Ethiopian Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce

ethiopian-flagEthiopian BBQ sauce does not exist.  It is completely my creation.  My goal was to create a BBQ sauce based on a fusion of Ethiopian Spices and flavors and a traditional tomato sauce based bbq sauce to be used in all the yummy ways bbq sauce is used: pulled pork, pulled chicken, chicken bbq, meatloaf, meatballs, etc.

This can be made mild, medium or very spicy.  Ethiopian food IMG_4832tends to be spicy.  Most Americans I have met can not tolerate much heat and so I will show you how to make it in three levels of heat.  You should know that the spice mixture referred to a “Ethiopian Berbere” creates very delicate layers of flavor and heat.  The goal of this sauce is to share the really wonderful Ethiopian flavors.  Your first experience with the sauce should be sweet and tangy with a hint of smoke.  As these flavors develop and mature on your palette the heat will kick in- not all at once but a little over time. It will taste significantly hotter when you simply taste the sauce then when it is mixed with pulled pork and put on a bun.  Trust me… there is heat but it is a wonderfully flavor. The heat will not hurt you and many believe it is very good for your GI tract.  This is a bbq sauce of complex layers of heat and flavor and is both sweet and savory.

In a large pot add and cook over low heat until the onions are translucent:

  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • 1t Applewood Smoked Salt
  • 1t Sea Salt

(If you don’t have smoked salt you should get some and try it, but you can simply use 2t sea salt)

when the onions are just about translucent, add:

  • 1T granulated garlic (garlic powder is fine too but NOT garlic salt)
  • 1/2t hickory smoke
  • 1/4 cup berbere

mix this into something resembling a loose crumbly paste.  Stir this constantly for about a minute, then quickly add:

  • 3@ 28oz. Tomato Sauce (salt free – flavor free – just pureed tomato)

stir until the paste is well mixed in with the tomato sauce – at least a minute

then add:

  • 20 oz crushed pineapple with juice
  • 18 oz molasses
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T liquid smoke
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1T lemon juice
  • 1/2t fresh ground black pepper
  • 1T mustard powder
  • 1/4 cup berbere (for medium heat – for mild omit this, for really hot add 1 cup it is so worth it)
  • 1t Cayenne (omit for mild – use 1T in very spicy version)
  • 1t Hot Hungarian Paprika
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 oz tomato paste

Bring all of this to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly.  Turn the heat down to simmer and continue to stir until it stops bubbling.

Use an immersion blender or immersion stick to puree everything into an even consistency and whip it up.  This step is very important.

Then use within a week or so or use medium Ball Jars and use a boil water canning method.






Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto RecipieHere is a nice twist to a classic favorite –

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto





Place all of the following items in a food processor or NINJA – I prefer my NINJA…

1. about 1/2 a 7 oz jar of sun dried tomatos

2. big handful of fresh basic leaves and stems

3. equal or slightly smaller handful of parsley

4. 1T minced garlic

5. 1/4 cup chopped almonds (pine nuts are ridiculously expensive and are not all that unique)

6. 3T minced yellow onion

run NINJA or processor a few pulses, then add

7. 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

8. 1T tomato paste

9. 1/3 cup crushed tomatoes

10. 1/4 red wine

11. 1/2 cup really good olive oil

12. 1/2 cup combo of parmesan, pecorno, and/or romano

13. Salt to taste

14. 1 T each garlic and onion granulated powder

run NINJA or processor a couple more pulses….

Mid-Winter Strawberry Jam

strawberry jam -photoOn of my favorite parts of late Spring – early Summer is Strawberry season.  Fresh, locally grown strawberries are a delicacy second to none.  This past strawberry season I made homemade strawberry jam for the first time.  Not only was it my first time ever making strawberry jam, but my first time making any kind of jam and my first time canning anything.  I had been really wanting to take a class in canning but two years had gone by and I had found now class, so I watched a few youtube videos on in and felt ready to go.

I cut about 10 quarts of strawberries and diligently followed my recipe – not something I tend to do well… when all the jars later “popped” I learned my first experience had been a canning success. The jam was out of this world.  So much better than store bought jam.  Lisa teased me that we would have strawberry jam forever.

Flash forward to October.  We are out of strawberry jam.  My sister-in-law suggested that strawberry-peach jam was really the way to go.  Strawberries and peaches are both way out of season.  So I decided to try making jam with frozen fruit.  First try was so bad it couldn’t be eaten.  Second try was better, but I mixed frozen fruit with out-of-season fresh peaches and I learned a valuable lesson.  Frozen fruit is not for jam! So I decided I would have to wait until stawberry season to make more.

Then I walk into Price Chopper the other day and they have have a HUGE display of fresh, US grown (Florida) Strawberries for $3.99/pound.  Off season strawberries had always come from far away and while they looked like strawberries they have never tasted like them.  Well these strawberries were beautiful and after a sample pound were found quite delicious, I decided to try mid-winter jam. Success! Yeah.  We have strawberry jam!

Mid-Winter Strawberry Jam

Yield: 10 1/2 12 oz jars

I bought 8 lbs of strawberries, but two go eaten before I got started, so…

  • 6 pounds strawberries, washed and cut up nicely
  • 12 cups white sugar
  • 2 boxes premium fruit pectin – I always use Sure-Jell
  • 1 teaspoon butter

Step 1. Place all the cut up strawberries into a large stock pan and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently.  Add the Sure Jell and butter. The little bit of butter keeps your jam from being too frothy.  Doesn’t change the taste but keeps out most of the air bubbles in the finished jam.

jam-pan-photoStep 2. While this is cooking I sterilize my ball jars and the screw top piece.  Don’t boil the flat part of the lid or you might not get a good seal when you can.  I have a giant stock pan I use and a round cooling rack that fits nicely in the bottom.  This allows me to sterilize the jars and keeps them off the bottom of the pan.

Step 3. Measure out the 12 cups of white sugar.  Don’t skimp or your jam won’t set right.  Too much sugar and your jam will taste like the candy part of candied apples.

Step 4. When your strawberry fruit mixture is at a ROLLING BOIL – it must be bubbling even while you are stirring the mixture – keep stirring for 2-3 minutes and then add in the sugar.  Again, keep stirring to get all the sugar nicely incorporated with the fruit and continue to stir until it returns to a rolling boil. Keep stirring for an additional 2-3 minutes.  There is chemistry here and this boiling time is critical to the success of the jam!

Step 5. Turn heat off under jam. Remove jars and lids from sterilization bath.  Place funnel (I have a ball jar funnel) over lid of sterile jar and scoop jam in until it is about 1 cm from the top of the jar.  Wipe the rim with a hot, wet paper towel, place the flat lid on, then the screw lid and close tightly.  Turn upside down on a towel. Repeat until all your jars are filled. Make sure all jars get turned upside down for at least one minute.

Step 6. Return filled jars, right-side up, to the boiling water in your giant stock pan.  Make sure jars are not directly on the bottom of the pan. Water should cover the entire jar by about 1 inch. Allow to stay in bath for 10 minutes.  Remove to counter.

Step 7. Allow to cool slowly to room temperature.  Strawberry jam usually sets overnight but it can take a couple of days to fully set.

strawberry jam photo2Step 8. Eat on everything.  Eat with toast and butter.  Peanut butter and Jelly.  Or, one of my favorites; cracker, cheese, jalepeno pepper, dab of jam!

Soon it will be strawberry season, but until then I have some really nice strawberry jam to get me through the rest of winter.


Ethiopian Mustard

I have to start this blog with a couple of confessions.

mustard2-photo1. Ethiopian Mustard doesn’t exist.  I made it up.  I created it using the spices I think Ethiopians would use if they made a mustard type spread or dipping sauce.  Berbere makes everything taste great.

2. I spent the first 10 years of my life (maybe a few more) thinking mustard was the grossest substance on Earth.  Lunch was always mustard and bologna on bread so white it made Wonder Bread look whole-grain for Camp Chingachgook hikes up Buck Mountain.  I didn’t like white bread, bologna, or mustard but standing on top of Buck Mountain was so great, I diligently scraped as much of the mustard off as I could, gave the bologna to a friend and ate what was left of the white bread.

Now I love Mustard.  I also love Hot Food.  I had never made mustard before and I was going to start with a very simple version as my first undertaking, but I lacked 1/2 of the mustard powder I needed and had to rethink things.  I used Alton Brown’s “Best Mustard Ever” recipie as a starting point.  The Result…

Ethiopian Mustard – Spicy!

Great for sandwiches, dipping pretzels, anywhere you might use mustard and then some.


Step 1. Mix Dry Spices together and set aside:

  • 1/8 cup mustard powder
  • 1/8 cup berbere spice (this is the Ethiopian spice that is central to their cooking)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon spanish hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

Step 2. Mix Liquids together in a seperate bowl and set aside:

  • 1/2 cup pickle juice
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water

Step 3. Grind up 1/4 cup of mustard seeds and mix with dry spices.

mustard-photoStep 4. Mix all ingredients and whisk for at least 60 seconds. It will be watery.

Step 5. Microwave for 60 seconds.

Step 6. Use an immersion blender and blend for 3 minutes until it thickens.

Allow to cool.  Can/Jar.  Enjoy. It is spicy and yummy.





Day 3 – Tomato Sauce (because we are having leftovers)

Tomato Sauce – Red Sauce – Spaghetti Sauce

Can’t help it but I have a refrigerator full of food that needs to be eaten, a son and daughter who each have evening activities…. so despite the fact that it is only day three, we need to have leftovers not something great to blog about.

One of the decisions I made when I was thinking about this is that I was going to blog what I do, not do so I could blog.  In other words, I want this to be “real life.”

So today I thought I would blog about tomato sauce…

Tomato sauce or red sauce is an amazing thing.  It is so simple, just a few possible ingredients, yet different sauces taste VERY different.  It always amazes me how a basic cheese pizza – three basic ingredients (crust, sauce, cheese)  can taste so very different depending on the pizza joint.  In fact, pizza is like snowflakes – no two pizza joint pizzas taste the same. Of course this isn’t true for chains because they work so hard to make sure everything tastes the same everywhere. But real pizza shops which serve real pizza (sorry chains) vary gratefully from shop to shop.

Tomato Sauce is similar it is tomatoes and spices yet I have had very good red sauce and some awful red sauce.  From talking to Italians, cooking with them whenever possible, the best sauce is the simplest sauce.

It seems to me like finding the right blend of spices for your palette is one key, the other is letting your sauce simmer for a few hours so the flavors marry.

Here is my general recipe.  What is your recipe? I have heard of people using things like white sugar, brown sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, etc. Do you put anything in your sauce that is out of the ordinary.

My sauce recipe:

a couple of small glugs olive oil – enough to gently saute some diced onion (small handful) and minced garlic (a couple of cloves).  I keep the heat very low for this part.  Saute for 5-10 minutes or so.

two 28 oz can of tomato sauce, puree, chunky – based on the dish and my mood.

stir well to incorporate the oil into the sauce.

Then I add spices:

  • a small handful of dried, fresh basil (I dry the fresh basil from the farmers market and/or my garden by hanging it upsidedown from a hook above a bright window)
  • a few pinches of each garlic powder and white onion powder
  • a small pinch of oregano (I love oregano but Lisa hates it.  I find it a “sweet spice” she finds it very bitter)
  • a small pinch or two of your best sea salt
  • a very small amount of fresh pepper

Let this simmer for two or three hours for a great sauce!

Please leave your sauce recipe in the comment section, I’d love to try it!!

Cook On!