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One of the few negatives associated with doing a lot of canning is that there are times when you just can’t eat everything you make.  As a child of the Clean Your Plate era, this is troubling.  I give away a lot of jars: jams, salsas, pickles and more, to the point where sometimes I worry that my jar recipients won’t be able to finish theirs, either.  The standard eat-by date for jarred foods is one year after it was produced; the jam isn’t bad on the 366th day, but safety dictates that you should be pretty careful about eating anything older than one year.  I maintain a strict rotation and labelling system in my Canning Cupboard, but in spite of all my good efforts, I inevitably find a jar that’s a bit past its prime.  Such was the case with three half-pints of plum-nectarine preserves I unearthed Wednesday.

Plum-nectarine preserves is a wonderful recipe I made each summer when the plum trees in the alley behind our old apartment were at their peak.  We would go out and pick 5-6 pounds twice a week or so, and I was out of ideas for what to do with the fresh plums very quickly.  One fine day in August 2009, I decided that I would try my hand at canning them.  I found a honey-sweetened fruit preserves recipe from Eating Well magazine and adapted it to use 3/4 parts plum to 1/4 parts nectarine; it worked beautifully.   This was the first non-pickle recipe I ever canned.  Aw.

When I found the three rogue jars, I wanted to do something with them, not just throw them away.  I made this batch of preserves in late September 2010, so they were just past the one year “expiration date”.  I was not in a baking mood, so I decided to see what would happen if I turned them into barbecue sauce.  I started making my own barbecue sauce this spring, tired of the not-quite-right store varieties.  My reasoning for using preserves as the starting point was based on a barbecue sauce recipe I saw with fresh peaches and brown sugar as the main ingredients.  Hmm.  I thought I could probably put something together.

Here’s the recipe for what I made with exact ingredient proportions.  I would call this a success– it is thick, vinegary, spicy & sweet, which is how I like my barbecue sauce.  But, it didn’t go the way I expected at all.  I can’t tell that there’s any fruit in it, and I certainly can’t taste any plum or nectarine.  My preserves were not sweet enough to account for all the sweetness needed to balance the barbecue sauce.  I thought they would take the place of brown sugar and peaches in a traditional recipe, and that wasn’t the case.  But… and this is a big one… no one else has this particular type of preserves to use as the base.  If you try this using a regular peach/ plum/ nectarine jam (especially a sugar-sweetened one), be very careful about the amount of sugar you’re adding.  I had a deficit to make up for that you might not have.  That said, it tastes really good!  I feel like I saved my three precious jars from a sad ending.  The recipe yielded a ton, so I will enjoy my plum-nectarine barbecue sauce all winter long.  (Yes, I know it’s not barbecue season.)

Fruit Preserves Barbecue Sauce

  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, minced
  • 1 5 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 3 cups fruit jam or preserves (peach, pineapple, plum or nectarine would be good)
  • 6 T. brown or dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  • 3 T. brown sugar*
  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. bourbon (optional)

In a large saucepan on medium, heat the canola oil and add onions to the pan.  Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, allowing onions to soften and sweat but not brown.  Add tomato paste to the pan and mix.  Add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, water, preserves and mustard; combine and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add molasses, brown sugar (see note), chili powder, black pepper and red pepper, if using.  Turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  Add bourbon, if using, and allow to cook for 5 minutes more.  Taste and adjust seasonings and sweetness as needed.  Be careful not to add too much additional red pepper, as the heat will develop further as it rests.  Cook for 10-15 minutes more to thicken.  Remove from heat, allow to cool, and store in an airtight jar or container.  Sauce will keep in the fridge for approximately 6 weeks.

*You may consider leaving out the brown sugar and adding it at the end, if needed.