Sweet and Spicy Steen’s BBQ Sauce

New Orleans and the South Louisiana region are home to a number of “specialty items” that aren’t widely available so are on my at-least-semi-annual visits — Camellia red beans for red beans and rice, olive salad for muffalettas,  Savoie’s Roux in a jar for making gumbo in a hurry, Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix for my children who insist there is only one beignet, various perishables  and one of my favorite”secret ingredients”, Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup.
The Steen Syrup Mill has been producing cane syrup in south Louisiana for over 100 years.   They harvest the ripe cane at its sweetest, grind it down to extract the juice, then cook it in open kettles until it is thick and dark.  In addition to sauces, I like to use it in cures and on pancakes.
Local food historian Poppy Tooker speaking a couple of years ago at the  International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans on sustainability,  promoted the idea that the way to save the region’s “endangered local foods” like Steen’s cane syrup (as well as Creole cream cheese and rice calas) is “Eat it to Save it”.  This is my contribution.
Sweet and Spicy Steen’s Barbecue Sauce
Ingredients:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 5 cups roughly chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 5 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup Steen’s syrup
  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Melt the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions to the dutch oven and saute for 10 minutes or until the onions wilt and begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic and continue to saute for about 5 minutes, until the excess liquid has cooked off.
  3. Stir in the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Steen’s, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke and red pepper flakes. Add the salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce, or cool the sauce before transferring it in batches to a conventional blender. After pureeing, simmer the sauce for 3-5 minutes. Taste to correct seasonings and remove from the heat.
Yield: 6 cups
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
I made this batch of sauce to serve with pulled pork sandwiches topped with Creamy Cole Slaw (a serving will be about two tablespoons per sandwich).  Since I planned to store and serve the sauce in plastic squirt bottles, it needed to be completely pureed and very liquid.  The longer the sauce cooks, the thicker it becomes.  If needed, the sauce can be thinned with a combination of water or chicken broth and vinegar.  I also use a thinned down version of the sauce to baste ribs or chicken while barbecuing and a cooked down version to sauce the meats just before I take them off the grill.

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