I made this a few nights ago. We have since tested it on pork burgers, where it is excellent. (I was surprised at how awesome this turned out to be; it's my first attempt at barbecue sauce, and is the equal of the best I've ever had.) The ingredients probably cost about $3. Enjoy barbecue sauce free of high-fructose corn syrup!
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 red onion, minced (about 2/3 cup)
9 oz. jar of apple butter
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic-ginger paste
1/4 teaspooon smoked applewood salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
In a small crock pot, combine 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons liquid smoke, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Cover and turn crock pot on Low.
Peel and mince half a red onion. Scrape the minced onion into the crock pot and stir. Replace the lid. Cook for about 1 hour, until the onion begins to soften.
Add 9 oz. of apple butter and 1/2 cup ketchup. Stir thoroughly. Replace the lid and cook for about 2 hours.
Add the seasonings: 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic-ginger paste, 1/4 teaspooon smoked applewood salt, 1/4 teaspoon smoked ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric. Stir thoroughly, then replace the lid. Cook for 1/2 hour.
Stir and taste the barbecue sauce periodically. Adjust to taste. This usually takes about 1/2 hour.
Transfer barbecue sauce to containers and refrigerate or freeze. Makes about 2 cups.
This is essentially a protest recipe. All the supermarket brands of barbecue sauce in my area currently contain high-fructose corn syrup, often as a main ingredient appearing first or second on the label. I don't want to eat lightly flavored HFCS, so I'm experimenting with my own sauces. You'll need to be careful with your ingredients if you want to avoid HFCS, because now it is in many ketchup brands, Worcestershire sauce, and other places it does not belong.
Do not cook barbecue sauce at higher temperatures. Leave the crock pot on Low. Thick ingredients like apple butter and ketchup burn easily. It is okay if some sauce clings to the sides and gets sticky; you can just scrape it back down, as long as it hasn't actually burned.
Because of the minced onion, this barbecue sauce is a little chunky. If you want it perfectly smooth, just run it through a food mill or use a submersible blender after it is fully cooked.
Notice that a lot of these ingredients have "apple" and/or "smoke" in them. You can mix and match, for instance if you have smoked dried apple rings. If you don't have the apple or smoky version, you can use a plain version (white vinegar, chili powder or paprika, sea salt or table salt, plain black pepper) instead. It just won't be as tightly orchestrated. You might want to add another teaspoon of liquid smoke if you don't have other smoky things.
Pay special attention to selecting the two main ingredients, the apple butter and ketchup. Get the best ones you can because these are the dominant flavors in the barbecue sauce. Homemade, local brand, or organic are good choices. I used Plank's Home Made Apple Butter from Arthur, IL and Hunt's 100% Natural Tomato Ketchup (no HFCS).
Many barbecue sauces include a large amount of sugar, such as brown sugar or molasses, even if there is something already sweet in it. This one is plenty sweet just with the apple butter. If it tastes too sour to you, add brown sugar in small amounts.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of barbecue sauce. It should work equally well for beef or pork. It will probably keep for a week or two in the refrigerator, but don't expect it to last a really long time like storebought sauce with preservatives.
The flavor is zippy but not insanely hot. You can raise or lower the heat via the chipotle powder and smoked black pepper. Another option, if you want it hotter, is to chop a hot pepper into it when you add the onion.