Brer Rabbit Hits the Sauce

It’s high grilling season, and with more of us stuck at home cooking for ourselves and our families, we thought it was a good time to revisit “Brer Rabbit’s Modern Recipes for Modern Living.” That’s the retro recipe booklet put out around 1950 by Brer Rabbit Molasses, a brand that started in New Orleans in 1907, the year before Joel Chandler Harris died. It’s still marketed in parts of the country by the conglomerate B&G Foods.

We posted a recipe for Molasses Ginger Rabbit Cookies in April and were pleased when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution picked it up for their “Community Cooks” feature in the Sunday newspaper. Unfortunately, the booklet does not include a barbecue sauce recipe as such. So we combined the closest thing — a Molasses Sauce for ham on Page 48 — with a Kansas City barbecue sauce recipe I included in my book “Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America.” That recipe derived from one Kansas City barbecue legend Paul Kirk gave me years ago when I was writing about food for the AJC.

Pam and I used this sauce last weekend on smoked chicken quarters. But you can put it on anything, from ribs to smoked tofu. It’s sweet, but as you’ll see in the recipe notes, you can customize it by reducing the sweetness and jacking up the heat and tartness. 

Whatever you do, don’t use this sauce on grilled rabbit. As you may recall, Brer Fox wanted to “bobby cue” Brer Rabbit (as seen here in Floyd Norman’s illustration). While we like that story, we don’t want to encourage that sort of behavior when it comes to our No. 1 bunny and star attraction.

We’re looking at you, Brer Chicken.



Brer Rabbit Molasses BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup

¾ cup cider vinegar

⅓ cup molasses

¼ cup brown sugar, tightly packed

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1½ teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

¾ teaspoon ground red pepper

Combine wet ingredients and whisk in dry ingredients, mixing well. Pour into a saucepan and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring often. NOTE: This is a sweet, Kansas City-style sauce with an undertone of spiciness. To make it less sweet, decrease the ketchup and sweeteners and add more vinegar, chili powder and red pepper. But do so in small increments, tasting as you go.

Makes: About 2 cups.

Barbecue, Brer Rabbit, Brer Rabbit Molasses, Grilling, recipes, Smokelore

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