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Author Topic: My quest for a secret BBQ sauce recipe  (Read 211202 times)
h00kemh0rns
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« on: February 14, 2011, 08:08:36 PM »

****WARNING****
If you don't find reading War and Peace or a training manual on the operation of a nuclear reactor as fun, stop now.  Otherwise, continue at the cost of your own sanity while you question mine.



Secret BBQ sauce recipe quest.

   

So, the BBQ sauce that I fell in love with is from the revered Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX.  Here is their story:

Quote from: Salt Lick
The roots of The Salt Lick run back to Mississippi in the mid-1800s. Scott Roberts, the current owner of the Salt Lick, had a great-grandmother, Bettie Howard, who came to this land from Desoto, Miss. in 1867. James Howard was a surveyor passing through Desoto. Bettie was a 14-year-old orphan looking for a way to survive. She told James that she couldn’t promise she would ever love him. But she said that if he would marry her and take her to Texas, she would bear and raise all his children.

James took Bettie up on her offer. After crossing the gulf from Biloxi with their wagon in pieces on a boat, they landed in Indianola, Texas and reassembled their wagon.

On the trip by wagon train to Driftwood, Bettie barbequed meat by searing it and then slow cooking it over coals – the same method the family uses today. When Bettie arrived in Central Texas, she proved to be a woman of her word. She populated her new hometown of Driftwood with nine Howard children.
Roxanna, one of Bettie’s daughters, raised Scott’s father, Thurman, in Driftwood. But Uncle Sam recruited him for service in the Navy. The Texas boy wound up stationed in Kauai. There he met his wife Hisako who was born on Kauai of Japanese descent.

In 1956, Scott’s mother and father moved with their two young sons to Driftwood. But his father had to travel constantly across the state working for a bridge construction company. Thurman dreamed of spending every day where his family had put down generations of roots.
One day he and Hisako took out a yellow legal pad and wrote down 54 things the family could do and stay in Driftwood. The idea for the Salt lick was 14th on the list. At first, they irrigated a field and truck farmed, selling produce to local grocery stores. They, also, made candies, raised pecan trees and had a shelling business.

But in 1967, Thurman, who was known for his delicious barbeque at family reunions, decided he would cook meat for paying customers. Thurman and his two sons built a huge barbeque pit. Thurman would go to the pit on Thursday night and start cooking. He stayed for the weekend, sleeping on a cot, until all the meat sold. He kept coming home earlier and earlier. After a few months, the boys and Thurman built a little screen porch around the pit. The Salt Lick has grown from there. The Roberts family now serves mouthwatering barbeque to thousands of folks each week.


YouTube tours of the Salt Lick:

If you haven't guessed which Salt Lick sauce I'm in love with based on my posts about the habaneros its this one:

Lauren's spicy recipe bar-b-que sauce with its sweet, and spicy, nectar of pure nirvana.


This is a lot of the research info I found on the Roberts and the Salt Lick.  Not necessary to read obviously but interesting, to me, nonetheless.  

Interviews:

  • June 01, 2006; NYTimes
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/01/fashion/thursdaystyles/01Online.html?pagewanted=print
    Quote
    Scott Roberts owns the Salt Lick, a restaurant his parents founded in the late 60's in Driftwood, Tex. His ancestors took their sauce recipes to Texas through South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. His mother is 94.
    Quote
    It has 40-something ingredients, but no tomatoes," he said. "It has a high sugar and acid content. It's been Texified, taking on the flavor of local ingredients like cayenne pepper and chile dulce.


         What the hell is chile dulce?  Apparently it’s any pepper which is not spicy (see below.)  Now, the recipe does not list this on the bottle so I have to assume it’s in the “spice” part of the ingredient list.  Which a sweet or fancy paprika fits that bill.
       
        
    Quote
    Chile dulce (noun) - This is the Costa Rican term for any pepper that is not spicy. Referred to as pimientas or pimentones in other countries, these are what you would call 'green peppers', 'red peppers', or 'bell peppers' in English.  Synonyms: pimienta, pimento

         Reference:  http://www.ruralcostarica.com/costa-rican-spanish-word.asp?word=Chile%20dulce[/i]



  • January 13, 1988; NYTimes
    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/13/garden/the-open-pit-barbecue-a-texas-tradition-in-good-hands.html
    Quote
    Upon his retirement in the mid-1960's they listed 54 possible projects they wanted to embark on; opening a barbecue was No. 4, Mrs. Roberts said

    Quote
    Of the sauce, she said only, ''There is a touch of the Oriental in it.'' There are also bits and pieces of many other foods. Mrs. Roberts explained: ''Like many others growing up during the Depression, I was brought up not to throw away anything. Such things as pickling juice or the juice of peaches contain a lot of cinnamon, cloves, mustard and other spices. I would save the juice when the jars were empty and throw it into the barbecue sauce.''


  • Ingredients on the bottle:
    Soybean Oil, Cane Sugar, Vinegar, Vizcaya Brand Habanero Sauce (Habanero Peppers, Carrots, Onions, Lime Juice, Vinegar, Garlic, Salt), Prepared Mustard (Water, Distilled Vinegar, Mustard Seed, Salt, Turmeric, Spices) Worcestershire Sauce (Vinegar, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Anchovies, Water, Onions, Salt, Garlic, Tamarind Concentrate, Cloves, Natural Flavorings, Chile Pepper Extract) Salt, Spices, Xanthan Gum.

So, what do I know at this point?
  • Amount of ingredients (40 per Scott Roberts, 17 per Hisako Roberts, 9 per the bottle.)  Now this doesn’t take into account any sub ingredients from say mustard as it is made up of about a dozen ingredients.
  • High sugar and acid content, per Scott Roberts
  • Cayenne, cumin, and chile dulce have all been mentioned, per Scott Roberts.
  • Mustard base sauce, per external reviews, per NYTimes review
  • Sweet and sour dressing, per Hisako Roberts
  • 15 spices, per Hisako Roberts
  • Would use pickling juices such as from peaches that contain cinnamon, cloves, mustard and other spices, per Hisako Roberts
  • Hisako Roberts roots are in Hawaii
  • Thurman Roberts roots come from S.Carolina, N. Carolina, Georgia and Texas
  • Hawaii plays an influence with the sweet and sour along with certain spices
  • South Carolina plays an influence with the mustard
  • I might be clinically insane for doing this

Assumptions
  • Xantham Gum (on ingredients label) can be replaced by a corn starch/water mixture
  • The chile dulce is actually paprika
  • 40 is closer to the actual number of ingredients.
  • 10-15 spices are used



The meat of the story:

     Now one would think having the printed ingredient list from the bottles label would get you 80% there.  Well, yes and no.  Without a doubt it helped with getting me some key info such as brand of habanero sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc.  But it also hampered me on quantities.

     Most people assume the ingredients order is listed in order of predominance.  So, is this sauce an oil-based sauce?  Obviously not and by looking at the Salt Licks 12 oz bottle you can easily see separation from the oil to the other ingredients.  I would guess about 2 Tbs of soybean oil in ratio to the rest of the ingredients.  Just based on this it would never make 12 oz and even if it did it would taste like an oily inferno of nastiness.

     What I did was spent most of my time researching and reading.  From local interviews done recently, a few years ago, to an obscure interview done by Hisako in the 80’s.  One major thing to note is that Hisako mentioned in this 80’s interview that a sweet and sour dressing was used.  

      So knowing Hawaii played a part in this recipe I looked up the most popular dressings there.  They all seemed to be about the same make up of vinegar, sugar, pineapple juice, ginger, garlic, salt (or soy) and oil.  I finally came up with a mixture of equal parts of vinegar, brown sugar, pineapple juice with ginger and garlic powders all simmered for 10 minutes.  Mixed up equal parts cornstarch and water, poured into sauce, brought to a boil until thickened.  Entire mixture is then taken off the heat and cooled.  Last thing, I drizzled oil in a blender to make the dressing.  Tasted it and I thought it was close though I had a nagging feeling it wasn’t perfect (more on that below.)  Now, this solved one of the major tastes in the sauce.

     Next hurdle was figuring out the 2nd  main ingredient.  I assumed the sweet and sour sauce I just made eliminated the Soybean Oil, Cane Sugar, Vinegar in the list (and Xanthum Gum.)  I also know there is NO way the habanero sauce was the next in the list.  With it being said several times that there was high acid content and it being a mustard base sauce I went with mustard.  

     After some very painful trial and error I found Worcestershire to be the next logical ingredient and again NOT the habanero sauce.  The last liquid ingredient and least used of all of them IS the habanero sauce.  
    
     One thing to note is that I had previously said this particular brand (Vizcaya) of hot sauce is not sold in the US any longer.  Originally I was unable to find an online store that sold it nor, at the time, could I find a local store that had it.  This was apparently wrong as I finally found some at an HEB grocery store (but only after searching 3 different ones.)

     What’s the ingredient count so far?  We have 7 ingredients from the sweet and sour (not including water), approximately 8 ingredients on average from a prepared mustard, approximately 12 ingredients on average from a Worcestershire sauce, 6 ingredients from the Habanero sauce.  Bringing the tally to 33 ingredients and leaving about 7 ingredients left for the “spice” mixture.

     Scott Roberts has said he likes to use a 2-1-1 mixture of salt, black pepper, and cayenne in his rubs.  Since this already has habaneros I eliminated this from a possible candidate in the spice mixture.  Keeping the salt to pepper/spice ratio the same I started with 1 tsp sea salt to equal parts of ½ tsp black pepper, cumin, sweet paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Typical players in most barbeque sauce recipes.  

     One thing that kept gnawing at me was the mention by Hisako that she liked using pickling juice of peaches or other fruit in her sauces.  Now the pineapple takes care of the fruit component and plays a part in her heritage.  So, the profile she mentions is of cinnamon, cloves, and other spices in the actual pickling juice.  First thing that came to my mind is Chinese five spice.   This is now included at a ½ tsp in the spice mixture.  The tally of the spice mixture is 11 however I’m eliminating 2 from the total count as ginger and black pepper was previously used.  

     Total ingredients:  42

     Now was the time for a chemistry experiment of each of the separate components (sweet and sour sauce, mustard, Worcestershire, habanero sauce, and spice mixture) to make that final holy of all sauces known to mankind.  Assuming you haven’t nodded off yet, this part ranged from painful to a “holy crap, I got it!” nirvana taste testing of ultra small batches (about 3 tsp total each batch.)  I had to wait a few times b/c my taste buds were fried a few times which made this more agonizing as I KNEW I was close.

     I now graduated from making ultra small teaspoon batches to a full version.  I cautiously made the sauce and purposely omitted the habanero sauce as I knew this could potentially get too hot if my ratio was off.  So I started out small with ½ Tbs and I think it’s damn close.  I personally would add the full Tbs but I didn’t want to run the chance of killing this first batch before someone else had a chance to taste it.  

***Amendment (2/15):  Taste tested this morning to find that the sweet was more pronounced than the heat.  I added the remaining 1/2 Tbs of habanero sauce.  I'm also questioning if the 1/2 tsp of cayenne might truly be needed.***

     The next was the last issue I encountered.  It was the sweet finish of the sauce I couldn’t seem to quite duplicate.  Now to this point I had only used brown sugar and pineapple juice.  I pulled out the molasses…tasted it then the original salt lick.  Nope.  Next, corn syrup and again not it.  I literally sat here for an hour thinking WTF?!?! Could it be?  It finally dawned on my dense grape.  Scott mentions several times of Texasifying and liking Texas ingredients.  How about Texas honey?  BINGO!  Same finish of the Salt Licks but not quite as sweet.  I add 1 Tbs brown sugar and 1 Tbs honey to the finished sauce…and I have it!

     Total ingredients:  43
     Total time to research:  Years, but actively about 48 hours.
     Times I heard “You’re crazy to try to replicate that sauce.”:  A lot!

***Amendment (2/15):  Did a side by side comparison of color today.  Mine appears darker which is either due to on the heat for too long or the addition of brown sugar at the end.  I'll try to get this right but I'm more concerned with taste than shades of color.***

Mine is on the right...original Salt Lick's is on the left.

    All that rambling and research for one ‘simple’ recipe.  So, without further rambling…here it is:

Salt Lick
Lauren’s Spicy Recipe Bar-B- Que Sauce


  • 1 cup finished sweet and sour dressing (recipe below)
  • 1/3 cup prepared mustard
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs Vizcaya brand Habanero sauce (red NOT the orange)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper (fresh cracked if possible)
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 1 Tbs Honey
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar

Place sweet and sour dressing, mustard, Worcestershire, and all spices (from salt to Chinese 5 spice) in pan and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

Take off of heat and add 1 Tbs of honey, 1 Tbs brown sugar, and 1 Tbs Habanero sauce.  Stir until well incorporated.

Cool to room temperature then store in a squeeze bottle or any other container in the fridge.  

Bring to room temperature before use.


Sweet and sour dressing

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 6 oz Dole 100% pineapple juice
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp garlic
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs water
  • ¼ cup oil

Place all ingredients, except cornstarch and water, into a pan over medium heat.

Allow mixture to simmer about 10 minutes.

While this simmers mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl.

Add this to the sweet and sour mixture and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat and allow to come to room temp.  Put in sauce in blender and while running drizzle oil until dressing thickens.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2013, 08:52:22 AM by h00kemh0rns » Logged

Daniel

BBQ is all the same basic idea.  Throw some meat onto the fire, cover, get drunk, pass out, wake up and 14 hours later, eat.  This is not a highly refined art form.

Keg FAQhttp://bubbakeg.com/bboard/index.php?topic=2013.0
Smokin in Peosta
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2011, 08:13:35 PM »

I was right this is gonna be GOOD. Tongue
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Mike
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2011, 10:18:57 PM »

Hookem,
you have my vote for the next "mystery recipe" throwdown! and you have a future as a culinary forensic anthropologist
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h00kemh0rns
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« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2011, 06:34:28 AM »

Hookem,
you have my vote for the next "mystery recipe" throwdown! and you have a future as a culinary forensic anthropologist

Well when I have my sights set on something it's hard for me to stop until I get it.  Unless of course theres a restraining order involved.  Grin
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Daniel

BBQ is all the same basic idea.  Throw some meat onto the fire, cover, get drunk, pass out, wake up and 14 hours later, eat.  This is not a highly refined art form.

Keg FAQhttp://bubbakeg.com/bboard/index.php?topic=2013.0
h00kemh0rns
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2011, 11:11:18 AM »

Making some small amendments to the sauce.

1.  Heat is not as pronounced as when it first was cooked.  Might have been due to my tastes buds being fried over the course of taste testing all day.
     a.  Added the remaining 1/2 tsp of habanero sauce.
     b.  Considering the 1/2 tsp of cayenne if the heat is not equally present as the sweet.
2.  Color is a tad darker than the original.
     a.  This is either due to cooking/reducing too long or the addition of brown sugar at the end.  I'll play around with this.
3.  Sweet taste.  Though the honey is virtually spot on I had a lingering feeling maybe there was another route to go.  So I may end up playing with the brown sugar/honey mixture at the end.
     a.  This is one option I'll be trying:  
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Daniel

BBQ is all the same basic idea.  Throw some meat onto the fire, cover, get drunk, pass out, wake up and 14 hours later, eat.  This is not a highly refined art form.

Keg FAQhttp://bubbakeg.com/bboard/index.php?topic=2013.0
Bigtom
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2011, 11:42:58 AM »



Hey Hook do you drive a DeLorean? Just checking. With extra Steens make up some pecan pie, it is the best.
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h00kemh0rns
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« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2011, 11:52:25 AM »

Hey Hook do you drive a DeLorean? Just checking. With extra Steens make up some pecan pie, it is the best.

Just call me 'Doc' Grin

Thanks for that idea for the leftover Steens. I could also try it in my chess pie too.
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Daniel

BBQ is all the same basic idea.  Throw some meat onto the fire, cover, get drunk, pass out, wake up and 14 hours later, eat.  This is not a highly refined art form.

Keg FAQhttp://bubbakeg.com/bboard/index.php?topic=2013.0
lunchman
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« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2011, 04:43:28 PM »

Wow, first this and today there are reports re: the secret Coca-Cola recipe too! You've been a busy scientist, Hook!  Grin What's next? KFC's secret spices?
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2011, 05:36:25 PM »

Wow, first this and today there are reports re: the secret Coca-Cola recipe too! You've been a busy scientist, Hook!  Grin What's next? KFC's secret spices?

The KFC reference piqued my interest... check this site out (interesting ingredients if these are really their "secret spices"):

http://hubpages.com/hub/KFC_Copycat_Recipes
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h00kemh0rns
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2011, 05:37:52 PM »

Wow, first this and today there are reports re: the secret Coca-Cola recipe too! You've been a busy scientist, Hook!  Grin What's next? KFC's secret spices?

I'll get to KFC in a bit...for now it's a McDonalds Big Mac
« Last Edit: August 08, 2011, 11:34:41 AM by h00kemh0rns » Logged

Daniel

BBQ is all the same basic idea.  Throw some meat onto the fire, cover, get drunk, pass out, wake up and 14 hours later, eat.  This is not a highly refined art form.

Keg FAQhttp://bubbakeg.com/bboard/index.php?topic=2013.0
Timgoi
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2012, 06:57:34 PM »

h00kemh0rns,

I too am a huge fan of Salt Lick BBQ sauce, so when I saw your recipe, I was very excited.  However, I just got done trying it tonight (for the second time) and it seems way off.  What am I missing?

Any help/tweaks would be greatly appreciated.

By the way, I am just trying to produce the standard version of the sauce, not the spicy version.  My version comes out with a really strong sweet and sour dressing flavor.  Any ideas?
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texasgirl
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2013, 07:51:08 AM »

Dear Hookem, I ran across your thread today. I was searching for the recipe for the Salt Lick sauce. I was hoping that someone had finally cracked the code. I see you got pretty close, maybe a little closer than I did on my numerous test batches. Replicating the original sauce has been the bane of my existence for many years. I could bathe in the stuff, but that would be an egregious waste. I have been eating at the Salt Lick since I was a child in the early 70's. My family made frequent trips to Wimberly, TX for Market Day and vacationing and we never failed to make a trek to The Salt Lick. When I started dating my husband in the 80's I took him there. We now take our children and forsee taking our grandchildren, should we be blessed some day. I have many happy memories of sitting at the big green picnic table in the breezeway, having eaten the tender brisket and the tasty ribs until I felt my own ribs might explode and then using the last remnants of pull apart bread to mop the remainder of the sauce from the empty meat platter.

Before they started bottling the sauce commercially I never failed to ask for the recipe when I visited, in hopes someone would slip and divulge the family secrets. The servers pretty much always told me the same thing. Grandma Hisako showed up early in the morning and made a giant batch and carried the empty ingredient containers away. Now they have the sauce commercially made, but back then Mrs. Roberts was the only one privy to the ingredients. From what I was able to glean, she evidently poured in bottles of commercial ingredients like Worcester Sauce, Soy Sauce, yellow Mustard, Wishbone Salad Dressing (I think that's where the oiliness comes from), etc.  When you look at the label of the commercial bottle and see stuff like Xantham Gum you are getting some of the ingredients from the commercial salad dressing formulas. I think the reason there is a dispute over the number of ingredients is because of the way they had to merge the ingredients list due to the repetition of ingredients found on different labels...for instance, garlic may be found in three of the bottled ingredients and so they only listed garlic once on the sauce label. This worked well to muddy the waters and keep those of us trying to replicate the recipe at bay. It has been very effective. Before they actually bottled the sauce and had to label it they may have considered yellow mustard as one ingredient, pickle juice another ingredient, etc. Labeling the commercial sauce must have been a nightmare.

After reading your posts, and I read them carefully several times and considered every idea you presented (even though I never have gotten through War and Peace) and I have now considered that maybe Grandma used peach juice left over from making the peach cobbler,possibly she used the pickle juice,accounting for the extra acidity, maybe there is French Dressing or sweet and sour sauce in there. Maybe her oriental bent is simply soy sauce and pineapple juice. There is a tiny little black spec in there that I think may be celery seed. Having dabbled in the restaurant business I know that they would have used as many bulk, bottled (cheap) ingredients as possible. They go through a lot of this stuff and back then they would have needed a sauce that was cheap to mix up. Of course now they have it commercially mixed up so they don't have to mess with it. I need to get my hands on a new bottle so I can refresh my memory. My local HEB ususally carries it but I have not been able to find it lately.

I respect the work you have put into this, but I think you may have taken the long route and maybe you don't need to reinvent the wheel by replicating ingredients that mock us from the grocery shelves. But the end justifies the means. Grandma just opened jars, bottles and cans and dumped them into a big kettle and stirred and went on about her day. It. Just. Can't. Be. This. HARD!! This has become an obsession of mine. I plan to make your sauce today. I am very hopeful that it is the sauce I crave. Thank you for your diligence. Off to HEB to find a few ingredients...
 
« Last Edit: March 27, 2013, 09:31:14 AM by texasgirl » Logged
smokey
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2013, 01:26:05 PM »

Welcome TXgirl
You might want to PM Hook

He has not been around for a while, good guy
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h00kemh0rns
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« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2013, 08:20:33 AM »

Hey TexasGirl...welcome to the forum...and thanks for the comments.

You're right I absolutely took the long route in order to dissect this recipe.  My reasoning was I had no idea what bottled sauces, if any, were used so I had no starting point from that perspective.  Rather I read up on the interviews and pieced them together to form this long winded hypothesis of ingredients.  I agree with you that grandma probably used what was on hand.  But back then I don't think she used too many pre-packaged sauces/items (my guess.)  Rather she reused items she already had.  

I have made only one change since posting the recipe.  That was nixing the brown sugar altogether and using TX honey only as the sweetener (really close to the same sweet flavors of the original.)  The brown sugar just was giving too much color to the end result and steens didn't have the same flavor I was finding in the original sauce.

Your idea of grandma using left over peach juice from the cobblers or pickling juice is probably close to what took place (as that was what was quoted in the NYTimes.)  I will try this by substituting them in the sweet/sour dressing.  It may be a mixture of vinegar/pickling juice or all pickling juice for the sour and a mixture of pineapple/peach juice or all peach juice for some of the fruit flavor.  The peach juice I'm a bit skeptical on just b/c I don't pick up any of those notes in their sauce.  If I recall I went down this path before and found that the spices were part of the Chinese five spice mixture but the peach/pickle juice just couldn't work in the proportions I originally tried.  But that doesn't mean I won't test this theory out again.

Again, thanks for the note and I'll let you know what I find after I play a bit in the lab.  Smiley  Let me know how the sauce turned out for you.
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Daniel

BBQ is all the same basic idea.  Throw some meat onto the fire, cover, get drunk, pass out, wake up and 14 hours later, eat.  This is not a highly refined art form.

Keg FAQhttp://bubbakeg.com/bboard/index.php?topic=2013.0
NYCue
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« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2013, 02:26:22 PM »

Quote
I have made only one change since posting the recipe.  That was nixing the brown sugar altogether and using TX honey only as the sweetener (really close to the same sweet flavors of the original.)  The brown sugar just was giving too much color to the end result and steens didn't have the same flavor I was finding in the original sauce.

Could you please clarify this? Did you just remove the brown sugar from your recipe or did you double the honey from (from 1 Tbs to 2 Tbs) to make up for the lost sugar?

Thank you so much for posting this. I'm so excited to try it out.
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