Long ago in the 1980s, before Jeff Smith, a.k.a. The Frugal Gourmet, fell from grace and was still producing his cooking programs on PBS, we watched him pretty regularly.
We also bought the cookbooks, which we still have on our shelves. While searching for a topic for this month's Trib Cooks feature, I remembered one of the recipes I enjoyed making from the book, ''The Frugal Gourmet Whole Family Cookbook.'' It was a long time ago, and my memory has failed me, but I suspect it was a recipe that Smith featured on one of his programs, otherwise I probably wouldn't have tried it. I'm glad I did. According to the cookbook, this wasn't one of Smith's original recipes but was passed along to him by Sarah Lea, general manager of the Lenox House Hotel in Chicago.
I like making large amounts of anything I can use over and over and this recipe is a true multi-tasker because you don't have to use it just as barbecue sauce. Smith explains in the book that unlike heavy tomato-based barbecue sauces, this recipe is similar to the sauces made in the Carolinas and Arkansas because it contains more vinegar and spice. It certain does and by tasting it straight from the pot, it will make you wrinkle your nose and scrunch up your face. But pair it with another food, such as meat or vegetables and it makes those flavors pop.
Whether its used as a meat marinade, dipping sauce or barbecue sauce, don’t be overwhelmed by the amount this recipe makes. Pride of Deer Camp Barbecue Sauce is a favorite to keep on hand at all times because it can be used in so many ways.
The book suggests using it as a meat marinade or barbecue sauce and even to spice up a Bloody Mary. But I think it also can be tossed with grilled or roasted vegetables, stir fry recipes with rice and any number of other dishes that need a flavor boost.
The recipe makes quite a lot, so be prepared to put some in the freezer for later or to give away as gifts. As written, the recipe makes a thin sauce / marinade, but it can be cooked down as needed to a thicker consistency.
Of course, I couldn't just follow the recipe so I made a few changes. I didn't use as much salt as the recipe called, cutting it to one cup rather than a cup and a half. Even that sounded like a lot of salt, but it didn't taste salty at all and keep in mind this recipe makes quite a lot.
Pride of Deer Camp Barbecue Sauce
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 cups prepared mustard
1 quart ketchup
1/2 cup freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup crushed red pepper flakes (or less if you do not like a spicy hot sauce)
3 quarts red wine vinegar
2 quarts water
1 quart white wine
1 1/2 cups salt
Place all the ingredients in a 12-quart, stainless steel pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Store covered in glass canning jars in the refrigerator.
I also added an entire bulb of garlic. Garlic is not called for at all in the recipe, but it is a staple in our kitchen so I figured, why not? I lightly crushed the garlic cloves with the flat side of a heavy knife so the peels would easily slip away. The crushing helps release the flavor of the garlic. I didn't chop or mince, but tossed the cloves in just as they were and let them boil and simmer along with everything else.
It was a lot of fun just dumping and pouring all of the ingredients one on top of another into the large pot. I stirred it all with a wooden spoon and once it came to a boil, I turned the heat down so it could simmer for the allotted time. The largest pot I have, other than an enamel hot water bath canner, is an 8-quart soup pot, and this recipe took it all the way to the brim. I had to scoop out several ladles of the liquid into another saucepan to make room for the mixture to boil without it running all over my stove.
I suppose if you had a large jug, you could funnel the sauce into that for easy use, but I ladled the sauce into 16 ounce jelly jars. Some I will give away to friends, and some I will keep in the refrigerator. What isn't used within a few days will go into the freezer.
My first use for the sauce was to marinade boneless pork tenderloin slices before placing them on the grill. I put a bit extra into small dishes for dipping at the table. Since this is a southern style recipe, I served it with yellow rice and peas.
It was pretty delish and I'm already trying to think of other ways to use this versatile sauce.