peach-plum bourbon barbecue sauce

posted in: cooking, preserving, recipes | 8

Summer in New York just feels different. We’ve survived winter! Again! Oh sunshine, I remember your lovely glow on my bare legs. The sundresses and sandals. And the produce. Oh my, the produce. Even the least excitable seems to enjoy the uptick in deliciousness around NY in the summer.

But maybe you’ve spit one too many cherry pits. Eaten all the raspberries off your fingers you can handle. Even feel fatigued by the strawberry shortcakes, apricot jams, buttermilk berry cakes. But don’t despair – summer fruits don’t just have to translate sweetly. Tender strawberries with black pepper; blueberries popping in salads. Watermelon piled high with feta and mint; and peaches and plums playing in sharp heat.

If you’ve never made a fruit-based barbecue sauce before, you’re missing out. Especially if you’re swimming in the fruits of summer. Whether the source is your home-grown peaches, a generous neighbor’s plum tree, your CSA fruit farmer, or overzealous enthusiasm at the market, I say go for it. Homemade barbecue sauce is the perfect practice in discovering what you love, because you control the composition. The recipe that follows has a definite kick to it – hot and tangy. Heavier in vinegar than i would naturally go for, but the fruit base carries it so well. Obviously, I want to see you make MY recipe, but don’t sweat the small stuff. If you see an ingredient below that you don’t have, make it work. Tomato paste for ketchup, a little more or less of the produce items would be fine. Or if Bulleit bourbon is on your hate list [as I know it is with one friend], whatever brand suits your fancy. Taste as you go, let your preferences lead the way. It’s how you build your own recipes.

If you’re a canner, one downside to tinkering is that you can’t willy-nilly can any creation. While i used Kaela’s canned rhubarb barbecue sauce as a guideline, rhubarb is high acid, peaches are not. I used more onion and less sugar. But there are enough preserving powers (vinegar, sugar, salt) in the barbecue sauce that it will last in your refrigerator. But don’t blame me if it disappears in a flash! Smother a cut-up chicken with the sauce and slow-cook it for a few hours, throw a slathered piece of pork on the grill, use it as a dipping sauce, even to amp up a vinaigrette.

peach plum bourbon barbecue sauce

I know standing over a hot pot doesn't sound appealing in the summer, but this is a dump-n-stir recipe. Perfect for when you have other kitchen tasks at hand - wash some dishes, stir, pick some green beans, stir. You get the idea.

4-5 cups

  • 2 pounds peaches & plums, halved and pitted
  • 8 oz chopped onion [about 1.5 medium onions]
  • 1 - 2 jalapenos, halved [depends on heat tolerance]
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, whole grain or smooth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. My enamel dutch oven was deep enough to catch the lava-like sputters and the wide mouth ensured fast evaporation, great for thickening the sauce.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. When the fruit seems soft enough to mash, about 10 minutes of simmering, use an immersion blender to puree. If you don't have a hand blender, get aggressive with your potato masher.
  3. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally to avoid scorching. Take a spoonful of sauce and let it cool on a plate. Taste it. How do you feel about it? If the flavors seem a bit off, play a bit with additional amounts of the ingredient list. If it's too runny, keep simmering; too thick, add some bourbon, stock or water. Keep in mind, the sauce will thicken as it cools.
  4. Note: If you only used a masher before, now is the time to take the sauce to your blender or food processor. Fruit sauces are always going to be thicker, so I like a good puree on it. it gets as smooth as possible without straining the sauce.
  5. Once you're happy with the flavor and consistency? Chill out. Let the sauce cool for 10 minutes, and bottle or jar it in the containers of choice. Let the containers cool completely and refrigerate.

P.S. I was going to take better pictures for the post. Maybe even show you the lovely peaches. And then I forgot. And then I just wanted to share the recipe with the world. So enjoy my glass bottle obsession, won’t ya?

8 Responses

  1. I love you. I have to admit, my stomach *did* lurch a little when I saw the Bulleit bottle but I love your recipe nonetheless! Thank you E!

  2. Hah. I couldn’t resist putting something back into that substantial bottle. I hope you can play around with the recipe and a bourbon of your choice! 🙂

  3. Bulleit – FTW!

  4. I have a question regarding the recipe. Is it 4 pounds total of peaches and plums or 4 pounds of peaches and four pounds of plums? I am new to making my own food and want to be sure 🙂

  5. Carrie,
    It’s actually 2 pounds of fruit, and it can be any mix of peaches and plums. So if you had 1.5 pounds of peaches and 1/2 pound of plums, or 1 and 1 or any combination. Mine was about equal portion of peaches and plums but do what works best for you!
    Let me know what you think of the sauce if you make it.

  6. […] Adapted from […]

  7. Is it possible to can this?

  8. theresa

    Given the proportion of vinegar to other liquids, I would say this is safe to can (peaches may not taste acid, but nonetheless, they qualify).

Leave a Reply