Question about "missing flavor" in homade bbq sauce

Discussion in 'Sauces, Rubs & Marinades' started by lmhmedchem, Oct 10, 2015.

  1. lmhmedchem

    lmhmedchem Newbie


    For a number of years I have been canning a homemade maple bourbon barbeque sauce about this time of year when my garden is about done.

    The recipe is similar to the one posted here,

    except that I use tomatoes and peppers out of the garden along with the tomato paste.

    Overall, I am pretty happy with how it turns out except that it is missing what I consider to be the characteristic "dark flavor" of most bbq sauces. This flavor can be found in every sauce from Open Pit, to KC Masterpiece, to McDonalds bbq dipping sauce, but I can't seem to figure out what it is.

    I have tried Molasses, various chili powders, tomato paste, brown sugar, tamarind paste, dark soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, different kinds of bourbon, Dr. Pepper, etc, and can't land on what the missing ingredient is. I smoke my peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic before they go into the sauce, so I'm not sure what else to try. To me, the missing element is almost a "burnt" flavor, so I thought about chairing some onions or something like that, but I don't want to ruin a batch of sauce with something lame-brained.

    At this point, I just add some hickory smoked Kraft open pit to my sauce after it's done and that gets it about right. I think that's a bit disappointing to have to do after going to the trouble of making my own sauce from scratch, so I would really like to figure this out. It's not the end of the world if I can't, but suggestions would really be appreciated.

    I can post the entire recipe if anyone is interested or if it would help to see exactly what is in the sauce now.


  2. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Probably it's the liquid smoke that most commercial sauces contain that is the "dark flavor" you are missing.
  3. lmhmedchem

    lmhmedchem Newbie

    Thanks for the tip. I have tried some liquid smoke. I think what I tried was applewood liquid smoke since that is the wood I like most for pork. Maybe I didn't use enough or maybe I need a stronger smoke flavor like oak, cherry, or hickory. Do you have an opinion on this?

  4. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Hickory will be the most recognizable and strongest of those you listed.
  5. lmhmedchem

    lmhmedchem Newbie

    Thanks, I smoked the peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes today and made the first part of the sauce. I generally let that sit in the fridge for a few days before adding all of the seasonings. I will get a bottle of hickory liquid smoke and try adding some after I get the rest of it finished.

    Hopefully that will do the trick.

  6. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You have things I don't use but of the items in my own West Texas BBQ sauce recipe, the only ingredient you are missing is cloves. They add both spice and a bit of heat taste.
  7. It might be the preservestives used in commercial sauces, it's the one thing they all have in common.
  8. I have got to try your recipe it sounds great. I got one last year that was posted on Smoking meat forms called Bilbo sauce which I keep on hand It is also a great sauce.
  9. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Below is my KC Masterpiece Clone. I use twice the Blackstrap Molasses as the recipe above and Spicy Brown Mustard. The Rub is pretty basic with a touch of Allspice. Hope it helps...JJ

    KC Bubba Q Juice

    2C Ketchup

    1/2C Brown Mustard (Gulden's)

    1/4C Apple Cider Vinegar

    1/2C Molasses

    2C Dark Brn Sugar

    1T Tomato Paste

    1T Your Rub

    1-2tsp Liquid Smoke

    1tsp Worcestershire Sauce

    Combine all and warm over low heat just until it starts to bubble. Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring very frequently, to combine flavors and to thicken slightly.

    Use or pour into a sterile jar and refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.

    Makes 3 1/2 Cups.

    Mild Bubba Q Rub  (All Purpose)

    1/2C Sugar in the Raw (Turbinado)

    2T Sweet Paprika (Hungarian)

    1T Kosher Salt

    1T Chili Powder* (contains some Cumin and Oregano) Ancho Chile is same without cumin, oregano etc.

    1T Granulated Garlic

    1T Granulated Onion

    1tsp Black Pepper, more if you like

    1/2tsp Grnd Allspice

    For more heat add Cayenne or Chipotle Pwd to taste, start with 1/2tsp and go from there. Makes about 1 Cup

    Apply your desired amount of Rub to the meat, wrap in plastic and rest in the refrigerator over night.or longer. The day of the smoke, pull the meat out, add more Rub and go into your pre-heated Smoker...

    Note*...Some Chili Powders can be pretty Hot. McCormick and Spice Island are Mild...
  10. floridasteve

    floridasteve Smoking Fanatic

    JJ -- do you have an index that lists links to all your recipes?
  11. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    I never got around to it. Have to add it to the to do list...JJ
  12. lmhmedchem

    lmhmedchem Newbie

    I will post the recipe in a few days when I have finished this batch.

    The recipe makes ~2 gallons of sauce and probably has more ingredients in it than are necessary. I haven't got around to reducing it, meaning leaving out ingredients one at a time to see if it makes a difference. I can convince myself that I can taste all of the different ingredients, but it would be interesting to have some other opinions. I get the tomatoes, red peppers, and pablano peppers out of my garden, so I make it at this time of year and put up 16 pint jars to use next summer. I get the onions, garlic, jalapenos, scotch bonnets, Big Jim, and green chilli peppers from a local farmers market. It has very little added salt, which is one of the reasons I make it. Both of my folks need to watch their salt and that eliminates most bottled sauces. There are a few ingredients that have salt like mustard and soy sauce. I have looked at making my own mustard from mustard seed, dry mustard, and vinegar but I haven't got around to that yet.

    Any suggestions on the best Bourbon to use. I have used JD and Makers Mark and can't tell a difference.

    Last edited: Oct 12, 2015
  13. lmhmedchem

    lmhmedchem Newbie

  14. lmhmedchem

    lmhmedchem Newbie

    Well here is the recipe as I used it this year.

    This sauce is made from,

    Pepper Base

    Tomato Base

    3 flavor syrups - Dr. Pepper reduction, apple cider reduction, orange ginger reduction



    The recipe makes ~2 gallons of sauce. The year, I ended up with close to 20 pint mason jars. It keeps for several years after it is canned, so if you like it, the quantity is not a problem.

    The tomato and pepper bases are made with the smoker, grill, and a blender.

    Vegetable Base

    Tomato Base:
    8  lbs  fresh garden tomatoes
    20 garlic cloves
    6  yellow onions (medium, size of a tennis ball)
    10 6oz  cans tomato paste

    Pepper Base:
    6   large red peppers
    6   pablano peppers
    10  green jalapino peppers
    6-8 big jim or white jalapino peppers
    2   green chillies
    2   scotch bonnets, or 1 thai chillie



    Smoker or Grill with smoker boxes


    Food mill

    hand mixer

    Grill the red, pablano, big jim, and jalapeno peppers until they get grill marks and char some. Remove most of the loose charred skin.

    For the red, pablano, and big jim peppers, remove the stems, cut in half, and remove the seeds. Place in a metal baking dish, drizzle and toss with olive oil and fresh black pepper. For the jalapeno, green chillies, and scotch bonnet peppers, cut in half, put in a second small metal pan (including the seeds), drizzle with olive oil and toss with fresh black pepper.

    Quarter the tomatoes. Peel the garlic and onions and quarter the onions. Add to a large metal pan, drizzle with olive oil, and toss with fresh black pepper.

    Place all three pans in a smoker or gas grill with smoker boxes at about 325 F. Smoke the peppers for about 1-1.5 hours and the tomato and onion mixture for two hours. All of the vegetables will be soft. Reserve all of the liquid from the metal pans seperately.

    Put the sweet pepper mix in the blender with the liquid from the pan. Blend on high for a minute or so until fully liquified. Put the mixture through a food mill and set aside. Do the same for the hot pepper mix. Finally, put the tomato and onion mix in the blender in batches and liquify. Run each batch through the food mix and add to a large stock pot. When all of the tomatoes have been processed, add both pepper mixtures to the stockpot as well.

    Add the 10 cans of tomato paste to the stockpot and fully incorporate using a hand mixer. This completes the vegetable base of the sauce. It's not a bad idea to taste at this point to see where you are at. Next, add the seasonings below.


    4 tbl Wrights hickory or applewood liquid smoke (hickory is stronger)
    1 tbl smoked cinnamon
    2 tsp ancho chili powder
    2 tsp chipotle chili powder
    2 tsp cumin
    1 tsp dry mustard

    1.5 cups  blackstrap molasses
    1  cup  apple cider vinegar
    1.5 cups  maple syrup
    1/2 cup   maple sugar
    10  oz    Maille or Inglehoffer whole grain mustard
    6   tbl   dark soy sauce
    2   tsp   anchovy paste

    Add all of the above to the vegetable base and incorporate with a hand mixer. Put the sauce in the refrigerator for a day or so to let the flavors come together. I never have room for the stockpot in the refrigerator, so I transfer the sauce in 2 one gallon pitchers. Again, it is a good idea to taste the sauce here. After some time in the refrigerator, make the flavor reductions below.

    Flavor syrups

    1 cup  Dr. Pepper reduction
    1 cup  apple cider reduction
    1 cup  orange ginger reduction
    2 cups Bourbon (I used Jim Beam Black)

    Make the following reductions,

    Dr. Pepper reduction: Reduce 2 liters of Dr. Pepper to ~1 cup.

    Apple cider reduction: Reduce 1/2 gallon of Macintosh cider to ~1 cup

    Orange Ginger reduction: Juice 4 oranges and add pulp. Reduce by half and press through strainer resulting in 1 cup reduction. Add 1 additional cup oragne juice, the zest of two oranges, and 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger and further reduce to 1 1/2 cups.

    Add all three reductions and the Bourbon to the sauce and incorporate with a hand mixer. Let sauce sit for another day or two in the refrigerator to allow flavors to come together. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings. The main things that may need to be adjusted are the tomato flavor, mustard flavor, acid, heat, and sweetness. Add additional tomato paste, whole grain mustard, dry mustard, cider vinegar, scotch bonnet sauce, or maple syrup/maple sugar/molasses as needed. A little more Bourbon never did any harm that I know of. I use scotch bonnet sauce to adjust the heat, but you could use any chili powder.


    I can this sauce since I make it in October and don't end up using much of it until the next summer.

    Prepare 20 pint Mason jars, lids, and rings for canning by washing and sterilizing for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Also sterilize a ladle for filling the jars and any other equipment that will come in contact with the sauce. Reheat the sauce and bring back to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. This is you last chance to taste the sauce and make adjustments. Fill a jar leaving 1/2 inch head space. Place a lid on the jar and tighten down with a ring. Invert the jar for 10 minutes. When all of the jars are filled and have been inverted for 10 minutes, start sterilizing. Place 8 or so jars in the canner at a time and boil for 35 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner and invert for another 10 minutes.

    I find that the sauce still keeps changing flavor over time. There are times when I have to re-adjust the seasonings when I go to use it, but it's hard to say when you are using ingredients from the garden. Tomatoes and peppers just don't taste exactly the same every year.

    I would love to know if anyone tries this or has suggestions. If you reduce the recipe to make a smaller batch (which I would expect on a first try), I would love to see the smaller version. The addition of the Hickory liquid smoke seems to have added the flavor that I was missing. I added less rather than more, so the flavor is not strong at this point. I may try adding more when I start using it.

    Thanks for all the suggestions so far.

    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
  15. rc4u

    rc4u Fire Starter

    I am a bourbon drinker .. jack is way different tasting than any other. and in my opinion would use cheaper ones as they usually leave more taste in cooking like maybe evan Williams I like that one and is cheap...or ancient age ..jeff
  16. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Check out the sugars.... also try adding an anchovy crushed up.... works in a Caesar salad... rich deep flavor.... also try some mace... and maybe Red Boat fish sauce....

    Since there has been some discussion....

    If you have found a particular sugar that enhances your food, let us know...

    • Demerara - This is a type of cane sugar with a fairly large grain and a pale amber color. It has a pleasant toffee flavor and can be used in place of brown sugar.

    • Sucanat - Made from crystallized pure cane sugar, this truly unrefined sugar retains a higher proportion of molasses than other types of cane sugars. It has an intense, rather burnt taste that can be jarring in lighter baking recipes but is fantastic in things like spice cakes and ginger cookies.

    • Muscovado - Another cane sugar, this one has a very moist texture and a strong molasses flavor. It can be found in different strengths, as you can see visually in the image above and read about here. It's excellent in savory dishes like barbecue sauces and marinades.

    • Jaggery - This sugar is typically made from palm, coconut, or java plants and comes compressed into a pattycake or cone. It has an earthy sweet flavor that we like over oatmeal and in some fruit crumbles.

    • Piloncilo - Similar to jaggery, this uniquely Mexican sugar is the secret ingredient in many salsas, soups, and mole sauces. It has a strong and almost-smoky molasses flavor.

    • Turbinado - Less processed than brown sugar, turbinado is made from the first pressing of sugar cane and retains some natural molasses. It has a light caramel flavor that makes it a good replacement for regular white sugar.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015

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