There are a few foods that I am certain were made by angels. One is maple syrup. Good maple syrup is thick, dark, and has a woody finish that cuts through the sweet sugary start. Another amazing food, although calling it a food might be a stretch, is bourbon.
I grew up in a family that cooks with bourbon far more often than drinking it. Although this created a penchant for Maker’s neat, I still see it more as an ingredient than a beverage. In this recipe I mash maple syrup and bourbon together in a sweet barbecue sauce with an unexpected depth. I used Maker’s Mark because we had a bottle in the liquor cabinet, but any high-quality bourbon will do. When cooking, just never use an alcohol that you wouldn’t drink on it’s own.
While this sauce would be good on almost any meat, I am a ribs girl. I picked up two racks of baby back ribs at the local market, seasoned them with my favorite dry rub, roasted for 2.5 hours, chilled (this helps keep them together), and then finished them on the grill. The shiny coating that you can see in the pictures is from a slow and steady lacquering of the ribs. This can be achieved with a pastry brush and a good deal of patience. Thin coats of sauce frequently applied, rather than a single thick coating, promote caramelization of the sugars in the sauce and create a veneer of barbecue awesomeness on the meat. Still want sauce all over your face? Serve the ribs with extra on the side.
And the corn you ask? Fresh sweet corn, partially shucked, and coated in garlic butter. I pulled the remaining husk back up to protect it and cooked it right on the grill until bright yellow. Serve with the husk still on.
Maple Bourbon Barbecue Sauce (about 2.5 cup)
**One batch is more than enough for 2 racks of ribs.
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup high-quality bourbon
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup rib juices (or stock)
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil on med/high heat (stirring frequently), turn down heat to med/low and reduce down to 2 cups
- Stir in juice from ribs or stock.