I recently received a review copy of America’s Best BBQ, which was published by the same people behind Falling Cloudberries, one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, I don’t know who the graphic designers are at Andrew McMeel, but their work is so good, it’s honestly enough by itself to warrant buying these books, if just for flipping value.)
In the case of this barbecue book, cookbook might not be the best term to describe it. While filled with recipes, it’s also part guide, part travelogue, part window into the barbecue belt of America (i.e., from North Carolina to Texas, with a few other states thrown in). There are a lot (a lot!) of gorgeous, glossy photos, along with stories and commentary by Ardie A. Davis and Chef Paul Kirk, the authors and researchers behind this compilation. These men love barbecue. They make it, the taste it, they travel around the country deciding what’s good enough to tell the rest of us about.
If I had one complaint, it’d be that a lot of the recipes, at least for main dishes, require special ingredients particular to the restaurants they came from: Ed’s Pepper Vinegar Sauce from The Pit in Raleigh, North Carolina, to make a barbecued hog; Curtis’ Southern Style Bar-B-Q Sauce from Curtis’s BBQ in Vermont to make its loaded pork-stuffed potato. I had to dig a little to find a barbecue recipe I could make in my own kitchen: the Apple City BBQ Sauce that, ironically, comes from my own home state, one not especially known for that sort of thing.
To make this recipe from the 17th Street Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, Illinois, I had to tweak a few things, most notably the grated onion, which I replaced with onion powder. You’d think such a substitution would ruin everything, but in fact, it gave it a wonderful kick that almost made my eyes water.
It worked very well in a an old stand-by chicken recipe I’ve posted here before (back when my camera situation was a little different), the one that, with a store-bought barbecue sauce, brought me back to my grandma’s kitchen and her clear glass plates.
With this new sauce, the slow-cooker recipe was just as easy and made the chicken just as delicious, but different.
And on sandwiches a few days later, this fork-tender meat left me with nothing but happy sighs—that and a desire for more. I’d say that’s testament enough to its value and, of course, the power of good barbecue.
Apple City Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from America’s Best BBQ
(Pictured above in Coke Chicken; recipe here)
1 cup ketchup (Hunt’s is recommended)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice or cider (I used low-sugar juice)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce (I used Worcestershire)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/3 cup bacon bits
1/2 cup onion powder (or grated onion)
In a large saucepan, combine ketchup, rice vinegar, apple juice, cider vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, mustard, garlic powder, white pepper, cayenne and bacon bits. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then stir in the onion powder.
Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until it thickens slightly. (Note: my mixture started to bubble and spurt out of the pan, so I covered it, with the lid slightly ajar to let air in.) Stir frequently.
Allow sauce to cool and pour into sterilized glass bottles. Makes 3 cups. May be stored for up to two weeks.