Rhubarb Grilling Sauce: my Rhu-barb-e-que

OMG, I logged into Tigress’s website Sunday night to see what the posting deadline was and there, to my horror, she had made the very recipe that I had just adapted. Didn’t want you to think I’m a copycat (we just copied the same thing). I took a slightly different approach.  Luckily had already done my normal May canning, so I have a few other things to offer the Tigress Can Jam).

With Memorial Day coming, it’s time to get out the grill so that we can cook and eat outside in the glorious weather. I’ve been cooking and jamming all month with rhubarb and asparagus and have a few jars to show for it (see the posts for rhubarb-orange-ginger preserves and the curry-spiced pickled asparagus), but I wanted to share this for the May Tigress Can Jam.

I thought a lot about how to make a rhubarb grilling sauce, because I normally like to grill vegetables instead of meat (I’m an awful meat cook and generally don’t eat it).  I thought that a fruity barbecue sauce would work for vegetables and fish, and also subtly for meat when the “meatatarians” (as my little kids would say) come home. I also wanted to avoid salt and fat. I noticed that Pam Corbin, in the second handbook (aptly, Preserves) in the River Cottage series, makes tomato ketchup that she claims can be adapted for rhubarb and canned.  So that was my jumping off point.

The key was roasting the rhubarb slowly in the oven with onions and garlic. Without the normal addition of sugar or juice, which makes the rhubarb juicy, the rhubarb self-imploded and deepened in flavor, exuding little fluid, which was great for thickening the sauce. As you know, rhubarb is technically a vegetable and it acted here like a cross between celery and chard stems. It’s possible that the rhubarb I used is young so may not have the same fluid content as the typical harvest.

The roasted rhubarb-onion-garlic mix is pureed (I used a food mill but a food processor would work), and then cooked with vinegar, brown sugar and spices. I used ground cumin, ground coriander, a touch of allspice and a little chili powder that had a hint of cloves. Though I doubled the amount in Corbin’s recipe, and made some additions, I went light on the seasonings compared to most grilling sauces since I thought the rhubarb should shine through. Cooked down, mine had the consistency of applesauce or apple butter, but if the rhubarb had been juicier, it might have been more liquid. Either works.

I canned this in one-cup jars. I really dislike having partially used barbecue sauce in the fridge, so I adjusted the canning portion to what we would use in one sitting, knowing that we can use more than one jar if we’re a crowd. Which I expect we’ll be on Memorial Day.


To try this, I used it on oven-roasted asparagus – good — and on grilled leeks — great. It was excellent with roasted potatoes and made a fine a meat barbecue sauce. It would be good with fish, which I’ll try next. I liked the fruitiness and the subtle little kick provided by the spices.

Rhubarb Grilling Sauce adapted from Pam Corbin’s Rhubarb Ketchup, Preserves, River Cottage vol. 2. Makes 4  cups

2 ¼ lbs rhubarb stems, cleaned, trimmed and cut into ¾-inch pieces (8 cups)

1 small red onion, diced (about ½ cup)

2 cloves garlic, cut in small pieces

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup brown sugar (I used demerara)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1.4 tsp ground allspice

¾-1 tsp ground chili powder (it included a hint of cloves)

Roast the rhubarb, onions and garlic in a large shallow pan (or 2) at 350 degrees until tender, about 60 minutes. (I covered the dish with foil for half the time since my rhubarb was not juicy.) Push through a food mill (a food processor works, but the texture will be different). Remove to a heavy-bottomed saucepan (I also used a “flame-taming” disk to reduce the possibility of scorching), add the vinegar and bring to a simmer. Then add the sugar and the spices and stir to dissolve. (I did this in reverse order from Corbin’s recipe since I needed to test the seasonings.) Cook for about 25 minutes until thick.  Pour into prepared 1-cup canning jars and process in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and turn off the heat at the end to let the jars sit for 5 minutes, and then remove and set aside to cool.

Categories: Preserving, Rhubarb, Tigress Can JamTags: , ,

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