“Don’t mess with my ketchup” is what Anita told me. And yeah, usually I do listen. But not this time. I was going to make ketchup leather no matter what. And you know what? When we’d finished off our hot-off-the-grill burgers topped with ketchup leather Anita said “Ok, you can mess with my ketchup anytime.”
Ketchup leather makes ketchup on burgers an even better thing. Tastes like ketchup. Looks like a Fruit Roll-Up. But here’s the cool part (besides the wow factor). It doesn’t leak out of your burger. If you’re like me, you’re not shy when squeezing ketchup onto your burger. But the more toppings and the more ketchup, the more that squeezes out. Dripping all over the place and eventually leading to a burger disaster. Not with ketchup leather. Everything stays right where it belongs.
Make a big batch and keep them in the fridge for the next time you make burgers.
Oh, what a wonderful BBQ sauce this hot pepper jelly sauce is. It has the perfect consistency. Not too runny, not too gloppy. A small bit of heat and a little tang from vinegar and mustard. Perfect for any pork BBQ dish. For me that means smoked baby back ribs. You can substitute any kind of jelly for the hot pepper jelly, really. But don’t be afraid of hot pepper jelly. Out of the jar, sure, it’s got some kick. But in this sauce that heat gets a little mellowed. You still get great pepper flavor though. It’s still a great sauce!
Sometimes you just need a little reminder to step outside of your box of usual sandwich spreads and use something you might not think of. This copycat of the avocado sandwich spread from Jimmy John’s is essentially guacamole with a few twists thrown in. It’s fantastic on a sandwich and for that matter, equally as great as a dip for tortilla chips. That’s why I doubled the recipe. Sandwiches and chips. Lunch is done. Every sandwich needs a little spiciness in my opinion. Which is why I was happy that this avocado sandwich spread includes a jalapeno. Now, granted, it’s a small jalapeno so you’re not going to get overwhelming heat. But you don’t want that kick to be front-and-center. Just there, in the back. Noticed but not overwhelming.
I love when avocados are in season here. They’re perfect on a salad, be it sliced, chopped or in the dressing itself. This avocado Ranch dressing is quite easy to make. It packs a nice subtle avocado flavor, with the wonderful creamy herb flavor of Ranch. Avocado Ranch dressing isn’t just for salads either. It’s perfect as a dip, or use it as a substitute for sour cream on tacos or nachos.
When I make a batch of this basic BBQ rub I don’t just make a little ole container full. No, I make a bunch of it. A whole lot. That’s because I use it on just about every piece of meat that I throw onto my trusty old smoker. It shines best on beef and pork, adding a bit of sweetness and a bit of heat. And though it contains coffee and lemon pepper the flavors from those two ingredients don’t jump out and scream at your taste buds. They’re there though, working perfectly with the rest of the flavors. This is truly a great all-around rub. The idea for this basic BBQ rub came from Ray Lampe’s book, Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Lip Smacking Barbecue. The book is full of great recipes and stories and ideas, just like this one. This rub can be used as-is or as a great jumping-off point for making your own rub. Play with the ratios to suit your tastes. For example, don’t use regular paprika just use only smoked paprika for a much stronger smoke flavor, perfect for seasoning foods cooked in doors where you won’t get a strong wood flavor. Or add more heat. Or leave out the heat. It’s a very versatile rub.
I used to think it would be wrong to just have ham for dinner. This cherry sauce glazed ham made me think it would actually be ok to just sit down to a plate of ham and get at it. I didn’t, but I could have. The tartness of the cherries and the sweetness of the honey, along with a few spices, make each bite fantastic. Even a cheap ham becomes something decadent after being glazed with the sauce. I think you could try something other than cherry preserves to make the sauce, if you wanted to. You’d want something that isn’t so sweet, though, such as cranberry or pomegranates.
After smoking peppercorns, the next logical thing to smoke was salt. I love smoked salt, it really adds a nice slightly smokey flavor to dishes. If you have your smoker already fired up for other things, such as pork butt or brisket or ribs, you often have a little space leftover. No point in wasting all that great smoke, just add some sea salt to a pan and place it on the smoker until it starts to darken in color. I actually used a mix of Himalayan pink salt and coarse sea salt. The textures between the two are slightly different, and they brought different colors to the final mix of smoked salts. I keep the smoked salt in an air-right container right by my prep area. I still keep a salt pig nearby for those dishes where I don’t want that addition of smoke in my salt.
I was busy. Way too busy to even think about making a lunch that took more than 5 minutes of my time. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I heated up some pre-made chicken nuggets. Don’t judge me, I had to do it. Plus, truth be told, I like them. I can’t help it. But I wasn’t just going to dip them in ketchup or mustard. No, I took an extra 30 seconds and whisked up a copycat of the Chick-fil-A dipping sauce and tossed it into the fridge so that the flavors got happy while the chicken was heating. For a nice twist on this Chick-fil-A sauce swap out a spicy BBQ sauce for the smoky hickory BBQ sauce. Or just add a few splashes of hot sauce to the recipe below.