It's Still Summer // Blackberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Summer is a nostalgic season and driving with the warm wind in the windows reminds me of nights as a kid. I used to creep out of my house when I was eighteen, padding down the driveway with barefoot feet to meet Joey before he started work at 4am. We'd listen to Band of Horses and look out across town for the few lights of people awake like us.

Even during college, I'd come home in June to brave the 100+ heat, mosquitos, and sweaty nights for swimming in still-cold Sierra Nevada lakes and picking blackberries. I have tons of old film prints and un-dated jams from summers blurry like heat waves above pavement. I should probably throw out those jams.

My friend Brianna, who has a lovely instagram documenting life in a tiny high Sierra cabin, is featured in many of these blackberry photos from different years, so we continued the tradition last week by gathering berries near her home. This is a dry, dry summer, so blackberries are harder to come by- but in shady corners and near empty stream beds we found a few good patches.

Although I still plan make some jam, I wanted to try something a little different with the harvest: enter blackberry BBQ sauce. I added a couple chiles and glugs of Bulleit Bourbon and out came a wonderful, tangy-sweet sauce with just a bit of heat.

Blackberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce

I used 3 Guajillo chiles and my sauce came out fairly mild- use more for a kick!
Makes 4 cups.

2 Ancho chiles
3-4 dry Guajillo chiles
1 Tablespoons preferred oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
6 tbs (about 1/2 a small can) tomato paste
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
2 quarts blackberries
1 cup honey
1 cup quality bourbon (I like Bulleit)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbs salt (or more to taste)

In a heavy pot or dutch oven, lightly toast your chiles over medium heat for 20 seconds on each side to bring out their flavor. Remove and roughly chop, removing stems. 

In the same pot, saut√© the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add in garlic, tomato paste, paprika, and mustard and stir quickly as the tomato paste begins to caramelize and stick to the pan. Before it begins to burn, add in the rest of the ingredients, including the chopped chiles. 

Simmer the entire mixture over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. When the sauce has thickened and reduced by a couple inches, blend with an immersion or regular blender.

press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds and chile skins. At this point it can be stored in the fridge or jarred and processed for 20 minutes (see how to can BBQ sauce here.)

Enjoy on meat, burgers or anything you's like a sweet, tangy flavor!