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In the Kitchen: Labor Day cookout ideas

Do you have plans to cookout this “almost” Labor Day weekend? If so, what is on your menu? 

Chances are you will be grilling steaks, ribs, hamburgers, pork chops or chicken. 

Instead of buying marinades and sauces that are loaded with additives and other unsavory things, why not try your hand at making them from scratch? 

Here are some of my favorite concoctions. 

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This is a great marinade for chicken and pork. The fresh orange juice and the cinnamon are key ingredients.

Southwest marinade

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 ½ teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients. 

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This is great for chicken, shrimp or pork tenderloin. It’s also great on rice. 

Teriyaki marinade

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients. 

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This marinade elevates just about any protein you marinate. 

Sweet bourbon marinade

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

Combine all ingredients. 

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To brine or not to brine, that is the question. When it comes to chicken or pork, definitely brine. Even a simple brine of salt and sugar and maybe a handful of peppercorns can truly make a difference in how juicy and delicious your grilled protein will turn out. Even a few hours in a brine (refrigerated) is worth it. If you want to be a bit fancier, here are a few flavorful brines you should try. Both of these brines are great for a whole chicken or turkey, but is also great for chicken pieces or pork chops. 

Apple brine

2 quarts apple juice, divided

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Zest and juice from 2 lemons

2 bay leaves

In a large saucepan, combine 1 quart of the apple juice, salt, soy sauce, ginger, rosemary, zest and juice from lemons and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Cool completely and then add the remaining apple juice if you need a big batch. 

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Cranberry orange brine

1 quart cranberry juice

1 quart orange juice

1 cup salt

1 head garlic, crushed but not peeled

1/4 cup crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup fennel seeds

3 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

4 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer a few minutes. Let cool completely before brining your protein. 

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There are lots of sauces out there, but most are loaded with excess sugar and other additives. Here are some simple sauces that are sure to please everybody. 

Who doesn’t love a good steak? This red wine sauce pairs perfectly with your favorite steak. Use a dry red wine — one that you can drink with your steak. This is also great with lamb chops. 

Red wine sauce

1 ½ cups dry red wine

2 tablespoons shallots, finely minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, heat red wine and shallots to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and reduce until you have about ½ cup. This will take about 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter until melted and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

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If you like mustard, you are going to love this creamy sauce. This would be terrific on pork chops, grilled chicken or even with a juicy steak. 

Creamy mustard sauce

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons shallots, finely minced

1/2 cup beef broth

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook several minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the beef broth and bring to a boil. 

Cook several minutes until broth has reduced by half. Add cream and bring almost to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. 

Whisk in the whole-grain mustard and simmer another five minutes until sauce has thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.