Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

I don't like to think that we're inching our way closer to the end of summer knowing I have not utilized my grill as much as I said I'd have used it when I was grill-less. I longed for grill smoke and barbecuing almost daily when I didn't have one, and now here sits mine, lonely and cold in the backyard. In my defense it has felt particularly rainy this year.

Since I've been gifted gorgeously sweet cherries this year and my grill has been sitting cold and unused I decided to play with a sweet and spicy twist on barbecue sauce. I love chipotle peppers and, in warmer months especially, there's always a can or two in the pantry for my favorite go to chipotle marinade (also great for the grill). Barbecue sauces are so varied it's kind of tough to make them "wrong". There might be a few staples, like sugar and vinegar, but barbecue sauce changes depending on region and personal tastes.

I thought this up when there was a big bowl of cherries in the house and then I accidentally ate all of the cherries! Now that the cherries are in sauce form, I'm still finding ways to eat this on everything I can and slathering extra on the ribs.

This was a small batch test recipe but it was so good I couldn't keep myself from sharing it with you. This made a 12 ounce mason jar plus a few spare ounces which is technically plenty for basting and passing around the table. It will make more if you prefer a thinner sauce, but I like mine thick and sticky. 

A few things first. I do not have a fancy cherry pitter so I cut and pitted these by hand, I actually found it find of soothing but I'm odd that way. Cut into the cherry like you would an avocado and use a fork or your fingers to help you pry the pit loose. There's no need to be pretty about this, but again, I found the cut cherries quite pretty so I made it nice.

I kept the spices very simple here because we make up for spice in the dry rub and really allow the sweetness of the cherries and the smoky heat of the chipotle to shine through.

If I had to label this on the heat emoji scale I'd give it a 🔥🔥1/2. 
Mostly because we're accustomed to barbecue sauce being sweet only but this heat is nice and layered. There's a slow build to it and most of the spice kicks in after several repeated applications of the sauce or what you decide to add on in dipping/slathering while you eat. I keep most of the hot heat out of this by using only the juice from the chipotle in adobo and squeezing the peppers through cheese cloth to get max amount of juice but no seeds - which hold most of your heat!

A moment of caution: I looooove this sauce. Big love. Serious, super, in love with this. I became embarrassingly ravenous the second I sank my teeth in an (equal parts delicious) pork rib that had been grilled with this. Maybe save this for good friends or someone you are weeding out by the true test of "how messy are you willing to be when BBQ is involved?" A fair test for all promising relationships.

1 tbsp vegetable or other flavorless oil
2 1/2 cups whole black cherries, pre-pitted
2 medium white onions, chopped
8oz can tomato sauce puree
1/4 light brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 can chipotle in adobe, liquid only, about 1/2 cup
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
salt to taste

In a medium saucepan (this is my semi giant enameled cast iron but I use it for everything), heat oil until hot, and saute onions until soft and translucent. Once soft, add cherries to the pan and saute down as well about 10 minutes. Add can of tomato sauce the pan and cover over a low simmer until the cherries break apart easily under a wooden spoon another 10-15 minutes. Stir every few minutes.

When cherries are soft, add sugar, chipotle sauce and vinegar, bring back up to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer another 15-20 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally to avoid burning and monitor the amount of liquid in the pot. Using an immersion blender smooth the sauce of any chunks. If you don't have an immersion blender carefully transfer to a blender and work in batches. Taste as this stage for salt.

Add remaining spices - cumin, paprika and worcestershire and stir or whisk to incorporate. Leaving the cover off and your heat low, stir steadily allowing the sauce to reduce to your desired thickness. 

Use immediately on any grilled meats, store in the fridge for a few days or use water-canning method to seal in Mason jars for safe shelf storage.

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