Hawg Heaven Sauce (experiment), no-rub Pork Picnic: Recipe, Review

Discussion in 'Sauces, Rubs & Marinades' started by forluvofsmoke, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I was once asked by DukeBurger, during a discussion about my Red Bell Pepper and fruit-based rubs, if I had ever made a sauce for my Bbq meats. Duke asked:"Have you come up with any bbq sauces to compliment your rubs? Seems like it would be a waste to have that cherry-blueberry rub covered up with any ol' sauce." While I had never made a sauce from scratch at that point in time, it got me thinking nearly 6 weeks later. What if I made a sauce from the rub ingredients and skipped the rub altogether? Hmm...lose the rub-based bark we all love so much, however, enable me to create a whole new style (to us) of pulled pork, while hopefully retaining much of the original flavors of the rub. Of course, I knew retaining those flavors in a thick sauce would be the challenge I probably longed for. A thin sauce, well, that's just too easy...naw, I gotta try the hard way first, right?

    Well, Duke, this one's for you!!! BTW, thanks for the underlying inspiration...I know you didn't intend for this to happen (or maybe you did, and it just took me forever and a day to figure it out...sometimes I'm slow...LOL!!!)...in either case, here you go, brother!!! BTW, this smoke and sauce was actually documented 01-10-16, it just took me a while to get around to posting it up...sorry, I know, I shouldn't be holding back...been freeky-busy lately. So, 6 weeks after the fact...[​IMG]

    I started the smoke with my absolute favorite PP subject, the picnic shoulder. It has a far deeper flavor, and more collagen, then the boston butt...higher retained moisture is just one of the things I like better about the picnic. It just made sense to me to use what I liked to work with the most. Nothing but meat, heat and a dry smoke chamber. All I wanted was a moderate smoke flavor and to form a tight pellicle on the surface to seal in those precious natural juices...that's where the true, natural pork flavor is.

    I removed the skin from the picnic and trimmed relatively lean:

    4hrs into the smoke via WSM 18.5"...for those who don't think that smoke can add much color to meat...just smoke it slow enough, and notice the color-change as you scroll-down:

    12hrs, 167* IT:

    16hrs, probed tender in all muscles @ 198*...not a ton smoke ring developed here due to the dry smoke chamber. I wanted natural moisture retention, and that's what I got...the missing chunk was from spousal and chef samples:

    ...different exposure and flash settings to better highlight to color...no baste or glaze, just meat, heat and smoke...hickory and cherry, if I recall:

    While the shoulder was finishing in the WSM (around 185* IT) I whipped-up the sauce. Well, technically it wasn't quick, as I did simmer it for over an hour to meld the flavors and get the texture of the cherries, etc to soften enough to rip it up in the 1000-watt Ninja blender. Like the dry rub, this is a recipe for those in search of something better...something our of the ordinary...something unique and original. It's not "the go to", or "the best" (that can only be defined by those who've experienced it)...it's just unique...although, it's still a work in progress, at least for me...maybe I'm just hard to please and projects like this are what drive me to find better, best, ultimate...however one would wish to qualify it.


    *24oz apple sauce, unsweetened

    *15oz tomatoe sauce, unseasoned (sub with 2.5 cups fresh, peeled & chopped)

    1-1/2 C water (1/4-3/8 cup with fresh tomatoes)

    6 Tbls (3/8 C) ground red bell pepper (sub with approx 1-1/4 cup fresh, reduce water)

    6 Tbls (3/8 C) dried whole tart cherry (sub with approx 1-1/8 cup fresh, reduce water)

    6 Tbls (3/8 C) whole fresh or frozen blueberries

    2 Tbsp Molasses, full flavor

    2 tsp thyme

    3 Tbls onion powder

    1 tsp cumin

    1 tsp ground sage

    2 tsp chili powder

    1 Tbls smoked paprika

    1.5 Tbls fine ground 5-peppercorn*

    *1/2 Tbsp fine ground black peppercorn *(sub for 5-peppercorn)

    *1/2 Tbsp white pepper powder *(sub for 5-peppercorn)

    2 Tbls garlic powder (sub with 6 cloves fresh minced)

    1 Tbls sea salt (optional...if using fresh tomatoes...I used none today due to canned tomato sauce)

    Simmer covered over low heat on stove-top, stirring frequently to prevent scorching for 1 hour (min) to incorporate flavors and break-down fruits
    for a smoother sauce.

    Process in blender to break it down for the smoothest sauce.

    Yeild: ~2qts

    Just starting the sauce build over low heat:

    I didn't process the cherries before building the recipe, as I was counting on the sheer power of the Nija to break them down...worked out fine, but a low-power blender may yield as good of results:

    This is a fairly thick and slightly coarse-textured sauce...not thin and smooth by any means of measure:

    The key add-in ingredient after initial taste-testing:

    The end results:

    In review of the sauce, I wasn't totally satisfied with the overall flavor profile, though I'm my own worst critic. Upon serving the sauce for a different meal (only used a small amount for this PP smoke), my oldest daughter liked the sauce so much that I decided to give her the bulk of the leftovers for freezing in plastic containers (I can always make more, and she loves my creations). Some of the other kids thought it was great, too, while a couple didn't really comment much on it...so, it went down with mixed results, but mostly very good. The molasses added to the sauce helped to reduce the Italian sauce flavor I was getting, but didn't seem to completely remove it. That said, in future revisions of this recipe, I'll be leaning towards a couple Tbsp of white cider vinegar to add some extra tartness to the tart cherries...they didn't seem to carry that tart background flavor in the sauce as well as they do in the dry rub, and short of having a much deeper cherry flavor by increasing the cherry quantity, I think vinegar would be the ticket.

    I also would greatly reduce or omit the tomato in the sauce mixture...this should help increase the background of the red bells, cherries, blueberries, apple, etc. To go along with that notion, some adjustments in the spices could bring out a better balance, as transition these flavors from a dry rub to a liquid application does really change how some of the flavors carry themselves. As with all trial runs, there is room for adjustments. So, if you want to give it a whirl, look it over closer and see where you might want to start making modifications. Any questions come up, just give a shout.

    Now, if you've tried Hawg Heaven dry rub, you'll know what I mean when I say this is a unique flavor combination. Much of the natural sweetness and richness of the fruit-base you find in the rub is here in the sauce as well. With a little adjustment in the future, I think this sauce could be quite a treat...as is, maybe it's not for everyone (maybe for some, as is would be great). It's definitely a good base-line for someone to build into what suits their own personal preferences.

    If one would like to try a thin sauce with the flavors of the original rub, like a finishing sauce, then a splash of vinegar and omitting the tomato sauce while adding water would pretty much get you there...cut way back on the apple-sauce, as well...just thinking through my fingers here.


    May your smokes be plenty and your freezers be full!!!

    disco, bearcarver, smokeymose and 3 others like this.
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Holy Cow, Eric!

    What a great thread!

    The PP looks fantastic!

    I really like the combo of ingredients i the sauce.

    I'm going to give this a try for sure.

    POINTS for a very informative post!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Eric,

    I gotta agree with Al---That shoulder looks Great !![​IMG]-------------[​IMG]

    And that Sauce sounds Mighty Tasty!![​IMG]

    Nice Job!![​IMG]

  4. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks Al, and Bear for your interest (and the points)!!! Hope you build a good sauce from this. Let us know how you like it and what you changed, if anything (always interested in your opinions).

    I had fun building that recipe. It wasn't quite up to par for me...it came frighteningly close, though (almost frustratingly close...LOL!!!)...it just didn't feel right to not share it with everyone here. So, now that I've finally made the time to get this one on the board, I think you will find it to be a welcome addition to your arsenal, especially once you've made your personal touches. Make whatever modifications that suit you...that's the best thing about recipe shares...make it to your personal preferences and you can't go wrong. I'm just giving you a basic run to take it a few steps further, if you feel the need. Of course, I can't tell you what you like or don't like, but I might be able to help you find that sweet spot.

    It was kind of strange for me to think about it this way earlier (fresh after the meal), like I partially failed myself. Taking into consideration how the flavors of ingredients can change (intensity and profile) between wet and dry applications, and adding a few things during the build, I guess I really didn't fail. I merely overlooked a few details, which are now more apparent. So, no, not a failure...an experiment with high potential for perfecting in future runs, with a more in-depth look at the outcome? Oh, yes, I think so. I just haven't made the time to try this sauce for another round, but hopefully things will settle down a bit more around here...the sooner the better.

    Again, give a shout if you have questions.

  5. smokeymose

    smokeymose Master of the Pit

    All I can say, Eric, is WOW!
    Applesauce, Cherries and Blueberries oh my..
    Bookmarking this one.


  6. dukeburger

    dukeburger Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Goodness, Eric. Way to get my mouth watering right after I eat a big meal!!

    I will be trying this sauce out for sure. Have you thought about replacing the tomato sauce with ketchup? [​IMG]

    Excellent work and post!! [​IMG]
  7. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks, Dan!!! I think you'll be in for a pleasant surprise with the fruits.
    Thanks, Duke!!! I briefly thought about ketchup prior to the recipe build, but there's so much sugar in it that I thought it would defeat the purpose of the fruits and possibly cover them up too much. Not to say it wouldn't work, I just didn't think think it would be the right choice for me at the time. It does have vinegar, which is something I will be leaning on next time around. To further explore that, if one was OK with a tomato base but didn't want the sugars, maybe just paste and a splash of vinegar would do the job, too. If a sweeter profile was your thing, then add brown sugar...I did consider brown sugar before adding molasses during the build, but again, i wanted to omit added sugars, if possible.

    Just some thoughts...any of this may be just the key, depending on your likes...if a flavor that is sweeter than the fruits alone can provide, then to sub with ketchup may be exactly what you'll want. Or, if you flow with the recipe, then decide after tasting that it's not sweet enough, brown sugar can fix things right up. The tomato base is what can't be changed once you start the build, and I think that is what had me running circles until I went to the store and bought molasses to give it a shot. I may have stumbled into a good thing there, as it does offer a deep flavor, but I may have saved some trouble by going another route for the base from the beginning.

    If I recall, the whole idea behind the tomato base was mainly for color, though when combined with the spices it wasn't the right overall flavor profile I was expecting. Had I used only 5-6oz to start with may have changed things...dunno. The color probably would have been fine without tomato in the mix...would have been deeper and darker, more like a brown sugar and molasses sauce...those blueberries do a lot in the way of coloring and so do cherries.

  8. Hi Eric. I haven't tried this yet.  Just food for thought as you said a work in progress.   I agree with you on the tomato sauce.  It did sound as if it was a BIT of an Italian sauce although a unique sauce.  HEY! have you tried it on pasta??    Smoke the sauce and add to a nice pasta??  Some garlic bread and a nice salad.  Never know!  I also agree maybe apple cider vinegar would tart it up.  I have a strange one for you to think about: fresh cilantro ( coriander ).  It brings a special flavor when used with many other ingredients and work well fruits.  Just a thought.

    That shoulder looks GREAT!  Thanks for the recipe.  Keep Smokin!

  9. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Ha-ha!!! That was one of my first thoughts as I was running out of time to finish the recipe build before serving...would go great on pasta!!! Yes, there's a bit of tweeking in the future, no doubt. Fresh Cilantro might put some bite into the background flavor, but I think that it would take it closer towards the flavor of a marinara or pasta sauce...lots of salsa recipes use Cilantro, well.

    Thinking about it more now, the volume of Thyme may be too much for the liquid application...seemed fine for the dry rub...Rosemary could be substituted...it's not as strong and has a milder, sweeter background...the rub has it, but I was out when I made this sauce. Thing is, that's a pretty high volume of sauce, at 2 quarts, so the spices themselves shouldn't be off that much. Next round I'll leave out tomato altogether (I can always add small amounts at a time), add a bit of vinegar, hold the molasses (unless I think it needs some after tasting), and add a bit of sea salt. That's what comes to mind right now, anyway. I do feel dropping the tomato in the base is likely the biggest single change for the better, though.

    OK, next build-up is going involve much more tasting as it comes together...probably adding one ingredient at a time into an applesauce base...that will tell much more about the character of each one as it goes into the wet mixture. This is definitely not the same as building a dry rub, which I have little trouble with...I just need to have good game plan and follow through with it. I'm determined and convinced that I can closely duplicate the flavor of the rub with a sauce...that's the whole idea. Maybe a thicker sauce just isn't the route to go and a thinner style will work much better. Of course, I could use some really nasty stuff like they put in main-stream brands, like corn syrups and such for sweetening and thickening...UGH!!! (NOT gonna happen!!!) But, I had to try what I knew would be the most difficult first...that makes any other options seem easy.

    So, I just pieced together some tips and notes to follow up on for this sauce build...all from some light discussion from fellow smoke lovers. I may be getting older, but this old dog can still learn new tricks. Thanks, fellas!!! If I come away from this with nothing else, I do know why a good sauce is not easy to come by...at least not a complex sauce such as this one. Now, I just need to find the time to put this all together and make it happen.

    If anyone else tries it, an especially if you make recipe modifications, please do let us know your thoughts.

    Thanks again!!!

  10. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Well, the pork looks perfect.

    The qview of the smoke was terrific.

    The sauce looks wonderful.

    The post was well written.

    Other than that, there isn't much here.

    Points for a great thread.

  11. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks, Disco!!!

    I do enjoy sharing my experiences here and always hope to inspire others to either try a new recipe/method or create one that's all their own...anything to improve on what we already do. I'll probably not be accused of using conventional methods or ingredients very often...what can I say, I'm a rogue of sorts. There is always something to be learned by others or myself even if the results aren't perfect, as was the case here, IMHO. Being able to see the bigger picture now, regarding how methods seem so different in developing a sauce vs a wet or dry rub, yet similar in some ways, has opened my mind to some additional culinary dimensions that I had never considered in the past. Without posting this I would not have received the comments that sparked me to think along a different line of logic...so, others have helped by giving me a new outlook in making this recipe better (to me...again, others may find it quite tasty). For that, thanks to all who have contributed here.

    6 months ago I would have never guessed that I'd be interested in making my own sauces from scratch...it just was not my style of cooking. For me, sauce was more of a cover-up for less than desirable smoked or grilled meats...luckily I didn't feel the need for it very often...LOL!!! The prospect of making a sauce seemed daunting at first, though I now feel that I just went about it the wrong way...adding a base ingredient that I knew was not part of the flavor I wanted (tomato), for example. Bringing out the flavors I want can't be rushed...it has to be a deliberate step-by-step approach. It does raise the bar for my future creations, and when I find the right time I'll be diving into this recipe, and the whole process, again. I'm looking forward to that day with a calm anticipation. Having a good sauce or 2 in my arsenal would be nice. I have had casual conversations with folks at larger gatherings in the past who were curious if I made my own sauces. I think that, possibly, to them it was a measure of how far one had taken their interest in the craft/art of Bbq...I had not thought about it this way before. With all of my past accomplishments, I have literally just scratched the surface.

    Thanks again!!!


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