It’s rhubarb season! Yes, I’m always excited to see those crimson stalks popping up in the markets, and then in my food like muffins, crisps and more. I’ve always thought rhubarb is the Cinderella of spring produce: overshadowed by the strawberries and even the asparagus to some extent. Yes, it’s sour, but if you work with that tang you’ll be rewarded with big, belle-of-the ball flavour.
For my first rhubarb dish of the season, I wanted to come up with something original and out of the ordinary. Then the lightbulb in my mind lit up with a higher wattage idea than usual: rhubarb barbecue sauce! Surely I was the first person of the seven billion or so on the planet to have thought of this. A quick internet search proved otherwise, however.
The first recipe I came across was this one from Julie Rosendaal’s Dinner with Julie blog. Julie is one of the luminaries of the Canadian food and food blogging scene. I value her common sense, practical approach to really good food, so I pay attention to what she says. And what Julie said is that if you already have a favourite BBQ sauce you can just add rhubarb to it.
I do indeed have a favourite sauce. I got the basic recipe from my mother many years ago and jazzed it up with ginger and garlic. It’s definitely a sweet sauce, with lots of honey in it. But adding pureed rhubarb? I could just imagine how good that sauce would taste with a kicky tang complementing its sticky, sweet goodness. And you know what? I was right!
I cooked up four racks of ribs in my Spicy Beer Braising Sauce on the weekend, and froze most of them to use throughout the summer. And then I conjured up some of this rhubarb BBQ sauce. All I did was chop up a bunch of rhubarb, add just a bit of water, and simmered it until soft. A quick whirr with the immersion blender and, voila, I had about a cup of rhubarb puree to add to my usual sauce.
I broiled up some of those ribs with this sauce, in great anticipation. And how did they turn out? So. Good. Admittedly, now that I no longer have a barbecue I need to get the knack of finishing off the sauced ribs under the broiler (I had the rack a bit too close this time) but they were still sticky. Still sweet. But — wow! — tangy too, in a Goldilocks kind of way (you know, not too much, not too little, but just right). And yes, I just made Cinderella and Goldilocks references in a single post. What can I say … I spend a lot of time hanging out with little people. Anyhoo, I’d like to try this sauce on pork chops or chicken sometime, too.
I’m really glad I had enough of this BBQ sauce left over to freeze the rest in a couple of batches. I’m not sure how it will turn out when thawed, but it’s worth a try. I’ll pop back in to update this post to let you know how that goes.
In the meantime, grab some rhubarb, make some sauce and see if your eaters can guess what the secret ingredient is!
Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
© Marlene Cornelis, Urban Cottage Life.com 2017
If you have rhubarb puree in the freezer (lucky you), just thaw a one-cup portion to add to the rest of the sauce ingredients. Otherwise, this is a good opportunity to make extra rhubarb puree if you have more rhubarb around, and freeze for future use. If you have the time, let the ginger and garlic steep for a few hours before removing. Otherwise, follow the directions below.
- 6 to 8 stalks rhubarb, or more, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch lengths
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and halved
- an inch or so of ginger, cut into chunks
- (optional) 1 minced red chile pepper or 1/4 tsp dried red chile flakes
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- pinch kosher salt
Place the rhubarb pieces in a saucepan, add a splash of water to cover the bottom of the pan and place over medium high heat, covered. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. The rhubarb should be very soft at this point. Puree with an immersion blender right in the pot.
Measure out roughly a cup of the rhubarb puree (reserve any additional for other uses) and return it to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Keep an eye on the heat; the sauce will bubble, pop and splatter. Cheeky stuff. When it’s done, remove the ginger and garlic pieces and store whatever you don’t need today in mason jars in the fridge for a week or so, or freeze.