Key West in a Bottle…Citrus Grilling Sauce; the name alone causes me concern. It does conjure up visions of a sea side barbecue with the sounds of Reggae music and the flavors of the Caribbean seasoning the fire’s offerings, it’s just that I’ve had my fair share of these style sauces…most ended like a bad relationship.
It’s not an easy task to balance fruit flavors, heat and spices where they all come together as one, yet Pig of the Month thinks they have succeeded.
Based out of Dayton, OH, Pig of the Month is run by Lea Richards. Although they offer 6 styles of barbecue sauce, Key West in a Bottle really peaked my interest.
The 12 fl. oz. glass bottle has a whimsical theme to it. I have a couple of their sauces and I have to say, they all have the same appeal. It’s a true eye catcher should you spot it on the grocery store shelf.
The listed ingredients are: Ketchup (tomato puree, sugar, vinegar, spices) Brown Sugar, Mango Juice, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Lime Juice, Grapefruit Juice, Lemon Juice, Onion Powder, Dry Mustard Powder, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Salt, Cumin.
That’s quite an interesting spectrum of flavors! What I like most about the ingredient list is the lack of some. The lack of chemical additives. This sauce seems to me to be all natural. That’s a big plus in my book.
I envisioned those ingredients to offer up an aroma similar to that of a sugary fruit drink, yet it didn’t. Certainly there were hints of citrus…the mango stands out in a good way. The remaining flavors seem to be in balance with the fruit and brings the aroma back to the world of BBQ. I would best describe the overall aroma as that of…a citrus grilling sauce. I’ll bet that explains the name.
Pop the Bottle Taste Test
Key West in a Bottle has a medium consistency with a light brown and somewhat reddish color. What I noticed foremost about the appearance is the abundance of black pepper. It’s my opinion that fresh ground black pepper makes everything taste better…that and bacon. The ample presence of black pepper is another big plus for me.
Wow! The sauce is flavorful. The mango hits you first with a hint of tomato shortly behind it. It’s then that the other citrus flavors appear along with the black pepper. The remaining ingredients are subliminal. There’s a sense that they’re there doing their magic, but none overpower.
The heat factor trails in at the end. The combination of black pepper and hot pepper is a mixture that has a tendency to fail you quickly. I was curious to see how Pig of the Month would blend theirs. They did an excellent job. The flavor of black pepper was just enough to detect, while the cayenne gave it the right amount of kick. Although the heat is a bit more than that of a mild sauce, it’s nothing that the average person would find too hot.
Apply the Meat Taste Test
Let’s give this sauce a try on chicken. I think chicken goes well with the overall theme around here. In the spirit of the sauce, grilled Jamaican jerk chicken seems to be a natural. It just so happens that I had just finished reading Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book by the one and only, Chris Lilly. I wanted to give his jerk recipe a try on some chicken thighs. Here’s my opportunity. I just may have the perfect sauce.
We’ll jump past the trimming, injections and the rubbing and see how this sauce performed on the grill. If common sense prevails, this kind of sweet sauce should only be applied 5 minutes before removing the meat from the grill to avoid burning the sauce. I always push it when I evaluate a sauce. I like to determine the burning threshold. To my surprise, this sauce worked well at 10 minutes before removing. This tells me that the sauce is not as loaded with sugars as taste might preclude. This also means I can coax it into the basting sauce realm as long as I closely monitor the progress.
The overall appearance was that of a translucent glaze. Just the right color that allowed the chicken to show through. Of course those tasty morsels of black pepper also showed through. If this was a barbecue turn-in that I was judging, I would award it an 8 or 9 for presentation.
As with most sauces, flavors tend to tone down when combined with the flavors of meat. The question is whether they continue to maintain balance. Key West in a Bottle toned down quite a bit. The strong mango flavor that I detected out of the bottle stepped aside and let a slight zing of citrus come out and play. The peppers seemed to also get along a bit better. Again, all the other ingredients must be busy at work, because none of them came out in an annoying manner.
All in all, this dish came out great. It is one that I will make again. Thanks, Lea and Chris!
The Final Verdict
There are sauces I keep on hand when I occasionally need that special flavor and there are sauces that I keep for my day to day arsenal. Key West in a Bottle will be the newest member of my daily arsenal. It’s subliminal flavors seem best suited for mild meats when a minor flavor infusion is wanted.
This may not be the sauce for hearty cuts of meat such as beef short ribs or thick-cut pork chops. The bold flavors of such cuts may overpower the delicate flavors in the sauce. Although tasty, I believe the true flavors of the sauce may become slightly diluted.
I believe this sauce is best suited for chicken, fish, seafood and some pork. It would also be a great choice if you’re looking to take the edge off the flavors of wild game and that of lamb, as well. How will it perform on a slab of pork ribs? I’m not sure. I am sure that I’m going to give it a try.
Leaving the grill behind for a moment, I also believe a great dipping sauce has been found. From grilled meatballs, moink balls and even those little wieners, all will benefit from this sauce. As a matter of fact, I already have visions of a batch of phenomenal wings in mind! What about using it in a fresh tropical fruit salsa? Yep, this sauce needs to stay close at hand.
For more information about Pig of the Month, or to order their sauces visit their website at pigofthemonth.com
If you’d like to check out the Caribbean jerk chicken thigh recipe used to evaluate Key West in a Bottle, you can get it…here.