Cherry Guajillo BBQ SauceThursday, July 23, 2015
It's prime cherry season, also known as the only time I will suck up the cost of a huge bag of sweet cherries. Towards the end of June I start stalking the grocery store to watch the prices go down. For our area, the lowest cherries get is just under $3 per pound, so that's when I pounce. Cherries are on the high end for summer fruits, but considering they can go up to as much as $7 per pound out of season, now is the time to take advantage. One of the obvious choices to make use of a plethora of cherries is pie, so you better believe I made a delicious one right off the bat. But last summer I discovered that barbecue sauce really lends itself to the addition of cherries. Besides flavor, cherries add a ton of body and a deliciously deep dark red tone to sauce that only adds to its appeal. I played around with different versions of my recipe until the cherry season came to an end and have been longing to pick back up ever since.
Teetering along the boundaries between sweet and savory is one of the more interesting lessons in cooking I've explored lately. Barbecue sauces are a great way to experiment with that. A good sauce in my book is balanced with savory elements, acidity, heat, sweetness and a bit of smokiness. When building a sauce, I tend to start with traditional barbecue ingredients such as onions, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, molasses and tomato. From there I add other seasonings and flavors that play up my star ingredients. Last summer I used Ancho chile powder and jalapenos to bring heat to this sauce, which was good, but dare I say expected? This time, I instead turned to Guajillo chiles, a favorite of mine for my fish taco marinades. The fruity, smoky, moderately spiciness of the dried Guajillo chile brings a warmth and depth of flavor that is a beautiful match for grilled food. It brings heat but doesn't overwhelm the sauce - this is about the cherries, after all. Bonus? Guajillo chiles are almost exactly the same color as cherries, which further added to the intensely deep red color of the sauce.
Finally, the "surprise" ingredient of the list is definitely the vanilla bean paste. Amazing, amazing, amazing. The sauce just wouldn't be the same without it. I needed confirmation that vanilla can work well in a savory application and I definitely found it here. It's one of those quirky things I saw mentioned a few times in magazines and blogs, so my curiosity finally got the best of me when I was making my batch of cherry barbecue sauce. Vanilla brings out the sweetness of the cherries and molasses in such a unique way that couldn't be replicated by adding more sugar. I stirred a tiny bit of vanilla paste into the simmering sauce and was blown away. I added a little more, and literally gasped. I love those tiny little life altering moments when cooking. Speaking of which, vanilla paste itself is a fairly new ingredient for me.I really love the convenience of scooping out a little bit of the paste instead of scraping vanilla beans. It has way more flavor than vanilla extract without the added liquid or alcohol. If you don't have the paste, scraping out the beans from a vanilla pod is your best bet for substitution to match the flavor.
My cherry barbecue sauce can be used for just about anything your heart desires, but it does something miraculous to smoked baby back ribs and grilled chicken wings, if you're looking for a good start! It also makes a fantastic condiment for a good juicy beef burger. This recipe makes a ton of sauce, so I recommend splitting it up into mason jars to store some for use beyond the season. The water bath canning process isn't hard at all to follow even if you haven't canned before. I hope you guys have fun with this one!
2 tbsp canola oil
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 lb cherries, pitted & chopped
8 oz. Goya Spanish style tomato sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. blackstrap molasses
1/3 c. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or 1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large jalapeños, sliced (for milder sauce, remove core & seeds)
Kosher salt, to taste
Servings: Makes approx. 2 quarts
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 1 hr
Suggested Equipment: Large heavy bottomed pot, upright or immersion stick blender, cherry pitter, mason jars and lids for canning
Add tomato sauce and pitted cherries.