Saturday, March 19, 2011

BBQ: Owensboro Mutton with Black Sauce

Owensboro Mutton Barbeque

Perhaps the most unusual barbeque tradition in the United States is the Owensboro (Kentucky) tradition of barbequeing mutton. Mutton is an old sheep, so its meat is naturally tough. Therefore, the barbeque cooking method, which is smoking the meat for many hours at a temperature of around 250F, is perfect for mutton.

Black Sauce

Kentucky lies next to Alabama, but for reasons now lost in the mists of history, cooks around Owensboro developed a black sauce, which is served traditionally with Mutton (old sheep).

The traditional sauce begins with the basic clear vinegar sauce, to which Kentucky cooks added dark molasses. Molasses, of course, is a by-product of sugar production and adds sweetness and sometimes bitterness as well. (Recall that the educated human tongue distinguishes only four taste elements: sweet, bitter, sour and salty.) Molasses is the most well-known ingredient which imparts both a sweet and a bitter flavor.

When dark molasses is added to vinegar, salt and pepper, the result is a strong sauce perfectly suited to the strong taste of mutton.


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(The section on Black Sauce was first published by Joe O'Connell in 1991 for the California Barbeque Association.)

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