…glorified catsup (how I instinctively want to spell it: catch-up), and I’ve never been a fan of catsup – or ketchup, for that matter.
But on certain occasions (Labor Day being a possible one), barbecue sauce is a must. On those occasions, I turn to the Joy of Cooking and I turn to my mother. Every once in a while mom would make pulled pork sandwiches or ribs, which she always dressed in the sauce that inspired mine. I loved the warm vinegar-y scent coming from the stove and the rich, dark red of the cooked sauce. It’s simple, but has all of the classic elements: tang and bite, subtle sweetness, and a hint of smoke.
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce
- 1/2 cup water or low sodium vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Medjool dates, chopped
- 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- pinch sea salt
- Add a generous splash of water or vegetable broth to a small saucepan and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mustard seeds and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.