I8tonite: 4th of July Homemade Barbecue Sauce

American Flag
American Flag

Barbecue is a fundamental right of every American to enjoy. It is an American creation as much as our Declaration of Independence. It not just a food for celebration, it is a showcase of our cultural melting pot that helped to create our nation.

Barbecue, the act of grilling or smoking meats with a fire may or may not come from the Spanish word barbacoa. Historians seems to be uncertain but they do know that the technique came to the United States by way of the Caribbean, via the Spanish and the reprehensible slave trade. Cooking over slow-burning coals, although brought to the shores in the 17th century, became rooted in our country’s Southern states by the late 19th century and is every bit as American as jazz and rhythm and blues.


A very, very truncated version of barbeque history is that slaves had much to do with the barbeque as we know it today. Pigs were plentiful and hid in the woods so they were free. However, it was a long process to clean the animals so gatherings were created to butcher, prepare, cook — and give away — as much of the meat as possible. The sauce was adopted with a vinegar and tomato base to “mop” the meat, saturating it to assist in cutting the pig’s fat and possible gaminess of a wild hog upon eating. The slow-roasted meat, like in many cultures, was basted and then served with the same sauce.

As we celebrate this auspicious day in our country’s history, we are cooking a time-honored tradition that was created — not by just one culture – but by many generations born in the United States and on American soil.  For me, it brings to mind why we honor July 4th – for freedom for all — and that whether you are black, white, gay, straight, hermaphrodite, transgendered, yellow, orange, gender-neutral, rainbow-colored or albino the first sentence of the second paragraph from the Declaration of Independence: “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress, July 4, 1776


Homemade BBQ Sauce (Adapted from the kitchn) Makes 3 cups

I tablespoon olive oil

½ chopped red onion

4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic)

1 (8-ounce) can of tomato paste and 1 (8-ounce) can of tomato sauce or 1 (16-ounce) can of tomato sauce.

2 teaspoons of cumin, preferably freshly ground and toasted

4 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

¾ cup of apple cider vinegar

¼ cup of honey (or molasses, agave syrup, maple syrup, Karo syrup). Each one will impart a different flavor so it’s up to the cook and what you have in your pantry.

1/8 cup of Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup of yellow, brown or Dijon mustard (never grainy)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Several dashes of hot sauce to taste (if you want it with some kick.) I used sriracha as it had the heat. I wanted to temper the sweetness with some high temperature on the finish.


Let’s make this puppy:

Using a medium size sauce pan, drizzle in the olive oil and get it hot. Throw in the onions and cook until soft. Add the garlic. Stir until fragrant.

Add the cumin and tomato sauce/puree. (Add 8 ounce of water if using the puree). Stir.

Now add all the remaining ingredients and stir until thickened. Add more water, if you would like a thinner sauce. Also, at this point, see if you want to add more sweetener or make it zestier.

Use it as a baste for meats or non-meats. Serve extra on the side.

NOTE: This is a homemade barbeque sauce. It’s delicious but you can definitely play around with the ingredients. There should not be a hard and fast rule. Just deliciousness.