Homemade Barbecue Sauce (Kinda-Sorta Like Open Pit Original)

What is the deal with not being able to get Open Pit west of the Mississippi? I'm not sure where the real shipping line stops, but I'm not the only one lamenting this foodie issue. For the last 7 years I've lived west of the Mississippi and it is very inconvenient that I can't just run to the store and get a bottle. I want to officially thank my Mom for periodically sending me care packages over the last 7 years that included Open Pit. My family is die-hard Open Pit barbecue-sauce fans, so they don't even think twice about mailing this to me. Unless you are from Michigan or the mid-west you might not even be aware of this tasty barbecue sauce.  After a little internet research, albeit brief, I still can't tell if Open Pit would be considered "mostly" a North Carolina, Kansas City, or Memphis barbecue sauce. Perhaps it's a bit of a combination of all of them.  If you've been reading my blog for any length of time you probably realize that I want to eat real, homemade, scratch food as much as possible; it's a major part of my foodie journey. So, in addition to the difficulty of finding this sauce, I don't like the fact that it contains high fructose corn syrup, and it's colored with yellow 6, red 40, and blue 1.  I've been tinkering over the years. I'm ready to reveal some results. Honestly, I think I still have significant work to do, but I'm ready to reveal my work-in-progress that's kinda-sorta like Open Pit's original sauce first introduced to Detroit in 1953. At the very least, it is a good whole-food substitute in a pinch.

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Homemade Barbecue Sauce (Kinda-Sorta Like Open Pit Original)
8 oz of rice vinegar (I use Marukan organic rice vinegar)
4 oz of apple cider vinegar (I use Spectrum organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup of tomato paste (I use Bionaturea organic tomato paste)
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of mustard (I use Annie's organic yellow mustard)
1 teaspoon of chili powder (I use The Spice Hunter salt free chili powder)
2 teaspoons of onion powder
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt (I use Real Salt)
2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce (I use Annie's organic Worcestershire sauce)
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
1/3 teaspoon of white pepper
2 tablespoons of honey (optional)

1. Gather and measure out all the ingredients for the sauce. (As I begun my tinkering I noted the main ingredients of Open Pit were a sweetener, vinegar and tomato puree. Also, it doesn't contain a fake smoke flavor).

2. Heat vinegar, tomato paste, and brown sugar in a pot until the sugar is melted.

3. In a ramekin mix all the rest of the ingredients, except the honey, into a smooth paste and add to the tomato sauce in the pot.

4. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to simmer on low for 15 - 20 minutes. The longer you simmer the sauce the more the vinegar will mellow - so be careful if you want to attempt that true Open Pit flavor. If you want to use the sauce right away, add the honey for a little extra sweet. If you want to simmer your sauce longer you might want to add more vinegar in the beginning. The key to finding the Open Pit flavor is the balance between the sweet and the vinegar.

5. Remove from heat and add the honey (optional).

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  1. I'm not sure I have ever had Open Pit BBQ Sauce but your sauce looks very good. I love the color and it looks nice and thick. Thank you for sharing on the BBQ Block Party. Hope to see you next week.

    1. Thanks Terri. There are thousands of recipes for BBQ sauce - but my favorite is a strong vinegar base. If your taste leans that way at all then I think you'll like it. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I just moved from Chicago to Dallas. No Open Pit anywhere! Hope this helps. Thanks!!!

  3. Thank you! Going to try this today. I am a fan of Original Open Pit and grew up in Michigan. It's not always gluten free but I also don't want the food coloring and preservatives. If you have changed anything since posting this, I would love an update.

  4. I grew up in Maryland and Open Pit was the ONLY BBQ sauce we used! Now that I live in Texas I have my mother send me a "care package" as well that always has Open Pit and Scrapple! They don't have either one down here. I am about to make this sauce now so I will post how it turns out!

    1. I get those "Care Packages" too! I still love Open Pit but I'm not fond of the HFCS it contains. I'm definitely open to suggestions for improvement. I know it's not the same but it does scratch the itch.



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