Blueberry BBQ Sauce with the Roma Tomato Strainer

Here in Ohio, we have an incredible group called The Agrarian Collective. They put on super cool events like a Small Batch Ice Cream & Beer Making workshop that resulted in beer floats (they were actually really, really good), a Rhubarb Workshop from which I made a Rhubarb BBQ sauce, and, most recently: A Blueberry Picking Party complete with a Bluegrass band. Yeah, it's pretty awesome and I'm sure you're highly envious of us Cleveland area dwellers. 

The Bluegrass band at Edible Cleveland & Agrarian Collective's Pick, Eat, Repeat Blueberry Picking Party

So while you might not be able to attend Agrarian Collective events in your area, we're happy to bring you little tastes here and there. This time, we made you a Blueberry BBQ Sauce recipe from the fresh blueberries that were picked last week. 

The start to my Blueberry Patch Adventure (complete with Fat Head's Bumble Berry Ale)

A little tip before you start: Rinse your fresh blueberries when you get home from picking, then lay them out on a tray and freeze them. Once frozen, you can de-frost and use them for whatever you have planned... like this recipe. They'll come out less sour and more sweet. Tip courtesy of Voytko Blueberry Farm in Auburn, Ohio.

The final yield of my half hour romp through the patches of Voytko Farms

Blueberry Barbecue Sauce Recipe
Makes 2 cups

- Ingredients -

2 cups blueberries
6 oz Fat Head's Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale
¼ cup brown sugar
1 vanilla bean - scrape seeds from pod, discard pod
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cloves

- Tools -
Roma Tomato Strainer w/ Berry Screen
Weston Smoker + smoker chips
(peach, apple, or cherry work best)

Soak your wood chips for at least a half hour and preheat your smoker to 200°F.

Use the Tomato Strainer with the Berry Screen attached to puree your fresh blueberries - no need to worry about leaves or stems, the strainer will push those through the waste chute. Run the blueberries through 3-4 times to get all of the juice out.

Combine the blueberry puree with the remaining ingredients.

Smoke the blueberry BBQ sauce at 200°F for two hours, stirring every hour. If, after two hours, the sauce isn't smoky enough for you, simply smoke longer. Also be sure to change out your wood chips every hour, or the sauce will taste ashy.

Let cool, then pour into a jar with a Canning Funnel and store in the fridge, or use it right away. You could also can it for later use.

Closeup on what's left of the sauce

Smoked Venison smothered in the stuff. If you need a good idea on what to put your BBQ Sauce on, this is it!

As always, your comments and questions are welcome below:

Smoked Pulled Venison with Blueberry BBQ Sauce

With venison from the boss's December hunt, blueberries I picked from a local patch, blueberry ale brewed locally, and green onions from my makeshift front yard garden, this recipe is locavore certified! Don't beat yourself up too much if you're not able to acquire these exact ingredients locally — though we do encourage you to substitute things you can get locally (Pork from your local farmer/butcher, the wild ramps in your backyard, raspberries from the farmer's market?)...

Serves 6-8

- Ingredients -

3 lbs venison
(We used a lesser cut for this recipe since you're smoking low and slow)
6 oz Fat Head's Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chili powder

Blueberry Barbecue Sauce

a dozen or so blueberries
two sprigs green onions, chopped

- Tools -
Weston Smoker
wood chips (peach, apple, or cherry are ideal)

Soak your wood chips (for at least a half hour), fill the smoker's water bowl with hot water, and preheat your smoker to 200°F.

Rub the entire outside of the venison with a mixture of cinnamon and chili powder. Place it in an aluminum pan and pour the Bumble Berry into the bottom of the pan. Smoke 8-12 hours, until the venison falls apart and has a full, smoky flavor.

If you're making your BBQ sauce at the same time as the venison (we did), simply place a pan of the sauce in the smoker 4 hours before the venison should be done. Two birds, one stone.

Once the venison is fork tender, pull it apart with two forks, until completely shredded. Pour the Blueberry BBQ Sauce over top, then sprinkle with blueberries and onions. Serve immediately, hot.

Espresso Maple Bacon — From Scratch

Makes one pound

- Ingredients -
1 lb pork belly
1 shot espresso
(if you don't have espresso, use ¼ cup dark roasted coffee, made at the ratio of 6 tablespoons coffee to ¼ cup water)
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pink cure
½ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon ground espresso (or dark roast coffee)
1 tablespoon sugar in the raw

- Tools -
Weston Vacuum Sealer + bag
Weston Smoker
Peach Wood Chips (you can use any, but peach are ideal)
Basting brush
Weston Meat Slicer

Follow our detailed instructions for How to Make Your Own Bacon, From Scratch.

Marinate the pork belly in the brine ingredients 3-7 days in a sealed vacuum bag
Smoke the marinated pork belly for a couple of hours at a low temperature
Before it's finished smoking, coat the bacon in syrup, espresso, and sugar
After allowing it to rest, slice through the bacon with a Meat Slicer

Perfectly crisp, roasty bacon.

Have questions about making your own bacon, or this recipe in particular? We'd love to hear from you - post in the comments section below:

Maple Bourbon Bacon — from Scratch

Makes one pound

- Ingredients -
1 lb pork belly
½ cup bourbon
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pink cure
½ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar in the raw

- Tools -
Weston Vacuum Sealer + bag
Weston Smoker
Peach Wood Chips (you can use any, but peach are ideal)
Basting brush
Weston Meat Slicer

Follow our detailed instructions for How to Make Your Own Bacon, From Scratch.

Marinate the pork belly in the brine ingredients with your Vacuum Sealer

Once marinated, smoke the pork belly
Once it's just about done smoking, glaze and coat it
Once the bacon has rested, use a Meat Slicer to slice it as thick or thin as you like
Perfectly sliced bacon

This crispy homemade bacon has been baked in a 400° oven for 15 minutes. 

Have questions about making your own bacon, or this recipe in particular? We'd love to hear from you - post in the comments section below:

How to Make Your Own Bacon, From Scratch

Check out our recipes for Traditional, Maple Bourbon, and Espresso Maple Bacon. This is the lowdown on the very basic steps that you need to make any bacon, from scratch:

What you'll need:

  • Pork belly
  • Brine ingredients (salt, sugar, spices)
  • Glaze ingredients, if glazing along with a brush for doing so
  • Vacuum Sealer & bag
  • Meat Smoker & wood chips
  • Meat Slicer
  • Baking sheet (if baking) or skillet (if frying)

Step One | Marinate
Place the pork belly into a Vacuum Sealer Bag. Mix together the brine ingredients until the sugar, salt, and spices are dissolved in the  liquid ingredients, then pour into the bag with the pork belly. Seal and allow to cure 3-7 days.

Step Two | Smoke
For smoker tips, check out our article: 10 Tips for Smoker Success.
Preheat your smoker to 200 degrees with the water bowl filled. Soak your wood chips for at least 30 minutes. Once preheated, place the chips into the smoker box and put the pork belly onto a smoker rack. Smoke the pork belly 2 hours or until the internal temperature is 130°. Just two hours will give you a perfect, mild smoky flavor that allows the marinated flavors to pop without being overshadowed. For a smokier flavor, smoke at 120-150° for 3-4 hours. When the temperature gets to 120° (check the temperature after an hour, when you change out the wood chips), use a basting brush to slather the glaze, if any, all over the outside of the bacon. If you're making a peppered or otherwise coated bacon, sprinkle on at the 120 mark as well.

Step Three | Rest
Once smoked, allow to rest for an hour (until cooled), then seal it in a vacuum sealer bag and refrigerate overnight.

Step Four: Slice
Remove from the bag and use a Meat Slicer to slice the bacon as thickly or thinly as you like.

Step Five: Store for Later or Cook
At this point, it's ready to cook! You can refrigerate or freeze for later use, fry it in a skillet, or put it in the oven at 400° for 15 minutes (my personal favorite way).

10 Tips for Smoker Success

1. Marinate before and during smoking
The honest-to-god best way to marinate before smoking is with a Weston Vacuum Sealer (we're not just saying this to get you to buy one - it's the truth!). The vacuum of the sealer opens the pores of the food, allowing more marinade to get in. This means more marinade inside of the food, a faster marination time, and a bolder flavor. Once you're smoking, use a marinade injector and/or basting brush to add even more flavor and moisture during the cooking process.

2. Soak your wood chips thoroughly
Wood chips need that water in order to smoke, so give yourself at least a half hour of soaking time to ensure the smoke rolls from that smoker box. Not a bad idea to soak overnight if you can.

3. Fill the water bowl right away ...and with hot water
The classic rookie mistake goes like this:

"Got my smoker to 300°F like the recipe said. Put the meat in. Filled the water bowl. Stupid smoker. This thing's only 100° now. Must be broken. "

Anytime anything is added into that smoker cabinet, the energy will go toward heating it. If you put the water bowl in after preheating, the temperature is going to go down because energy is being spent on heating up all of that water - and it takes a lot of energy to heat water. 

It's an easy fix. Fill the water bowl with hot water before you even open the propane tank. The water's already hot, so the energy will go to heating the cabinet rather than the water, and once you hit your preheat point, the only lowering that will happen is when you put in your food - which is how it should be. Clearly, we could go on about this forever...

4. Keep the dampers closed to bring the smoker to temperature
Easy. You wouldn't preheat your oven with the door open, would you?

5. Vent the dampers on the sides of your smoker about half-way once you're ready to generate smoke
Those dampers are there for air flow and smoke generation. On a warm, not overly windy day, cracking the side dampers allows for proper airflow for the smoke to blow, without losing all of your heat and smoke out of the sides.

6. Keep the top damper mostly closed 
Heat rises, smoke rises. While it will make its way out of the side dampers eventually, you'll trap much more smoke up toward the top of the cabinet, where the food is... forcing much of that smoke into the food.

7. Change out your wood chips at least once an hour
Wood turns into ashes when it burns. Leave your ashy wood chips in that smoker box, and I guarantee your food will taste like ash rather than smoke. Be sure to empty the box out before you fill it with fresh, soaked chips.

8. Invest in a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the food you're smoking
While our smokers have temperature gauges, those are for the temperature inside of the cabinet. You have no idea what the temperature of the center of your food is unless you measure it (or cut it open and look at the color ...which isn't recommended for many, many reasons). If you're not closely monitoring the internal temperature, you can easily end up with a dry, overcooked product, or with one that is perfect on the outside and perfectly raw on the inside.

9. Snag yourself some heat-resistant gloves
Look: These ones are like 20 bucks. You can get around it, but if you want to really make friends with your smoker, get gloves that will allow you to change out the mega-hot smoker box as often as you like, pull the scorching metal racks out, turn the dampers throughout the smoking process, and pull out & replace the water bowl. If you can't touch the metal parts of the smoker while your food is cooking, you become very limited in your smoking abilities. 

10. Low and slow is the key to smoking
Don't get anxious about getting that delicious smoked roast out of the smoker to eat. Your food needs time to get a smoky flavor. An hour at 400° will produce about the same effect as an oven for most foods - kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? You also run a high risk of drying foods out in the smoker. The water bowl will certainly help with this, but the higher your temperature, the more quickly moisture evaporates out of your food. Time is your friend here, and the lower and slower you can cook at, you're going to want to. A pork shoulder smoked at 150-160 for 12 hours is well worth it. 

Weston Smoker

There you have it: 
10 of our top tips to successfully using a propane smoker!
As always, your comments are appreciated below:

Pomegranate-Mint Lamb Sausage

This is a really nicely textured sausage: The two different grinds allow the ground meat to bind better, the meat mixer creates an even tighter bind, and the feta helps create a soft, moist sausage. Add to that a variety of complex, but complimentary flavors, and you have a sausage likely very different from any other you have made... in a good way!

Makes two pounds

- Ingredients -

2 lbs lamb, cubed
5 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon + ½ teaspoon toasted fennel seeds

10 kalamata olives, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons pomegranate arils
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

- Tools -
Weston Meat Grinder & Sausage Stuffer
Weston Meat Mixer
Weston Smoker
natural hog casings
wood smoking chips (hickory is best for this)

Place the metal parts of the grinder and mixer into your freezer for at least a half hour before you begin. Everything should be as cold as possible for sausage making, especially when soft cheeses like feta are involved.

Prepare the Smoker by soaking the wood chips (for at least a half hour), filling the water bowl and placing it in the smoker, and preheating to 250.

Use your Meat Grinder to grind the lamb, garlic, mint, and ½ teaspoon fennel seeds through the coarse plate of your Meat Grinder. Grind half of the lamb blend through the finer plate.

Grinding your own blends is nice because you can use all fresh ingredients, like garlic and mint, which can be tossed in with the meat. The meat grinder takes care of chopping and distributing them.

The #5 500 Watt Grinder took a mere two minutes for our entire grind.

Combine the ground lamb mix, olives, pomegranate, sugar, salt, and remaining ½ teaspoon of fennel with the Meat Mixer. Turn for 5-10 minutes, until the meat binds together tightly on its own. Add the feta cheese and turn just a few times, until the cheese is evenly distributed and mixed into the meat blend - you don't want to turn the feta into a paste.

Meat mixers are particularly useful in recipes like these, where you need larger ingredients to bind into sausage, like olives and pomegranate arils. They mix ingredients more fully and also create a bind within the meat.
Assemble the Sausage Stuffer attachment onto the Meat Grinder, then transfer the mixed ground lamb back to the hopper of the Meat Grinder. Thread the casing onto the Stuffer nozzle and turn on the grinder to stuff the casing.

There are few things more convenient in sausage making than useing your meat grinder to also stuff the casing. 

Tie the links. Place the sausage onto sausage hooks in your preheated Smoker. Smoke at 250°F for an hour and a half to two hours (until the internal temp is 160), with the side dampers cracked and the top damper closed.

When you want a full, smoky flavor in a low-temp smoking project, try cracking the side dampers and closing the top. Proper smoking is subject to many factors, but this method will typically bring the most smoke up into your product. 

Serve once fully smoked.

Jalapeño Raspberry Jam with the Roma Tomato Strainer

The natural sugary-sweetness of raspberries is perfectly complimented by the gentle heat of jalapeños in this jam recipe. If you've been looking for simple ways to kick your jam up a notch, this is the recipe for you!

Makes 3 cups

- Ingredients -
24 oz raspberries
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 medium jalapeños, roughly chopped (4 if you like spicy)
1 lime, juiced

- Tools -
Roma by Weston Tomato Strainer with Berry Screen
(use the regular screen if you want seeds in your jam)
Weston Manual Kitchen Kit
Weston Canning Kit
Three ½ pint jars

First things first: If you are planning on canning this jam, start by sanitizing your jars and equipment in boiling water. The lids should be put into a separate pot of simmering, not boiling water (you're activating the special sealing glue on the lids, without ruining it). Keep everything in its boiling & hot water until it is time to can.

Next you need to make a seedless puree of your raspberries. Rinse them well, then drop them into the hopper of your Roma Tomato Strainer with its Berry Screen attached. Turn the handle to produce the puree from the screen, and send the seeds out of the waste chute. Run through a second time to get as much raspberry puree from your batch as possible.

Juice from the raspberries pours out from the screen as the seeds get pushed through the waste chute

Close-up on the raspberry puree, about to be tasty jam...

Set the puree aside. Use your Manual Kitchen Kit with the chopper inserted to dice your jalapeños. 

This little handheld chopper makes perfectly diced jalapeños in seconds

Place the citrus juicer of the Kitchen Kit on top of it and use it to juice your lime.

Pretty helpful to do most of the work with one little kit, eh?

Boil the raspberry puree and sugar until it sets. If you're not sure, do the freezer test, as detailed on Food In Jars. There are also several other tests detailed on that page.

Quickly stir in the lime juice and jalapeños. Use your Weston Canning Kit to safely pour the jam into your jars and seal them.

Our jam has just set and is ready to go into that jar via the canning funnel

At this point, you can refrigerate your jam for consumption in the next couple of weeks. You could also can them in a water bath or pressure canner to store long-term.

One great way to serve the jam is on toast with cream cheese (especially if your jam turns out too spicy)
This jam goes great on everything, but I especially love it simply on a seeded Jewish rye.

Smoked Peach Salsa with a Weston Smoker

Even if you have had peach salsa before... never have you had peach salsa like this! Fresh peaches smoked in a Weston Propane Smoker and blended with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and onions make for a perfect balance of smoky, savory, and sweet.

Makes about one quart

- Ingredients -
6 small peaches, halved & pitted
3 vine-ripe tomatoes, quartered
one half green pepper, chopped into 1" pieces
1 small red onion, chopped into 1" pieces
5 garlic cloves, smashed
handful cilantro
juice from ½ lime
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon chipotle powder (one tablespoon to make it spicy)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

- Tools -
Weston Smoker
Weston Manual Kitchen Kit
Roma by Weston Tomato Strainer w/ Salsa Screen

Smoke the peach halves in a Weston Smoker at 200 degrees F for two hours.

Fresh peaches in a Weston Smoker

Perfectly smoked peaches

Once smoked, use a Weston Kitchen Kit with the chopper to puree the peaches. Set aside and allow to cool.

The Weston Kitchen Kit slices right through the smoky skin of these peaches

Place the tomatoes, pepper, onion, and garlic into your Tomato Strainer with the Salsa Screen attached, and turn the handle to process and mix into salsa.

Oh the glory of the Tomato Strainer Salsa Screen! You can throw your peppers and onions in with the tomatoes and get a perfect salsa consistency... no chopping or mashing needed. 

In a large bowl, with a wooden spoon, mix together the peaches and salsa. Use the Weston Kitchen Kit to chop the cilanto and juice the lime. Stir the cilantro, sugar, chipotle powder, ginger, and lime juice into the salsa.

Serve with tortilla chips.