I was once asked by DukeBurger, during a discussion about my Red Bell Pepper and fruit-based rubs, if I had ever made a sauce for my Bbq meats. Duke asked:"Have you come up with any bbq sauces to compliment your rubs? Seems like it would be a waste to have that cherry-blueberry rub covered up with any ol' sauce." While I had never made a sauce from scratch at that point in time, it got me thinking nearly 6 weeks later. What if I made a sauce from the rub ingredients and skipped the rub altogether? Hmm...lose the rub-based bark we all love so much, however, enable me to create a whole new style (to us) of pulled pork, while hopefully retaining much of the original flavors of the rub. Of course, I knew retaining those flavors in a thick sauce would be the challenge I probably longed for. A thin sauce, well, that's just too easy...naw, I gotta try the hard way first, right?
Well, Duke, this one's for you!!! BTW, thanks for the underlying inspiration...I know you didn't intend for this to happen (or maybe you did, and it just took me forever and a day to figure it out...sometimes I'm slow...LOL!!!)...in either case, here you go, brother!!! BTW, this smoke and sauce was actually documented 01-10-16, it just took me a while to get around to posting it up...sorry, I know, I shouldn't be holding back...been freeky-busy lately. So, 6 weeks after the fact...
I started the smoke with my absolute favorite PP subject, the picnic shoulder. It has a far deeper flavor, and more collagen, then the boston butt...higher retained moisture is just one of the things I like better about the picnic. It just made sense to me to use what I liked to work with the most. Nothing but meat, heat and a dry smoke chamber. All I wanted was a moderate smoke flavor and to form a tight pellicle on the surface to seal in those precious natural juices...that's where the true, natural pork flavor is.
I removed the skin from the picnic and trimmed relatively lean:
4hrs into the smoke via WSM 18.5"...for those who don't think that smoke can add much color to meat...just smoke it slow enough, and notice the color-change as you scroll-down:
12hrs, 167* IT:
16hrs, probed tender in all muscles @ 198*...not a ton smoke ring developed here due to the dry smoke chamber. I wanted natural moisture retention, and that's what I got...the missing chunk was from spousal and chef samples:
...different exposure and flash settings to better highlight to color...no baste or glaze, just meat, heat and smoke...hickory and cherry, if I recall:
While the shoulder was finishing in the WSM (around 185* IT) I whipped-up the sauce. Well, technically it wasn't quick, as I did simmer it for over an hour to meld the flavors and get the texture of the cherries, etc to soften enough to rip it up in the 1000-watt Ninja blender. Like the dry rub, this is a recipe for those in search of something better...something our of the ordinary...something unique and original. It's not "the go to", or "the best" (that can only be defined by those who've experienced it)...it's just unique...although, it's still a work in progress, at least for me...maybe I'm just hard to please and projects like this are what drive me to find better, best, ultimate...however one would wish to qualify it.
HAWG HEAVEN SAUCE
*24oz apple sauce, unsweetened
*15oz tomatoe sauce, unseasoned (sub with 2.5 cups fresh, peeled & chopped)
1-1/2 C water (1/4-3/8 cup with fresh tomatoes)
6 Tbls (3/8 C) ground red bell pepper (sub with approx 1-1/4 cup fresh, reduce water)
6 Tbls (3/8 C) dried whole tart cherry (sub with approx 1-1/8 cup fresh, reduce water)
6 Tbls (3/8 C) whole fresh or frozen blueberries
2 Tbsp Molasses, full flavor
2 tsp thyme
3 Tbls onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground sage
2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbls smoked paprika
1.5 Tbls fine ground 5-peppercorn*
*1/2 Tbsp fine ground black peppercorn *(sub for 5-peppercorn)
*1/2 Tbsp white pepper powder *(sub for 5-peppercorn)
2 Tbls garlic powder (sub with 6 cloves fresh minced)
1 Tbls sea salt (optional...if using fresh tomatoes...I used none today due to canned tomato sauce)
Simmer covered over low heat on stove-top, stirring frequently to prevent scorching for 1 hour (min) to incorporate flavors and break-down fruits
for a smoother sauce.
Process in blender to break it down for the smoothest sauce.
Just starting the sauce build over low heat:
I didn't process the cherries before building the recipe, as I was counting on the sheer power of the Nija to break them down...worked out fine, but a low-power blender may yield as good of results:
This is a fairly thick and slightly coarse-textured sauce...not thin and smooth by any means of measure:
The key add-in ingredient after initial taste-testing:
The end results:
In review of the sauce, I wasn't totally satisfied with the overall flavor profile, though I'm my own worst critic. Upon serving the sauce for a different meal (only used a small amount for this PP smoke), my oldest daughter liked the sauce so much that I decided to give her the bulk of the leftovers for freezing in plastic containers (I can always make more, and she loves my creations). Some of the other kids thought it was great, too, while a couple didn't really comment much on it...so, it went down with mixed results, but mostly very good. The molasses added to the sauce helped to reduce the Italian sauce flavor I was getting, but didn't seem to completely remove it. That said, in future revisions of this recipe, I'll be leaning towards a couple Tbsp of white cider vinegar to add some extra tartness to the tart cherries...they didn't seem to carry that tart background flavor in the sauce as well as they do in the dry rub, and short of having a much deeper cherry flavor by increasing the cherry quantity, I think vinegar would be the ticket.
I also would greatly reduce or omit the tomato in the sauce mixture...this should help increase the background of the red bells, cherries, blueberries, apple, etc. To go along with that notion, some adjustments in the spices could bring out a better balance, as transition these flavors from a dry rub to a liquid application does really change how some of the flavors carry themselves. As with all trial runs, there is room for adjustments. So, if you want to give it a whirl, look it over closer and see where you might want to start making modifications. Any questions come up, just give a shout.
Now, if you've tried Hawg Heaven dry rub, you'll know what I mean when I say this is a unique flavor combination. Much of the natural sweetness and richness of the fruit-base you find in the rub is here in the sauce as well. With a little adjustment in the future, I think this sauce could be quite a treat...as is, maybe it's not for everyone (maybe for some, as is would be great). It's definitely a good base-line for someone to build into what suits their own personal preferences.
If one would like to try a thin sauce with the flavors of the original rub, like a finishing sauce, then a splash of vinegar and omitting the tomato sauce while adding water would pretty much get you there...cut way back on the apple-sauce, as well...just thinking through my fingers here.
May your smokes be plenty and your freezers be full!!!