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Turn Your Summer Blueberry Bounty Into a Sweet and Savory BBQ Sauce

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Turn Your Summer Blueberry Bounty Into a
Sweet and Savory BBQ Sauce
Sam Bithoney
Sunday 3:00pm • Filed to: BARBECUE
7.4K 12
Photos by Sam Bithoney
Welcome back to Sunday Sustenance! Last week, the culinary culmination of
our trip back through time resulted in delicious dippable decadence, and
dozens of displeased dentists. Let’s get back to the present. The biggest of
American BBQ holidays is here, and you need a ringer. You could stick with the
same old burgers and dogs, or you could try something new. Something
borrowed. Something blue.
July 5th is the official kick off in my home state of Massachusetts for blueberry
season, but we’ve been flooded with both domestic and imports since March.
I’ve gone through multiple muffins, countless crumbles and plenty of pies, but
enough alliteration. Here’s the deal: Ribs are good, easy, pretty hard to screw
up, and they’re cheap as hell in a lot of places right now.
Barbecue sauce on the other hand, is not. The cheap stuff is just ketchup and
brown sugar, and the expensive stuff is the components that make up ketchup
and brown sugar. So today we’re going to make our own badass Blue-B-Q
sauce, rub-a-dub some ribs and then put them in the oven.
Look, I know that some of you will chastise me for suggesting that you cook
ribs in the oven. I know that they can be “better” by using another cooking
apparatus. But not everyone has charcoal, or pellet, or a smoker, or even gas
grill access. However, almost everyone reading this has an oven. If you do have
access to any of those other means for cooking ribs, I implore you to make use
of them. I like doing ribs in the oven because it frees up space on the grill and I
can be sure that everything is served at the same time. Nothing ruins a
barbecue faster than having to wait for a hot dog.
Whatever you do, we’re looking for 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about two
hours in a foil wrap, then another 50 minutes, basting every ten minutes with
our lovely, lovely sauce.
For the ribs and the rub:
2 racks of baby back ribs, about 3 pounds each, membranes removed*
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon + ¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt. If you don’t have kosher
salt on hand, use this conversion table to determine how much table salt
you need.
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
*If you’ve never removed a membrane from ribs, check out this technique from
Amazing Ribs.
Be gone, foul membrane!
If you leave the membrane on, with such a short cooking time the membrane
will still be tough and ruin a good experience. If you’re not confident with
cleaning it up, you can ask your butcher or local grocer to remove it for you.
Either way, pat your ribs dry and set them aside for a moment.
In a small bowl, combine all of the rub ingredients and really, really rub it into
the ribs. Don’t be stingy—use all of the rub and work it in. There’s a reason
it’s called a “rub”, and not a “tickle”. The brown sugar will caramelize and
turn into a crust, but more importantly it will become sticky. And oh boy, do
we want sticky. The liquid hot sugar magma will help bond our sauce to the
ribs later on, sort of like molten Velcro.
If you have the time, place the ribs on a cooling rack over a sheet pan and
refrigerate them, for up to 24 hours. Leaving them uncovered will allow for
more air to circulate and give the salt some time to pull moisture from the
meat. This is just a really quick “dry brine” and will help to pull some of the
moisture from the ribs.
Preheat your oven and line a baking sheet with foil. Wrap the ribs, separately,
in foil, place them on the pan and get them in the oven, If you opted for the
dry brine, check the ribs after an hour. The salt-extracted moisture will lead to
a faster cook time.
Now that we’ve got some free time, we should talk about barbecue sauce.
There are some great sauces available at stores across the country, the internet,
and the world. I do not discount those sauces. But you should try making your
own at least once. It’s shockingly simple, and you probably have most of the
ingredients already.
For the Blue-B-Q Sauce
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon light molasses
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup water
Get everything into a medium saucepan and stir to combine. I don’t know what
size medium is—it varies between cookwares—but it’s not the small one. It’ll
seem too big at first, but the the extra space will help the sauce to reduce
quicker thanks to the larger contact area of the pan.
I spent too long making this gif and all I can think of is Ferngully.
Carefully bring the sauce to a boil. We’re working with a lot of sugar, bubbles
will happen and bubbles will *splut* all over everything. A bad place for
bubble shrapnel is skin/eyes—use a splatter shield if you’ve got one. Once
boiling, reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally until reduced to a syrupy
consistency—about 30-40 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover with foil.
The sauce might seem thin, but it will thicken as it cools.
Once the ribs are “done,” remove them from their foil wrappers and drain the
pan of any accumulated liquid. Place them back on the foil-lined pan and
lightly with the sauce before returning them to the oven for another 50
minutes, brushing them with the sauce every ten minutes. Don’t use all of the
sauce though—save some for the table.
Throw the ribs under the broiler for a few minutes until the sauce just begins
to bubble and caramelize. Let them rest for about ten minutes, douse them
with the remaining sauce and dig in.
When I was making this sauce (and repeatedly burning my fingers and various
mouth parts tasting it), I pondered replacing the blueberries with apricots,
peaches or blackberries. I think blueberry gives it a great tart and sweet flavor,
but the other fruits would still make great flavor profiles. That’s what I love
about making sauces at home: you can tweak one little ingredient and it’s a
whole new world. Buying this stuff at the store is usually “honey” or “spicy”
or “classic,” which get pretty boring, and you’re not boring.
Sam Bithoney
Freelance writer