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~ Sweet, Savory & Spicy: Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney ~

IMG_1392 (1)Besides a store-bought jar of the beloved Major Grey's mango chutney, which I have on hand in my refrigerator at all times, in the Fall and Winter you will find a container of my homemade apple chutney, and, in the Spring and Summer, you will find a jar of my rhubarb-ginger chutney.  I make each one, once a year, every year, and freeze it in small containers so I'm never without this very-versatile sweet, savory and slightly-spicy flavor-boosting condiment -- it is a staple in my kitchen.  

IMG_8729 IMG_7359When I first encountered chutney, I was a young adult and it was served as a spread for cheese and crackers.  I loved it, and before long, I was using it as a topping or spread  atop small slices of toasted firm-textured bread with roasted meats and hearty cheeses (crostini), and, in my  South African grilled cheese sandwiches and Jamaican curried deviled eggs.

A bit about "Chutney":   Having its origin in India, the name comes from the East Indian word "chatni".  The chutney most of us Americans are familiar with is a preserved sweet and savory condiment containing fruit and/or dried fruit, vinegar, sugar and an array of different spices. Similar to its next of kin (jam, relish and salsa), it ranges in texture from chunky to smooth and in degree of spiciness from mild to hot.  Unlike its next of kin, chutney is  simmered low and slow for a lengthier amount of time.  In India, chutneys are commonly made and eaten fresh (originally with a mortar and pestle, nowadays a food processor), many are vegetable- rather than fruit-based and contain a wider array of ingredients (like mint or cilantro, ginger, tomatoes, yogurt or coconut milk and/or peanuts), and, are typically served as a side-dish/accompaniment to Indian curried dishes.  It's worth mention that even in India, chutneys are very diverse because Indian food varies greatly from region to region and is dependent upon locally available ingredients.

Pucker up baby:  tart rhubarb is perfect for chutney.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd1e256e970bIs there a difference between green & red stalked rhubarb?

The color of rhubarb is not related to its suitability for cooking, however, the red rhubarb sold in the grocery store, unless marked "locally grown" is grown in hot houses.  I find this type of rhubarb to be a bit dry and subdued in flavor.  Outdoor varietes can vary from red, speckled with red, light pink or simply green (like mine).  Green stalked rhubarb is more robust (tart) and produces a higher yield, but, red is sure more popular with consumers.  I grew up eating green rhubarb and didn't realize it came in red until I was old enough to do my mom's grocery shopping for her.  The rhubarb we grow in our Happy Valley vegetable garden was transplanted from my father's garden, which was transplanted from his father's garden in Eastern Pennsylvania. 

No.  They are both perfectly ripe & ready to be cooked.

IMG_13091  cup apple cider vinegar

1  pound dark brown sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

2  tablespoons pink peppercorns, lightly crushed  (Note:  These "little peppery jewels." are not peppercorns or related to a peppercorn.  Originating in Peru, they are a dried, fragile-skinned berry that Amazon rainforest natives use to make homemade pink peppercorn beer.  Because their skin is fragile, they are easily crushed with the flat side of a chef's knife, to release their delicate, fruity, peppery flavor -- pop one into your mouth for a most enjoyable nibble.)

1  15-ounce box golden raisins

1  ounce garlic paste, or fresh garlic cloves, processed in a food processor (about 1 tablespoon paste)

8  ounces ginger paste, or fresh ginger, peeled, chopped and processed in a food processor (about 8 tablespoons paste)

4  pounds green or red stalked rhubarb, trimmed of woody ends & sliced into 1/2" pieces 

IMG_1310 IMG_1313 IMG_1317 IMG_1321 IMG_1328~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot,  stir together the vinegar and brown sugar, until sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the salt and peppercorns, followed by the raisins.  Slice the rhubarb, as directed, placing it in the stockpot as you work.  If using garlic cloves and ginger root, prep them as directed, place them in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, and, using a series of 30-45 rapid-on off pulses followed by the motor running for 15-30 seconds, process to a paste.  Add the garlic paste and ginger paste to the stockpot.  Slice the rhubarb, as directed, placing it in the stockpot as you work.  Using a large spoon, take a moment to give the mixture and thorough stir.  Adjust heat to medium-high.

IMG_1331 IMG_1333 IMG_1335 IMG_1338 IMG_1355~Step 2.  Stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until rhubarb has lost about half of its volume and mixture is thick, 30-40 minutes. Watch carefully and stir constantly during the last 10 minutes of the cooking process, as the mixture can and will scorch quickly.  Remove from heat, partially cover and set set aside to cool completely, 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.  

Portion into 1-cup food storage containers & refrigerate...

IMG_1348... several hours or overnight, prior to serving chilled...

IMG_1366...  & freeze the balance for future chutney enjoyment:

IMG_1372Deli-ham & melted-cheese chutney-topped crostini anyone?

IMG_1384Sweet, Savory & Spicy:  Rhubarb-Ginger Chutney:  Recipe yields 10 cups. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor (optional); 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; 10, 1-cup food storage containers w/tight fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c906d115970bCook's Note:  There is a certain satisfaction in teaching people how to love food made from a misunderstood ingredient.  Rhubarb, sometimes called "the pie vegetable" is one such ingredient. Whether it's green or red stalked, a slice of old-fashioned rhubarb pie is a favorite of mine.  For those of you who like your rhubarb pie unadulterated (no strawberries please), and that includes not too much sugar: ~ Pucker-Up for a Straight-Up Rhubarb Streusel Pie ~. Give my very special Pennsylvania Deutsch recipe a try -- oh my pie! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)


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