Jumpin’ Jehosaphat’s Wood Smoked BBQ Sauce

Makes roughly three cups of sauce

2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
1 1/4 tsp ground fresh ginger
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl
  • Once combined, pour into a large cast iron skillet or other grill safe container with large surface area
  • Place on the grill over low heat, adding wet apple wood or oak chips to the fire to create smoke
  • Stir thoroughly every ten minutes and remove from heat after 30 minutes
  • Allow to cool and then it is ready to use!

A little while back I made my first successful attempt at making hot sauce. I considered the effort such a success that it occurred to me there might be other sauces I could try my hand at. Flash forward a couple weeks to the grocery store, where Katja and I were looking for mealtime inspiration. One thing we appreciate about our local grocery chain, Big Y, is that it usually has some amazing buy one-get-one-free deal to help us stock our pantry or freezer. On this particular day, the deal was on pork ribs, and I can tell you it’s hard for me to turn down free ribs of any kind. So, of course, it struck me that if I wanted to try my hand at other homemade sauces, BBQ might be a fun place to start.

After a quick scan of the many BBQ sauce recipes online, I felt I had a pretty reasonable grasp on ingredients. However, many of the recipes called for ketchup as a base and I wanted to try making as much of the sauce from scratch as possible. Instead, I started with canned tomato sauce and improvised my own “ketchup” by using some of the ingredients listed on the back of a Heinz bottle. My favorite thing to do when cooking is to lay out the ingredients I need and wing it with proportions. That’s why Katja is a much better and more reliable cook. The concoctions I come up with often fail, but occasionally the resulting dish is something tasty and totally unique. So, with the base prepared, I began sprinkling in one seasoning after another until I had a mixture reminiscent more of a Jackson Pollock painting than something edible.

After thoroughly mixing my creation so that it had a more consistent texture and appearance, I had my first taste test. Grimacing, I complained to Katja that my sauce was too sweet on the front end, and too gingery on the back end. She tasted it and concurred, then helped me set about making minor tweaks until we had a workable sauce. I should note that, at this point, the raw sauce had good flavor but lacked that smooth and smoky consistency that is so fundamental to a good grilling sauce. Not to worry, the next step in the process really brings all the pieces together.

I lit up the grill and tossed in some twigs that I had been soaking in a bowl of water (including some scraps of apple wood salvaged from the neighboring orchard). I then placed the foil wrapped ribs and a cast iron skillet full of sauce onto the grill and closed the lid. I let the sauce begin to cook down and take in some of the smoky flavor, stirring thoroughly every ten minutes or so for a total of half an hour. When I pulled the skillet off the grill, the sauce had thickened nicely and the flavors had melded together nicely.

As the cool of fall creeps in it is nice to sit out and smell the scents of savory meat and wood smoke. Of course, having a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce makes it all the better. In honor of the season, I call this sauce “Jumpin’ Jehosaphat’s Wood Smoked BBQ Sauce.” The expression, for those who are unfamiliar, first showed up in 1866 in the Thomas Mayne Reid story The Headless Horseman,* so it seemed appropriate as a way to usher in Halloween festivities with a bit of grilling. Hopefully you have as much fun making this sauce as I did, though don’t lose your head over it!

*“By the jumpin’ Geehosofat, what a gurl she air sure enuf!”