A lot of vegetarians will tell you that what they miss more than anything on this now meatless earth is *bacon*. And they’ll say it with this faraway look in their eyes like strips of bacon wear little haloes and float in the sky. Ahh, but not this one. There are three veggie weaknesses for me:
- The Jewish girl in me longs for her people’s food of choice: bagels with schmear and lox. Oy.
- Sushi… OH, how I long for fresh tuna.
- And the big summer kahuna — barbecue.
Luckily, the last is something we can work with. It’s not that I miss the slabs of meat or the taste of hamburger and hotdogs. Those urges are long gone. But the smell of smoke wafting through the air and the crowd that gathers around a piping hot grill and the community aspects to a barbecue strikes a deep-down cord.
There are a million alternatives that you can put on the grill, things I’ve blogged about many a time before. But grilling and barbecue somehow mean something different, and it’s only occurred recently to me that that might be due to… mmmm…. barbecue sauce.
Barbecue sauce comes in a godzillion (yes, that is the technical term) varieties and line the supermarket’s aisles with options. But I have come to find that the best way to eat BBQ sauce is to make it yourself. It’s shockingly simple and cheaper than buying it from the store. Add in the bonus of reducing the sugar and sodium levels, leaving out high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and other unpleasantries – not to mention getting to add the flavors that you like in particular – it ends up hard to argue with.
The staples of barbecue sauce are crazy easy:
- tomato paste
- onion powder
- cider vinegar
- some spices, a little sea salt
- and liquid smoke (the clincher).
The rest is fair game.
- For sweetness, pick your sweet of choice: local honey, real maple sauce (please, come on guys), molasses, brown sugar. All good and all different.
- Spices! Chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, you could try cinnamon… go nuts! (Ooh, nuts would be interesting.)
- For liquids try a boozey variety: like whisky, or I like adding a really dark beer, or if you’re thinking a tangier concoction, how about tequila? With lime!
- I used to use Worcestershire sauce until I realized it has fishies in it and then it was sayonara to the Woost. But definitely try some hot sauce or hot peppers.
- Maybe soy if you’re feeling like a hint of the East.
- You can also try making your own tomato paste, should the tomato harvest overwhelm you. This should give a bit of a fresher flavor, and there’s a good how-to here.
- Add a few drops of liquid smoke at the end. If you just put your nose in it, you’ll get why it seals the deal.
Simply put all this in a pot and stir it around until it smells and/or tastes like you imagine BBQ sauce to. Or better, like you wish it did. Throw it in a jar and add your personalized label. Then slather it on tofu, seitan, tempeh, vegetables. Anything.
I can’t promise you won’t miss meat, but I can promise you won’t be thinking about bacon.