Apple Bourbon Chipotle BBQ Sauce

apple-bourbon-chipotle-bbq-sauceapple-bourbon-chipotle-bbq-sauceApples, apples, everywhere. I’m not sure there has been such an apple season in the Northeast in my lifetime. Maine was swimming in them: trees everywhere dotted with hundreds of red, green, or golden orbs; apples piling in drifts on the side of the road; apple trees you never even knew you had producing large, juicy, blemish-and-worm-free fruit; the air redolent with spicy, slightly fermenting, apples.

The story’s no different in my own front yard: we have several 100-year-old, tall, rangey apple trees, and like most all apple trees that aren’t managed, they rarely produce anything in the way of edible fruit. Not so this year: apples galore, that are bigger, juicier, and sweeter than ever before, and actually turning red – I haven’t seen that in my 10 years of living here. It’s amazing.

applesOf course, I couldn’t stop myself from collecting pounds & pounds from the trees in Tai’s aunt & uncle’s yard. The natural consequence of which is you get home with a giant grocery bag full of 30-odd pounds of small, bumpy, adorably misshapen but hard-to-peel apples. Food mill to the rescue!

Barbecue sauce, apple butter, applesauce: all of these things lend themselves to an easy-peasy quarter-and-cook process, especially perfect for small, “ugly” apples that you don’t really want to peel. All you need is a food mill (or a fine sieve and a lot of patience) and you’re off to the races. And of course, you know I can’t rest until I’ve boozed- and chile’ed-up the latest preserve. Kaela’s ABCs of Preserving: apple, bourbon, chipotle. If only I would wake up to find bottles of bourbon settling in drifts in the front yard….

Adapted from Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry & L. Devine

apple-bourbon-chipotle-bbq-sauceApple, Bourbon, Chipotle BBQ Sauce


  • 5 lbs apples, to yield at least 9 cups apple pulp
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 cup bourbon, divided
  • 1 ½ cups chopped white onion
  • 1 ½ cups chopped red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped garlic cloves (about 1 small head)
  • 1, 7-oz can chipotles en adobo
  • 2 tsp ground ancho powder
  • 2 tsp ground smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar (see note below: I suggest starting with 1 cup sugar, then adjusting as you taste)
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp honey


  1. Stem and quarter apples. Add to a large, wide, heavy-bottomed stockpot with a generous splash of cider vinegar (to prevent browning) and enough water to cover by at least two-thirds. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, until apples are very soft, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a sieve to strain out apple juice, then run apples through a food mill to strain out seeds & peels.
  2. Transfer apple pulp to the stockpot. Add vinegar, ½ cup bourbon, onion, bell pepper, garlic, chipotle, ancho, paprika, and salt. Simmer over low heat, covered with a splatter screen, until mixture is thickened and vegetables are very soft, 30 to 60 minutes (add apple juice if the mixture becomes too thick). With an immersion blender, blend until very smooth. Add Worcestershire sauce, sugar and molasses. At this point, you can cover and store the sauce overnight prior to canning, if you wish.
  3. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  4. Continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thicker than you desire, remembering that it will thicken some on cooling. Stir in remaining bourbon. Taste and adjust flavors – add honey here if needed.
  5. Fill hot canning jars to ½-inch head space, bubble jars and wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for both half-pint and pint jars. Cool, label and store.

Yields 7 to 8 pint jars of a thick sauce.


  1. You can eliminate the bourbon if you choose. If the alcohol is a concern, add all or some of the bourbon at the beginning: the ethanol will cook off.
  2. One 7-oz can of chipotle en adobo yields a medium-spicy sauce with a lingering but fairly mild kick. It will taste quite spicy while still hot: allow to cool somewhat before adjusting seasoning.
  3. My apples this year were mostly wild and on the tart side, verging on sour. In other years, I might use half as much sweetener: start out with about half of the specified amount, then taste and adjust.


Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.




  1. Last year was our bumper and beautiful apple crop in the Northeast Alabama mountains! I too have a very old, unmanaged apple tree at my summer home in Mentone. It hadn’t given apples in years, but began to do so in 2012 – the first season after we rescued our 100 year-old farmhouse from its vacation rental purgatory. I believe that, like the house, she is happy to have a family again – even if only part time. This year, alas, plenty of apples early on, but they mostly fell from the tree. I only came home with about 5 pounds! It’s enough for a little applesauce for my NC grandbabies, so I’m good. I so enjoy your blog and attempt many of your recipes when I have long weekends or during my summers off. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Michelle

    I just canned this today and it’s amazing! For some reason I needed 10 pounds of apples instead of 5 to come up with the 9 cups of apple pulp. Luckily the neighbor gave me about 40 pounds of apples so I have plenty. I did add a little more smoked paprika to the sauce since I like the smoky flavor. This is so good I’m thinking I will be keeping it for ourselves instead of giving it away as Christmas gifts. Thanks for all of your great recipes!

    • Hi Michelle,

      My wild apples were not so juicy, so I imagine juicier apples would produce more juice/less pulp. But yes, isn’t it a good one? I’m thinking about BBQ red onion pizza for dinner….

    • I have not tested the pH. However, the recipe as written is certainly safely acidic for water bath canning. The amount of low-acid ingredients (onions, etc.) is taken from the Zesty Peach BBQ Sauce in the Ball Book, and apples are more acidic than peaches, so this will certainly be below a pH of 4.6 (most likely in the 3’s.).

  4. Sherry Hodges

    I made this sauce last fall and loved it! I am making more this year as last year didnt have enough to share–it was too yummy!! 😁

  5. Pingback: Apple Smoked BBQ Sauce - Art of Natural Living

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