Inexpensive Holiday Gifts: custom BBQ sauce

As a card-carrying broke person, it should come as no surprise that I’m all about the handmade food gifts. However, not everyone likes sweets, and cookies and candy seem to dominate every “Food Gifts to Make” list on every website in the known Internet-verse.

But my potential recipient doesn’t barbecue! you say. It doesn’t matter. Barbecue sauce—especially good barbecue sauce—is great on hamburgers, meats broiled in the oven, rotisserie chicken, meatloaf, or as a dipping sauce. Vegetarians on the list? It’s great on pasta mixed with sautéed onions. Seriously—try it.

All you need is a canner (a few years ago we bought an enameled water-bath canner with rack and jar lifter at a thrift store for less than $10), some new half-pint jars, and your favorite barbecue-sauce recipe or two. It helps to have a few sheets of adhesive printer paper and some basic Photoshop skillz, but that’s by all means optional.

Most barbecue sauces have enough vinegar or lemon juice in them to qualify as high-acid foods, which means canning is a breeze—you don’t even need special canning equipment. (Low-acid canning requires specialized equipment that even I, the biggest gadget junkie around, don’t have.)

All you have to do is make 2 cups’ worth of your favorite recipe* and follow the canning directions that came with your canner. (Or, if you don’t have one, check out the link above.) Just be sure to heat the lids along with the jars to soften the adhesive and make sure the finished jars boil for a full 20 minutes.

*I made quite few sauces this year, but the tomato-based Texas-style has always been my personal favorite all-purpose:

Texas-style BBQ sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

• 1 T butter: 6 cents
• 1 garlic clove, minced: 1 cent
• 1 cup ketchup: 50 cents
• 1/3 cup brown sugar: 20 cents
• 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce: 40 cents
•  1/4 cup lemon juice: 69 cents
• 1 canned chipotle chile, minced: 5 cents
• 1/4 tsp cayenne: 2 cents
• Salt & pepper to taste: 2 cents
TOTAL: $1.95 

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, cook until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients, simmer about 15 minutes. Season to taste.

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