Years ago I was in the grocery store and a man had a table set up with samples of pulled pork in BBQ sauce. It was called Miss. Essie's, and it was a Southern-style sauce, which meant more vinegar, less sugar. Up until this point I had not been a fan of vinegar-based BBQ sauces, but he was so convinced I would like it I took a sample.
The flavors in my mouth were amazing. I asked him how to make the pulled pork, and left with a bottle of the sauce. When I made it at home it was just as good and my family was hooked. I bought Miss. Essie's regularly for the next couple of years and then it suddenly disappeared from store shelves. What?? Why does this happen to amazing things I find at the store?? I tried several other BBQ sauces, but not one of them was even close to the awesomeness that was Miss. Essie's. My only other option was to come up with my own.
The recipe I settled on is super easy and fast to put together, and the flavor is fantastic--just the right combination of bite and sweet and spicy. We've used it on pulled pork and chicken, and it is equally delicious on both (I've not tried it on shredded beef, but I bet it would be great on that as well).
To make this sauce even easier, I use a 2-cup glass measuring cup and the theory of displacement (think back to your Jr. High science class). Fill the measuring cup with the water, squirt in the ketchup until the water line rises to the 1 cup line, add the molasses until the water line rises to the 1 1/4-cup line, etc., until you've added all the ingredients. Whisk together and then pour into the pot. Super easy.
Southern-Style BBQ Sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a small pot (I use a 2-quart), and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature to allow to thicken before using.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce, enough for 6-8 cups shredded meat.