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Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

Pender Island Life, Recipes

The cold weather hasn’t stopped the rhubarb.

Pretty much everything else in the gardens on Pender is struggling to keep up.  Penderites often tout our rock as Canada’s Mediterranean — our position in the rain shadow between Vancouver Island and the mainland means that we see less rainfall than the rest of the Pacific Northwest.  We’re generally a couple of degrees warmer too.

At least that`s what we claim — and most years it’s true.  But while Howard and I were off gallivanting around the UK, enjoying cloudless blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures, we’re told that Pender’s rain shadow lost the plot completely.  It rained almost everyday we were gone, and it’s just as cold here now as when we left for our trip in mid-April.

And so, along with the seeds everyone planted in March/April (as per usual), the humans of Pender are in a state of shock, wearing rain gear as a second skin and contemplating our woodpiles.  Do we really need a fire tonight?  It’s the end of May…enough already!


Except for the rhubarb.  It’s very happy indeed.  Mine, shown above, is actually puny compared to the stalks available at the Farmer’s Market this past Saturday.  The growers tell me the secret is manure, and lots of it. I know the manure would help, but first I have to get at the weeds that have been moving in for the past 2 years.

You see, I’ve decided that I can cook  food or I can grow it — I can’t do both — and the truth is that I’m a much better cook than gardener.  While the lack of circulation in my hands may result in flaky pastry, it also makes my thumbs more blue than green, if you know what I mean.

rhubarb-barbecue-sauce-ingredients translucent-onion

The idea for this rhubarb barbecue sauce came from a friend.  As the words floated from her lips, visions of blackened pork loins basted on the grill, then doused with a final dip before serving, floated before my eyes — a must make.

Daydreams rarely work out as well as this sauce.  It’s thick, with a good balance of sweet and tang.  And as soon as I took it off the stove, the clouds parted, and the sun’s rays immediately found the barbecue on the deck.

That’s what I call a good omen.


This sauce is liberally adapted from a 2008 Washington Post recipe.

(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

: Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

: A slightly sweet barbecue sauce with a lot of tang. Great on grilled pork or chicken.

  • Safflower Oil – 2 Tble
  • Onion, diced – 1 cup
  • Rhubarb, chopped (½” pieces) – 4 cups
  • Light Brown Sugar- ¾ cup (lightly packed)
  • Tomato Paste – ½ cup
  • Bouquet Garnii – 2 bay leaves, 6 peppercorns, 1 dried chili, 2 cloves
  • Dijon Mustard – 2 Tble
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – 2 Tble
  • Honey – 2 Tble
  • s+p – to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and sweat for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring almost constantly, until it is translucent and soft. Watch it closely to make sure it does not brown.
  2. Add the rhubarb, brown sugar and tomato paste and saute for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup water and the bouquet garnii, and bring the mixture to a low boil. Reduce the heat to med-low and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until reduced and thick.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and cool for 30 minutes. Remove the bouquet garnii, then stir in the dijon, vinegar and honey. Puree with an immersion blender or food mill until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and adjust the seasonings.
  4. Use as a baste for grilled pork or chicken. Serve extra sauce alongside for dipping. Keep leftovers, covered and in the fridge, for up to 2 weeks.


  • I use safflower oil, because I prefer to avoid GM oils like canola and soy.
  • I use a large tea ball to keep my bouquet garnii all together and in one place when I’m flavouring stocks and sauces.  I found some extra-large tea balls at a market in Victoria’s Chinatown.
  • You can also use a square of cheesecloth or unfilled tea bags (also available in Chinatown)
  • A food mill fitted with the medium plate will produce a smoother sauce than an immersion blender.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)

Yield: approx 3 cups