Can Jam: Charred Chile Barbecue Sauce

October’s Can Jam is chiles! I’m so excited to see the fabulous recipes that y’all come up with. I know you’re expecting some wacky jam or a crazy-too-hot salsa, but for this one, I tested out a new recipe, from my brand spankin’ new copy of Put ’em Up! (a birthday gift from my sweet hubs). I snagged some of the last fresh tomatoes of the season, from Madura Farms at my local farmer’s market, and had a pile of fresh chiles from my CSA: charred chile barbecue sauce it is!

This recipe is pretty straightforward; the only problem I had was in charring the chiles. I’ve never been good at charring and peeling peppers. All the descriptions make it sound so easy; just blacken the skins, steam the peppers and “slip the skins right off.”  Riiiiight. It never seems to work that way for me; some peppers char nicely, others have spots that refuse to blacken, others turn to charcoal, leaving no pepper flesh behind. And let me tell you: a pound of jalapenos is a lot of peppers to peel. But the charring does impart a wonderful smoky sweetness to the peppers and keeps the basic flavor of the chiles while taming some of the heat. Going into the jar, the sauce was definitely very spicy, but I’m guessing that in a month or two it will have mellowed nicely. There is a lovely complexity to the flavor from the smoky chiles, tart tomatoes, brown sugar and honey, with just a hint of allspice and clove. I had intended to crack a jar and test it out on some barbecued chicken, but time got away from me, and there is already an open jar of barbecue sauce in the fridge (I love you guys, but I have got to clear some of these jars out of the fridge before I open more!). I’ll update with a flavor profile once I test it out – stay tuned.

Adapted (barely) from Charred Chili Barbecue Sauce in Put ’em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton


Charred Chile Barbecue Sauce


  • 5 and 1/2 lbs tomatoes
  • 1 lb chile peppers, any variety (I used mostly red jalapenos, with a sweet red bell pepper and a few orange chiles)
  • 1 lb yellow onion (about 2 large), chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cloves


  1. Rinse tomatoes. Quarter about 6 tomatoes and crush into the bottom of a large (6-quart) stockpot. Put on the stove over medium heat. Continue to quarter and crush tomatoes, in layers, until done.  Stir tomatoes well, cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (be careful not to scorch the tomatoes at the bottom of the pan). Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until very soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Push tomatoes & juice through a food mill or sieve, discarding seeds & skins. (Alternatively, you can peel, core and chop tomatoes by hand.) Transfer tomato pulp to a large, wide-bottomed pan or Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Reduce heat to low and allow tomatoes to simmer gently while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  3. Char the chilies: very lightly spritz whole chiles with vegetable oil then char the skins, either under the broiler, on a grill, or over an open flame, until completely black on all sides (turning peppers as necessary). Take care not to over-char any one side, or you will lose the delicious pepper underneath and end up with simply charcoal. Remove charred peppers to a bowl then cover and wait at least 5 minutes, allowing the steam to loosen the skins. Slip the skins off, remove the stem, seeds and ribs from inside the pepper, and set the flesh aside. Once all chiles are charred, stemmed and skinned, roughly chop and add to the tomatoes.
  4. Add the onion, garlic, vinegar, sugar and spices. Raise heat and bring to a lively simmer.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend to a smooth consistency with an immersion blender (or transfer in batches to a blender or food processor). Continue to simmer, over low heat, until sauce is thickened and will mound on the back of a spoon, about 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare canner, lids and jars.
  6. Ladle hot sauce into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Yields about 3 pints.


  1. There has to be a better way to char chiles: anyone? Anyone? I never seem to be able to master this; I lose half of the chile flesh and the skins never “slip” off, I have to pick and pick and pick away at little pieces. Totally frustrating. This sauce is really quite good, but I know that I won’t make it often unless I can come up with a better way.
  2. I stayed very close to the original recipe here, cutting the sweetener just slightly by replacing 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of honey.
  3. As always, do not increase the amounts of the low-acid ingredients (onions, peppers, garlic) or decrease the amounts of acidic ingredients (tomatoes, vinegar) for safety in canning.


Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.  Refrigerated, use within 1 month.


Late summer to early Fall.


  1. Diane

    Absolutely agree with you about charring peppers. Great if you have a barbeque (live in an apartment, don’t have one) or a gas stove (again, don’t have one). But trying to char under a broiler is frustrating. By the time the skin is chared, the pepper is either mush or charcoal. So yesterday I went to the hardware store and bought a propane torch. Not the baby creme brulee one, one with some oomph. $25, including propane. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  2. WeberKing

    I used a trick I culled from Iron Chef (the good one, from Japan) once: a butane torch. One of those Benzomatic ones they sell at Home Depot for soldering pipes.

    Works like a charm.

  3. Kat

    I, too, have run into the dilemma of charred peppers. Chiles have such a thin flesh! I tried charring a variety of peppers about a month ago, and quickly figured out that cayenne was out of the running, as it has the thinnest flesh, and after my attempts to peel it, there was nothing left.
    As far as taking the skins off, I’ve found that if I just roast the peppers (at 400 degrees, for about 20-25 minutes, turning a couple times, then cover/steam after taking out), the skin comes off easily AND the peppers get that great, mellow flavor. I may be sacrificing the slight charred flavor, but to me, it’s worth it–the skins come off in one piece most of the time, and I can peel a bigger batch in a fifth of the time of my charring attempts.
    I haven’t made this particular barbecue sauce, but I’d bet that the (gently) roasted chiles would work; you could even compensate the smokey flavor with a touch of liquid smoke, if you want. I’m sure either way, it’d save time and effort, without compromising too much of the taste.

  4. Great recipe! I might make this to eat with my latest batch of wood-smoked chicken. Yum.

    When I char/peel peppers, I either char them over a gas flame burner on the stove (if I have time), or right on my pizza stone at 400 F for 20-30 minutes until most of the skin is black. Then I throw it in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap for 20 minutes. Remove, and peel away skin under running water. This is key–it helps remove those last stubborn bits of skin.

  5. I’ve always done them on the (gas) stove and put them in a paper bag, the lunch bag kind, then I take a towel after they’ve cooled off and rubbed the charred part off. Never had a problem, if there are little black bits sticking I just run the pepper under some water and then blot it dry.

  6. Thanks so much for all the good tips, peeps! I do have a gas stove, and a grill; I did try it at first using the burners on the gas stove, but with a couple dozen peppers to char, that soon got tedious. Next time I will fire up the grill instead of using the broiler – OR, maybe I finally have my excuse for a kitchen blowtorch?

    And the water tip is a great one too; should have been obvious, but isn’t that the way with all great tips? Thanks again!


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