Monday, August 25, 2008

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Rhubarb Chutney

Because rhubarb is such a harbinger of Spring, I’m happy we’re still getting the crunchy red stalks around here as the summer draws to a close. The nights have been just a hair cooler here recently, enough to put me in the mind of autumn and of places I used to live where that made a difference. Here? It means you think twice about wearing shorts out after the sun goes down.

So, taking inspiration from an afternoon I once spent in the heirloom gardens of culinary historian and seed-saving juggernaut William Woys Weaver, I loaded up on rhubarb. Weaver kept several varieties of the huge plant growing in his gardens and, as a parting gift, laid about ten pounds of the stuff on me. At his suggestion, I made a mess of chutney.

This time around, I consulted a few dozen books for recipes using “pie plant” (so-called because the stalks were so widely used as pie filling in years past—a use of which I heartily approve). In the end, I combined several chutney recipes to come up with this one that goes well with grilled chicken and pork.

As a belated thanks, Will, here's my nod to one of the most backward-looking gardening projects I've had the pleasure to know. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Rhubarb Chutney

The rhubarb will throw off a lot of liquid as it cooks.

1 lb rhubarb, cut into ½” pieces
zest of 1 large orange
2 small or 1 large onions (12-14 oz), chopped small
2 Tbl fresh ginger, finely minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper (e.g. Turkish Aleppo pepper)
1 tsp dry mustard
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
½ cup dried cherries
1 tsp kosher salt

Put all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook 10-15 minutes. Uncover and cook another 20-25 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down into less distinct shreds and colored the whole mass ruddy.

Makes about two pints.


Blair, aka Trader Tiki said...

That looks fantastic.

I would love to make a Bloody Mary with a big stick of Rhubarb as Garnish. It just seems right.

Matthew Rowley said... intriguing idea, Blair. Maybe one of the thin stalks trimmed to fit the glass's height or a fatter one split lengthwise? In either case, make sure it's one of the modern varieties that don't need to be peeled.

Bloodies stand up pretty well to pickled things (green beans, okra, jicama, olives, etc). I wonder if a brief vinegar bath would give a little more bite/interesting contrast to the rhubarb. Balsamic or orange could bring out some interesting tastes and not be too much of a disconnect with the bloody mary.

Let me know if you end up doing anything with that.