“Rhubarbecue” Homemade Rhubarb BBQ Sauce
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Over the past few years, I’ve come across different versions of this rhubarb BBQ sauce under various different names. Sometimes called Victorian or Victoria Sauce, other times called Rhubarbecue Sauce or the more literal Rhubarb BBQ sauce, this was one recipe that had always piqued my interest, but it called for a fair amount of rhubarb and we didn’t have a rhubarb plant of our own (and I didn’t really want to buy enough to try out the recipe).
But this year we bought our first house and were pleased to find that it came with three large, established rhubarb plants. Earlier this year I used a bunch of rhubarb to make this Rhubarb Juice Concentrate to add to drinks and cocktails, and I finally had enough to try some rhubarbecue sauce for myself.
I followed the recipe for Victorian BBQ sauce in my Ball canning book, but instead of using white vinegar I used apple cider vinegar to give it a slightly sweeter, “maltier” flavour.
*Safety note: If ever you decide to alter the type of vinegar in a canning recipe, make sure that the vinegar you are substituting has the same level or higher level of acidity as the one called for in a tested recipe. In this case, the white vinegar is a standard 5% acidity and I used store-bought 5% acidity apple cider vinegar in its place, maintaining a safe level of acidity in this recipe.
The end product was delicious! It was even better than I actually expected it would be, as I figured it would be a little overly fruity with all of the rhubarb and raisins in the recipe. But the fruitiness balances perfectly with the onions, vinegar and spices and makes this a beautiful homemade barbecue sauce to spread over grilled meats or spread on burger buns.
I got just under 3 pint jars of sauce with this recipe, so I canned two of them and put the other one in the fridge to enjoy this summer. Let me tell you, it didn’t last a week.
We didn’t just eat it with barbecue (although it was delicious spread on burgers with some One-Minute Homemade Mayo), we also used it as a condiment over eggs, macaroni and, yes, I even ate it straight out of the jar with a spoon.
That’s always a testament to a good canning recipe: Would you eat it straight with a spoon? In this case, hell yes. I’ve even taken to giving friends and family “sample tasters” on dessert spoons when they come to visit. But I’m definitely not giving any of these jars away!
I loved this recipe so much, in fact, that I decided having two jars put away was not going to cut it. So I harvested some more rhubarb (I just love that it has such a long growing season!) and made another batch of this sauce.
So now I have 4 pint jars put away and I’ve replaced the one in my fridge with a new one as this recipe always seems to make just under 3 pint jars per batch… even though the recipe in the book says it should make 4 pint jars. Maybe I just reduce mine a little too much? Please, let me know how many jars you get when you try this recipe out for yourself!
How to Make Rhubarb BBQ Sauce
Start by preparing your jars and lids if you’re planning on canning this sauce to make it shelf-stable (otherwise store in the fridge). Then, for the ingredients you’ll need 8 cups of chopped fresh rhubarb (toxic leaves removed, of course), 3 ½ cups of brown sugar, 1 ½ cups chopped raisins, ½ cup of chopped white onion, ½ cup of 5% acidity apple cider vinegar (or substitute white vinegar) and 1 teaspoon each of salt, cinnamon, ginger and allspice.
Throw it all in a large, stainless steel pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Then reduce heat to about medium to medium-high and boil the mixture gently until all of the ingredients begin to break down and mixture thickens up to the consistency of a standard store-bought barbecue sauce. This process of boiling gently and stirring frequently until the sauce thickens takes a total of about 30 minutes to get it to the right consistency.
Now, you could can it just like this as the ingredients do break down quite well during the boiling process. But personally I prefer a really smooth barbecue sauce, so to ensure there are no lumps or clumps of rhubarb or raisins in my sauce, I use my beloved Breville immersion blender to blend the sauce to a really smooth consistency.
Then it’s time to can it up! Be sure to leave ½-inch headspace and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then remove and let cool completely before storing.
Enjoy it as a marinade on chicken or pork (I think it would be fantastic on pork ribs) or as a condiment on, well, pretty much anything if you’re at all like me;)
I’m all about using sauces and dips with pretty much every meal, and I find this particular sauce really versatile! So it’s definitely worth the effort of collecting 8 cups worth of rhubarb for, even if you have to buy it at the market:)
Canning tools I use and love:
- Canning Funnel
- Canning Scoop
- Jar Lifter
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (this recipe is adapted from this book)
“Rhubarbecue” Homemade Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
- 8 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
- 3 ½ cups brown sugar
- 1 ½ cups chopped raisins
- ½ cup chopped white onion
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar (5% acidity or substitute white vinegar)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- Prepare your canner, jars and lids. Wash your jars and bands in hot, soapy water, rinse and bring to a simmer in your water bath canner to sterilize. Always use new lids for safe preserving.
- Combine rhubarb, brown sugar, raisins, onion, vinegar, salt and spices in a large, stainless steel pot and bring to a boil on high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium/medium-high and boil gently, stirring frequently until ingredients break down and form into a thick sauce.
- Use an immersion blender to blend sauce until smooth (or omit this part if you don't mind a few chunks of rhubarb and raisins in your sauce).
- Ladle into hot Mason jars leaving ½-inch headspace at the top. Slide a knife around the inner "edge" of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Adjust headspace as needed. Wipe rims, place lids on top and screw bands on.
- Place jars in canner and bring water to a boil. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, then turn heat off, remove lid and let cool in your canner for another 5 minutes. Remove jars and allow to cool completely before storing.
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂
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Thank you for posting this. We had so much Rhubarb last summer and ended up making a batch (8 pint jars). We cranked up the spice a little bit per our personal preference, but its really a great recipe! We’ve only made smoked ribs and crockpot meatballs for Christmas Eve with it so far but both times it was a hit! We’ll be making this every year. Bye bye storebought bbq sauce!
I was blessed to be able to harvest additional rhubarb today and made a double batch of this sauce. Used my lovely new immersion blender- definitely have a smooth sauce. I wound up with 2 pints and 10 half pints. I cannot rave about this sauce enough!!
That’s wonderful to hear, Roberta! Enjoy!
I just made this yesterday and absolutely love it. I also ended up with just under 3 pints. The next time I will utilize 1/2 pints as I opened my big mouth and promised a jar to my grandson and my sister!!
Next season this will be the first thing I make (multiple batches)!
So glad you enjoyed this recipe! It’s one of my favourites too:)
I made this earlier today with my homegrown rhubarb. Very delicious and such a creative way to use it up. I would think this would taste good on just about anything you put it on. I plan on trying it out on grilled pork chops but I could easily put this on yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies or on a tea biscuit or scone. Really good stuff.
Could dried plums be substituted for the raisens?
This should be okay (I presume you mean prunes). Prunes are slightly more acidic than raisins and since there is added vinegar it shouldn’t be a problem to substitute them. Just be sure to stick to the same amounts.
Wondering if I might be able to sub frozen rhubarb. We live in a cooler climate so I often cut up and freeze my rhubarb for winter use.
Yes, absolutely! You can use frozen rhubarb in place of fresh:)
Would you use the same measurements?
Yes same quantities. Just measure from frozen:)
You inspired me to use up some rhubarb sauce languishing in the back of the fridge. Skipped the sugar since the sauce had it; added a little cumin because I can never leave well enough alone. So good!
I’m allergic to tomatoes so alternatives are always welcome!
Ooh! That sounds good! I like the idea of adding cumin. 🙂
Wondering if I can adapt this to a electric pressure cooker. Any tips?
If you mean you’d like to adapt it to cook in a pressure cooker, that should be no problem. Since it’s a sauce, you can’t really overcook it. If you’re talking about canning in an electric pressure cooker, this is a no-no. You should never can in a pressure cooker. Only a pressure canner. While this is more important for foods that must be pressure canned (ie. meat, vegetables and other low-acid foods), I would jus steer clear of canning in a pressure cooker altogether. But to cook this in an electric pressure cooker would be just fine. Not sure if the timing but I would imagine it shouldn’t take more than about 5 to 10 minutes on high pressure to get it to a state where it’s soft enough to blend!
I know this is all about canning but if you weren’t set on canning, I would think you substitute other fruit (mango’s anyone?) and add hot peppers but freeze it instead. Or have a celebration and BBQ massive quantities and don’t worry about the canning at all!!
If you’re not canning this then you are free to get as creative as possible with this sauce! Mangoes sound delicious! and hot peppers too:) Just make sure if you are planning on canning it, you stick to a tested recipe for safety reasons. Otherwise the sky’s the limit!
How long will this last in the fridge if it is not canned?
I’ve had extra leftover that I put in a jar without canning and it lasted us a good two or three weeks (probably closer to a month actually). Not sure how much longer it would last as we tend to go through it by then! But I’ve never had any jars spoil in the fridge, regardless of whether they were canned first or not.
Oh, thank you so much! This is exactly the recipe I’ve been looking for. We have such an abundance of rhubarb here and this will be perfect to use some up!
No problem! This is one of my absolute faves. Just ran out of last year’s batch and have to make some more!
Can I add hot peppers to add some spiciness? Or would that change the ph enough to worry about?
It’s not recommended to add peppers to canning recipes as this can affect the PH balance. You can safely leave out peppers from a tested recipe, but adding them in can possibly be a cause for concern as peppers (even hot ones) are a low-acid fruit. I would love to say “go ahead and add one or two because you’ll probably be just fine,” but I also feel it’s better to err on the side of caution and stick to tested recipes.
Or add a dash of cayenne pepper perhaps should be fine
What else could I use in place of the raisins?
This recipe is adapted from a Ball canning recipe that calls for raisins, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable advising any type of swap in this case. The reason for this is that, while in normal cooking recipes, you might swap dates or dried cranberries or something for raisins, in canning this can affect the PH balance of the finished product which can make the recipe unsafe for consumption. I tried researching safe substitutes for raisins in canning but unfortunately didn’t find any trusted sources that could recommend a swap. I would advise sticking with the raisins in this case to be on the safe side. I will say, however, that if you’re on the fence about using raisins because you don’t like them, you would honestly never know there were raisins in this recipe when all is said and done. They get puréed completely and blended in. I hope this helps! Sorry I can’t suggest a safe substitute. Such is the science of canning though. Better safe than sorry.