June 4, 2014 by Jason Rice MD
I realize it has been over a month since I’ve posted, and I’m sorry about that. It’s been a very busy month, and I promise I’ve been cooking up some tasty meals that I will eventually get around to posting as soon as I have the time.
For today’s post, I have a homemade BBQ sauce I’ve been working on, smoked BBQ brussels sprouts and an update on my previous pulled pork post.
The sauce is a vinegar-based BBQ sauce inspired by the vinegar sauces of North Carolina. It is by no means an authentic Carolina sauce, but as that is my personal favorite BBQ region, it was a natural place to start when creating my own sauce.
I will also briefly touch on some updates on smoking pork shoulder as I have had a few months of practice since my original post and have made several tweaks to the process.
Finally, the smoked brussels sprouts. This was an experiment driven mostly by my desire to not fire up the oven on a 90 degree day and to be able to stay outside with BBQ guests while finishing up cooking our meal. They came out pretty good, but there are a few changes I will make in the future, and they are noted below.
So, let’s get started! The main recipe outline will be for the sauce, but the procedure for the sprouts and the pork will be described, as well.
- 10 oz apple cider vinegar
- 6 oz apple cider
- 4 Tbsp molasses
- 4 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1 Tbsp worchestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 tsp cayenne hot sauce (optional, to taste)
- 1/4 stick butter
- 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
This sauce is based on the thin, vinegar sauces of North Carolina, but it adds some additional flavors reminiscent of other BBQ regions with brown sugar and molasses as well as my own personal signature of fresh garlic and Old Bay. It’s fairly simple, but it works best when the flavors are built in layers.
Start by heating the butter and some olive oil in a sauce pan. Start to cook the onions and garlic. You want to brown the onions a bit so that you have some tasty brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
Add a splash of the vinegar, and use a spoon to deglaze the bottom of the pan. (In other words, use your spoon and the vinegar to dissolve the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.)
Then add the rest of the vinegar and the cider. Heat until the liquid starts to simmer, then add the mustard, molasses, worchestershire, Old Bay and brown sugar. Add some hot sauce, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes as well if you like a little heat in your sauce. I used about a teaspoon of Frank’s Red Hot, which is a fairly mild hot sauce with a nice vinegar tang that blends well with this sauce.
Simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The molasses and mustard may resist dissolving at first, but will work their way in as they heat up.
Then strain it into a bottle (to remove all the onion/garlic chunks) and cool in the fridge. (Alternatively, it was suggested here that I use a food processor to create a smooth texture without losing the onions and garlic. That would work well, too, but I have not tried it yet). I keep it in a glass bottle in the fridge and transfer to a squeeze bottle to serve.
Okay, on to the pork and the sprouts.
Since I first started smoking my own pulled pork, I’ve learned a few tricks and I now have the added benefit of a dual probe thermometer to help me follow the temp of the smoker and the meat.
My smoker tends to settle in around 325 degrees, which is more of a “hot and fast” style BBQ than the typical “low and slow” cooking around 250. Because of the higher temp, the bark (the dark outer layer of the meat) gets blacker faster. To combat this, I started wrapping the meat in foil when the internal temp hits about 160 degrees, and keep it wrapped to about 200 degrees when I pull it off the smoker to rest. When I wrap it, I add a few equal splashes each of apple cider and cider vinegar to keep the meat moist inside the foil. After coming off the smoker, I wrap it in a few towels and hold it in a cooler to keep it warm until it’s time to eat, usually at least 60 minutes of resting before pulling and serving.
For the sprouts, the basic recipe is similar to my previous roasted sprouts in the oven. In this case, the smoker becomes a charcoal fueled oven to roast the sprouts. Start by trimming and halving the sprouts. Lightly coat them in olive oil in a zip top bag.
If you have a grill-safe veggie basket or something similar, perfect. If not, you can make a little makeshift pan/sheet out of aluminum foil, which is what I did. Season the oiled sprouts liberally with Old Bay.
I did these right after pulling the pork off the smoker. The coals were on their last legs at that point, so I added a few more to get the cooker back up to temp. I also added a few chunks of pecan wood to add some nice smoke to the sprouts.
Once the coals were going strong, and the initial blast of thick smoke from the wood dissipated, I placed the sprouts in their foil tray onto the top rack of the smoker.
I put the lid on and let them roast for at least 60 minutes at 325. They still had a little crunch to them, but were plenty tender and had picked up some great smoke from pecan chunks.
The sprouts tasted great, but would have been even better with a little high heat treatment at the end. Ideally, next time I will toss them onto the grill for a quick sear at the end to add even more flavor. Either way, sprouts definitely lend themselves to charcoal cooking.
Now that everything is done, it’s time to eat. I transferred the sauce to a plastic squeeze bottle and served the sprouts and the pork with the sauce.
If you’re not used to vinegar based sauces, they’re on the thin side, which is perfect for shredded meats as the sauce easily finds its way into all the little crevices of the meat.
The meat was smokey and tender, the sprouts were crisp and fresh and the sauce tied it all together. We had eaters of all ages at this particular BBQ, and everyone finished the meal with a smile on their face. There’s nothing like a BBQ to bring friends and family together for good fun and good eats. Hopefully something here finds its way into your next BBQ. Enjoy!