If one food could be said to epitomize summer it would be ribs. Ribs go hand in hand with summer, sun, BBQ and cold brewskis, which is why the smell of a baby back on the grill makes me want to put on my sunglasses and open a Corona. Barbecuing is a science in itself so I will not get into the techniques and different schools, but instead give you my own recipe of a delicious sweet onion sauce which goes very well with ribs (and many other things!).
Before I give you the recipe I would like to discuss something real quick. What makes a good barbecue sauce? I’ve made barbecue sauces many times and over the time I have learned that the most important ingredient is sugar. Whether you use simple syrup, refined sugar, corn syrup, molasses sugar, cane sugar or natural sugar from, say, apple juice, it is very important. You want a dense sauce, which will caramelize and stick to the meat, which is why sugar is such an important ingredient. If your BBQ sauce lacks sugar it will never stick to the meat, and even if it does, it will not give it that finger-licking deliciousness that you are looking for. Okay, sugar is important but you want flavor too. One of the most appetizing smells is onions frying in a pan. Many hot dishes, whether we are talking curries, stews, sauces or oven dishes, start with onions frying in oil, which is why this particular aroma often awakens a hidden appetite – it means food is on its way! By adding this smell (and flavor!) to our sauce the guest will certainly build up an appetite while waiting for the food to be done, which is why I love this sweet onion sauce.
Sweet onion BBQ sauce
3 teaspoon white mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 whole star anise
2 red onions
2 cloves garlic
chili (as much as you like)
70 g / 2.5 oz tomato concentrate
1 dl / 3.8 oz Ketchup (Heinz works very well!)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
5 dl / 17 oz apple juice or apple cider
½ dl / 1.7 oz syrup
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon English Sauce or Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vinegar (whatever kind you like – neutral, apple cider or balsamic work well)
3 tablespoons molasses sugar or cane sugar
Canola or other oil
Blend together onions, garlic, chili (without seeds) and tomato concentrate. Fry on low heat in a couple of tablespoons of oil for about 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile toast fennel and mustard seeds with star anise and the black peppercorns on a pan on very low heat for the same amount of time. Grind the spices and add to the sauce with the paprika, onion and garlic powder. Fry for another minute. Add the ketchup and mix all the ingredients well. If starting to stick just add more oil. Fry until the mixture is dense and dark in color (another few minutes). Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer on low heat until the sauce is very thick and dark brown, stirring occasionally (around 45 minutes). Add salt to taste.
Leave the sauce to cool and blend until smooth using a stick blender or blender/liquidizer. This sauce can easily be stored in the fridge for a long time.
Make sure you DO NOT apply this sauce until the last 20 minutes of cooking or all the sugars will start to burn rather than caramelize. Also, keep it away from direct heat (if possible).
Go ‘cue it up!