Yes, yes, I know – who the hell makes barbecue sauce when it’s 85 degrees out? I the hell do, thank you very much. When you’ve had a seriously crazy couple of weeks, you worked last night until 1:00 am, and you still have 5 lbs of rhubarb wilting in the fridge, you make barbecue sauce when the sun shines.
Despite the fact that it’s about 95 degrees in my kitchen right now, this sauce was a delightful surprise. Kind of like a plum sauce, kind of like a sweet-n-sour sauce, with the texture of a traditional, tomato-based barbecue sauce, the tart flavor of rhubarb, the sweetness of honey, and the spice habanero combined to make this a wonderful experiment, and one I’m sure to repeat. If you have your own rhubarb plants, or rhubarb is overflowing at the farmer’s market, this recipe can easily be doubled. The sauce is so tasty, I’m sure I’ll find many uses for it all year round.
Not what you’re looking for? See other tasty rhubarb recipes here.
Adapted from Victorian Barbecue Sauce in the Ball Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry & L. Devine.
- 3 lbs trimmed rhubarb, sliced to 1 inch pieces
- 1 medium red onion (size of a baseball), diced (about ¾ cup)
- 2 cups raisins
- 1 medium habanero pepper, halved and seeded (reserve seeds to adjust heat at the end)
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¾ cup honey
- In a large, wide Dutch oven or skillet, combine all ingredients except the honey. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Lower heat and simmer, covered, until the fruit has softened enough to crush easily (about 20 – 30 minutes). Blend sauce with an immersion blender, or by transferring to a blender or food processor, then return to the pot and simmer over low heat, covered with a splatter screen, until reduced by about half, or sauce reaches the consistency of a thick commercial barbecue sauce, about 1 – 2 hours.
- If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Add honey. Stir well, taste, and adjust spices, sweetener, and/or chile pepper. If necessary, continue to simmer to further reduce the sauce.
- Ladle hot sauce into clean hot jars, leaving ½-inch of headspace. Bubble jars, wipe rims and affix lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Allow to rest in the cooling water bath for 5 minutes, then remove (keeping upright) and allow to cool completely at room temperature before labeling and storing.
Yields about 3 – 4 pints of a thick sauce.
- I made some changes to the Ball original recipe: increasing the rhubarb, onion and vinegar, and adding some garlic and habanero pepper. I’m confident that the changes still produce a preserve that is safely acidic for water bath canning, but of course, you should always use your own best judgement.
- If you haven’t yet taken the canning plunge, simply cut the recipe in half and store in a quart jar in the fridge. The sauce will keep for several weeks, if not months.
- The habanero adds a nice kick of spiciness on the finish, but this is not a very spicy sauce. If you like it hot, include the seeds and perhaps add one more habanero (be careful of adding too much of a non-acidic vegetable if you are canning). If you can’t handle the heat, you can omit the peppers entirely.
- The honey is added at the very end because it is sticky and makes for a much more splattery mess if you add it early. If you like splattery messes, feel free to add it at the beginning.
- You can make this preserve a bit more quickly if you want to stand over the stove and stir, stir, stir; or you can make it even more slowly in a Crock-Pot with the lid propped open with a wooden spoon.
Canned at room temperature for up to 1 year. Refrigerated for several weeks.
Spring into summer.