Citizens, many people don’t realize there are many regional variations of American BBQ sauces!
These include Kansas City (the “classic”), Eastern North Carolina (vinegar and hot pepper flakes), Western North Carolina (ketchup, vinegar, hot pepper flakes), South Carolina (mustard-based), Alabama (mayonnaise-based) and rarest of all, the Worcestershire-based sauce from Western Kentucky.
The most obscure of the regional American barbecue sauces, it can be found in only a small area of Western Kentucky, just west of Louisville around Owensboro. This unique sauce is mostly vinegar and Worcestershire and is designed to go with the specialty of the region, slow-smoked mutton.
When a lamb is no longer producing enough wool, more than 1 year old, it is slaughtered for food and the meat is called mutton. It has a distinctive and gamier taste than younger, more succulent lamb.
And why Western Kentucky? Once upon a time, in the 1800s, Kentucky was the largest lamb producing state. While it has now fallen to number 34, the tradition of barbecued mutton lives on.
The original thin, very tart sauce cuts through the rich mutton fat, which is more intensely flavored than beef, pork, and chicken by far. The sauce is used as a baste, called a dip, because it is thin and penetrates the meat. It is also used as a finishing sauce.
My version of this unique sauce is not the true dip, but more akin to a Kansas City style sauce with the Owensboro flavor profile. I decided to use some ketchup and chili sauce in my version to make it more applicable to use on other types of meat beyond mutton (which is pretty much impossible to find in the U.S. outside of Kentucky).
So – consider this a kissin’ cousin to the real Owensboro dip. ;)
To better match the dark color of the true original, I add some bourbon, beef broth and balsamic vinegar in my recipe. The flavor profile is quite close to the Owensboro recipe, but is better suited for flavoring chicken, pork and other less gamy meats.
Citizens, I once made a 3 hour detour to visit Owensboro just to try their unique BBQ – it’s truly amazing! If you wish to sample the real meat and sauce that defines this rarest of BBQ styles, you can mail order it from here.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 cup water
½ cup low-salt, top-quality beef broth
¼ cup Kentucky Bourbon (I prefer Woodford Reserve)
¼ cup Heinz ketchup
¾ cup Heinz chili sauce
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoon cayenne (or more if you dig the spicy)
3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar (use white for a vinegar more in keeping with the traditional recipe)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon onion powder
¾ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup minced onion
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Give this sauce a try on mutton or any other barbequed meat!