Sweet cherry barbecue sauce. It’s bright, tangy, and perfect for the summer cookout season.
A couple weeks ago, just before I headed out of town to teach my Omega workshop and then go to my cousin’s wedding, I did a bunch of canning. I made roasted peach jam. I made a tiny batch of gooseberry jam. And I made a batch of sweet cherry barbecue sauce, using three pounds of cherries from my Canbassador booty.
I have mixed feelings about barbecue sauce. I think this is, in part, because of my parents’ position on the stuff. My dad loves it (and once invested in a friend’s sauce making venture) and my mom can’t stand it. What’s more, I’ve spent the entirety of my adult life without any grilling space. So my ability to make things appropriate for barbecue is limited at best.
However, in recent years, I’ve discovered just how good these homemade sauces are when poured into slow cookers and used as a tasty braising medium for things like pork shoulders and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. And so, I’ve gradually expanding the number I make each year.
Whether you’re a huge fan of barbecue sauce or you’re lukewarm on the topic, I highly encourage you to explore this one!
Oh, and a quick tip about pitting cherries for things you’re going to cook down. Instead of working each one through the cherry pitter, remove the stems and heap them into the pan you’re going to use to cook the sauce. Add half a cup of water, cover the pot, and simmer the cherries for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the pot from the stove and let it cool. Then, reach in and use your fingers to pop the pits out of the cherries. Wear gloves if you’re concerned about staining your fingers. It takes no more than 10 minutes to pop the pits out of the cherries when prepped this way. Easy.
If cherry barbecue sauce doesn’t float your boat, try my classic, tomato-based recipe!
Sweet Cherry Barbecue Sauce
- 3 pounds cherries pitted
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup minced onion
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- Combine all ingredients in a wide pot with a tight-fitting lid and stir to combine.
- Place lidded pot on the stove over medium-high heat and cook for approximately 20 minutes, until the cherries and onions have softened.
- Continue to cook, with the lid off, until the mixture has reduced by approximately half.
- Remove pot from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth (you may have to tip the pan a little in order to do this without splashing). If you don’t have an immersion blender, scrape the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
- If the sauce is nice and thick, it is done. If it’s still a little watery, return it to the heat and cook a bit longer. At this point, taste it and add more salt or pepper, if necessary.
- When it’s finished, remove the pot from the stove and funnel the finished sauce into the prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.