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~ Sweet and Savory K.C.-Style Cherry BBQ Sauce ~

IMG_0075I'm a huge fan of real-deal barbecue, and, I'm well-acquainted with most of the conventional, regional styles too:  North and South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee (Memphis), Missouri (St. Louis and Kansas City).  That said, I neither pretend to be nor want to be 'a player' in this particular sport.  I'm merely in awe of the people I know who have mastered and excel at its preparation.  My participation is happily limited to being a free-thinking, cocktail drinking, fair-weather fan.  I'm content to stand on the sidelines, watch intently and learn -- independent of the ever-present, my-way-or-the-highway, holier-than-thou:  barbecue police. I gleefully partake in eating their finished products, relishing in the complex flavors of their rubs and/or mops, but:

IMG_0071More often than not, for me:  it's the sauce that turns me on! 

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, "almost everything tastes better with a perfectly executed sauce on top of it, underneath it or to the side of it."  I stand by these words with barbecue being no exception.  When I'm eating barbecue, more often than not, it's the sauce that "turns me on".  For every style there is a sauce, and while I know what type of sauce to pair with which each style of barbecue, I also know when not to sauce at all (Texans are crazy).  

That said, when it comes to making barbecue sauces, I'm a hang-onto-the pot and enjoy the ride kinda gal.  I'm an advocate of the don't be afraid to think-outside-the-box "flavored-sauce" category.  The category in which, within each style of barbecue, within reason, it's acceptable to be creative and judiciously add underlying flavors (like chocolate, coffee or cola), exotic spice blends (like Jamaican curry, Japanese 7 spice or Middle Eastern Za'atar), and/or the taste-and-texture of fresh fruits (like berries, stone fruits and apples).  When done correctly, it's game on!  

IMG_7550 IMG_75983-4  tablespoons butter (3 tablespoons if using a round-sided saucier as pictured in this photo, or, 4 tablespoons if cooking in a typical flat-bottomed saucepan)

1  cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion

2-4  large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

1  12-ounce bottle chili sauce (1, 12-ounce bottle = 1 cup chili sauce)

1  cup ketchup

6  tablespoons full-flavor molasses

6  tablespoons firmly-packed dark brown sugar

6  tablespoons apple-cider vinegar

2  tablespoons yellow mustard

1  tablespoon chili powder

1/2  teaspoon smoked paprika

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4-1/2  teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, to taste

1/4-1/2  teaspoon hickory-flavored liquid smoke, to taste

3  cups, pitted (absolutely no pits) and coarsely chopped sour cherries, chopped (from freshly picked or frozen and completely thawed cherries

6  tablespoons cherry juice

IMG_7558 IMG_7556~ Step 1. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the diced onion and pressed garlic.  Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft and just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes.  Do not over-brown the onion or the garlic.

IMG_7573~ Step 2.  Add all of the remaining ingredients, except for the cherries, and, when you get to the cayenne pepper and liquid smoke, only add 1/4  teaspoon of each initially.  Stir to thoroughly combine.  Bring mixture to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring almost constantly.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and continue cooking and stirring for 10 minutes.

IMG_0020 IMG_0028Step 3. Stir in cherries and the cherry juice. Return to a gentle simmer and cook 10 more minutes.

IMG_0038Note:  After sauce has simmered 20 minutes, taste. Add additional cayenne & liquid smoke, if needed. Simmer 1-2 more minutes.

IMG_0061Step 4.  Sauce will be thick enough to coat  the spoon.  Turn heat off, cover pan and allow sauce to steep for 1-2 hours, to allow all of the flavors time to marry.  Don't skip this step -- it matters -- trust me.

Note:  Technically the warm sauce is ready to use, but, if you don't like your sauce with a slightly-chunky consistency, which my family insists on, feel free to process it in a food processor or with a stick blender.

Use immediately and/or refrigerate 2+ weeks.  Reheat prior to using.

IMG_0103Savory and Sweet K.C.-Style Cherry BBQ Sauce:  Recipe yields 6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cherry pitter; cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; 3-quart saucier w/lid, or a 3-4-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; food processor or stick blender (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0167671a1189970bCook's Note:  For another of my fruityBBQ-type sauces with a Tex-Mex flare, check out ~ Sweet Heat: Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce, or:  Summer Strawberries Never Tasted Sooooo Good! ~ in Categories 6, 8, 13, 20 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)


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