Rhubarb BBQ Sauce
From Rob Levitt of The Butcher & Larder
I adore barbecue. Everything about it appeals to me. The long, slow cooking of tough, fatty cuts, the dynamic texture contrast from the tender, juicy meat mingling with the charred bark, the smoke and spice….
What I love most about barbecue as a butcher, though, is the controversy. Everyone is an expert and everyone’s sauce/rub/method is the best. Everyone’s hometown favorite is the best, and if you are from one of the major barbecue regions of the US, your barbecue is the only true barbecue and all others are false.
The beauty of being a neutral party is that I can explore all of the barbecue regions and choose my favorites. Last summer I was obsessed with Eastern North Carolina style barbecue. The summer before, it was all about Rodney Scott and South Carolina Whole Hog, and after a trip to KC, I was obsessed with Burnt Ends.
Middle America barbecue is a curious thing. It seems to take components of different regions and combine them into a sticky, spicy, tangy kind of thing that does well with beef and pork. Texans and Carolinians often shake their heads at Memphis and KC, but its appeal is undeniable and I am so into it this year.
One of the best parts of working at Local Foods is seeing all the new products coming into season. It really gets the wheels spinning. So when I saw the first green stalks of rhubarb hitting the shelves, I couldn’t help but wonder if cooking it into a barbecue sauce might add an interesting tang to a Memphis style sauce. It did indeed!
Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce:
This can be used for anything from basting ribs on the smoker to spiking an otherwise unassuming hamburger. Yields about 2 quarts. Covered in the refrigerator, this keeps about 2 weeks.
1 bunch Rhubarb (about 4–5 large stalks), chopped in 1 inch pieces
1.5 Cups Sugar
1 medium Onion, roughly chopped
1 T Cayenne Pepper
1T Ground Black Pepper
2t ground mustard seed
1 t Ground Ginger
1 t Ground Cinnamon
2 T Onion Powder
1T Garlic Powder
2 28 oz cans Tomato Puree
1. Mix the rhubarb and sugar together and let sit for at least an hour or overnight.
2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, cook the onion in a little bit of canola (or olive if you prefer) oil until just starting to brown around the edges.
3. Add the rhubarb/sugar mixture, juices and all, to the pan and simmer until syrupy.
4. Stir in the spices and cook another 2 minutes. Add the tomato and salt. Stir well and let simmer over medium low heat for about an hour.
5. Puree with a hand blender (or a regular blender…) or pass through a food mill. Taste and add more salt if needed.
6. If you like you sauce tangier, add a few dashes of cider vinegar. If the sauce seems too thick, you can thin it out with water (though I’d rather use Bourbon…)