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3 great barbecue sauces you can make this weekend

Kentucky Bourbon and more -- 3 barbecue sauces you can make this weekend

If you love outdoor cooking there's nothing like spending quality time over a hot grill, whether you're grilling steaks or chicken, or slow-cooking brisket or ribs. But often it's that signature touch — a thoughtfully honed sauce — that takes your creation to a whole new level.

And while you can certainly find some great sauces out there on the market, there's nothing like a homemade sauce, specially thought out suit your tastes and expectations.

Barbecue sauces aren't that hard to make, and they can dress up almost anything you brush them on, meat or otherwise. Slather some on chicken or a rack of ribs before they come off the grill, maybe brush a little on your skewers right before they're done, or serve in a bowl alongside thinly sliced steak. Even dab a touch of sauce on portabello mushrooms.

Check out the recipes below for three different barbecue sauces: a slightly sweet Kentucky bourbon sauce, a Southwestern sauce with a hint of spice and coffee, and a roasted cherry sauce. They may look intimidating at first, but the technique is simple. Best of all? Make them ahead of time. They only get better with age.

Check out this story on homemade barbecue sauce, and continue reading below for each of the recipes.

KENTUCKY BOURBON BARBECUE SAUCE

1 large onion, thinly sliced, top to bottom
6 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon, divided
2 cups Kentucky bourbon
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 cup tomato paste
4 cups ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or other vinegar-based hot sauce
2 dashes bitters

1. In a heavy-bottom 4-quart pot, combine the onion, garlic, lemon zest and bourbon. Bring the bourbon to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and continue to cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the lemon juice, pepper, chile powder, mustard, onion powder, salt, tomato paste, ketchup, vinegar, pineapple juice, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, molasses, Tabasco and bitters and continue to gently simmer for 30 minutes. Stir frequently, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent burning.

3. Remove from heat and puree the sauce until fairly smooth, using an immersion blender or blending in stages in a stand blender. Place the sauce in a nonreactive container and set aside until it comes to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until needed. Warm the sauce before using.

SOUTHWESTERN BARBECUE SAUCE

1 large onion, thinly sliced, top to bottom
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 poblano or pasilla chiles, seeded and diced
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
1 beer, preferably ale
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups ketchup
1/4 cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon New Mexico chile powder
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1. In a heavy-bottom 4-quart pot, combine the onion, garlic, jalapenos and chiles with the coffee and beer. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomato paste, ketchup, maple syrup, molasses, cumin, salt, chile powder and red wine vinegar and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and blend the sauce using an immersion blender or in stages in a stand blender, until fairly smooth. Set aside.

ROASTED CHERRY BARBECUE SAUCE

4 pounds fresh cherries, preferably Bing, stemmed but unpitted
1/4 cup almond oil, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced, top to bottom
3 cloves garlic, crushed grated zest and juice of 1 orange, divided
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground, more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground chipotle pepper, more to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin, more to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup cherry liqueur, preferably Heering's
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup, preferably Grade B, more to taste
2 dashes Tabasco (or other vinegar-based hot sauce), more to taste
1 tablespoon salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cherries in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of the almond oil and toss to coat lightly. Spread on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast until the cherries begin to burst and are very fragrant, about 25 minutes. Remove and set aside until cool enough to pit.

2. While the cherries are roasting, heat a heavy-bottom 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons almond oil, then stir in the onion, garlic and orange zest. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the ground fennel, chipotle pepper and cumin to coat, then stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste darkens slightly and leaves a film on the bottom of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully that the tomato paste doesn't burn.

4. Stir in the red wine and cherry liqueur and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid reduces and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the orange juice, chicken broth, mustard, maple syrup, Tabasco and salt and bring to a simmer. Stir in the liquid smoke, if using. As the sauce comes to a simmer, pit the cherries, discarding the pits. (Pit the cherries over the roasting pan, saving any juices.)

5. Stir three-fourths of the pitted cherries and all of the cherry juice into the sauce, reserving the rest of the cherries. Cook the sauce at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Purée the sauce until fairly smooth, using an immersion blender or blending in stages in a stand blender. Return the sauce to the pan and stir in the remaining cherries. Continue to gently simmer for 15 more minutes. Taste and adjust the flavorings and seasonings as desired. Remove from heat. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Warm the sauce before using.

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