Well anyone here in Ontario knows by now we’ve had rain, a LOT of rain. I mean deluge-overflowing-Lake Ontario rising-rain. Hardly inspiring for the local harvest (though the gardens do seem lush even if the fields are sodden). With everyone desperate to jump into outdoor living and bbq season, it seems cruel that the principal ingredient in BBQ sauce, namely tomatoes, are a long way off from hitting the farmers markets.
While tomatoes may be the star, rhubarb, abundant in spring, can play a surprising supporting role. The tartness of taste and silkiness in texture, are a delightful stand in for the usual tomato based sauce. With a slight adjustment to a chutney recipe, this sauce will stand up to the coals and lend a fruity punch to grilled meats and vegetables.
Based on Andrea Chessman’s Sweet Tart Rhubarb Chutney recipe from her Pickled Pantry I’ve tweaked it a bit to seem more in keeping with the bbq sauce texture.* Here’s the recipe: Makes about 6 x 250 ml. (half pint) jars
2-1/2 lbs fresh rhubarb (about 8 cups)
1 medium onion chopped finely
1 cup of molasses
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 TBS peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 smoked pepper (optional)
1 TBS tomato paste
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp pickling salt
Toast the spices in a Dutch oven or saucepan for a minute or so, then add all the ingredients, bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until the rhubarb is broken down. Take an immersion blender and blend thoroughly. When blended, ladle into clean jars leaving about 1/2″ headspace. At this point you can cool and store in the refrigerator. If you do decide to water-bath (see disclaimer below) process jars for 10 minutes.
*This diversion from the original chutney recipe has not been tested for water-bath canning. I believe, as the adjustments are minor and the ratios are virtually the same, it is ok to water-bath can. However, I make no claim that it is safe to do so.