Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rhubarb to the Rescue -- Blog from a Dreary Sunday

Well, it goes without saying that I should be outside doing one of the many projects that I have set for myself this Spring. But, let's face it, Spring just isn't cooperating. We have had one of the wettest, dreariest, and coldest Springs in a very long time. Considering the tremendous flooding and tornadoes being experiences in other parts of Canada and North America, it just doesn't seem right for me to complain.

This particular Sunday, we woke to a heavy rainfall and I had to act fast to rescue my bedraggled seedlings left out overnight to start to acclimatise to their new reality. Some, I'm afraid, may not make it through their soaking. Sigh.

With Gerry buried in a new firmware project and me up having tea and a bagel by 7am, I decided to boost my spirits. As the grey set in closer and closer, I began chopping rhubarb for chutney. I had a few early stalks from my own garden and had also purchased some at a local produce market. Rhubarb is the early riser in the spring garden and first sight of what Jessica calls its brain (its clump of new leaves forcing themselves to the surface) really signals Spring for me.

Of the things I preserve during the year, I particularly love rhubarb chutney. It's peculiar and beloved balance of sweet and sour, savoury and candy wins over most people. But mostly its the bronze peculiarity amongst the jewel tones of the jams, jellies and canned fruits that convinced me that it is my favourite canned item of the year. Rhubarb chutney has no pretense. It's the vegetable among fruits and it declares it proudly. It survives quite nicely thank you in recycled Cheez Whiz jars, not needing the special handling of a lot of preserves (as long as those jars have their snap lids still usable).

The recipe comes from a distant family member, no longer with us, so concocting this preserve every year reminds me of all those dear to us who no longer share this reality and is a way to honour all that they left us. I have written it into my copy of "The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes: by Marvin Levinson, one of my favourite preserving cookbook and left to me by my Dad because he loved the book and would have loved the preserve.

Within the half hour, the whole house smells like vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. The pot of potent liquid happily gurgling on the stove, transforming from a brash liquid to a gelatinous condiment that we feast on all year. 

Rhubard Chutney:

4c chopped rhubarb
2 c chopped onions
4 c white vinegar
4 c sugar
2 tsp ginger
4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
4 tsp salt

Cook onion and vinegar for 15 mins. Add remaining ingredients and boil until thick. Bottle.

It does seem very liquidy when you first combine everything in the pot but patience, as in most things, pays off in chutney making. Allow the pot to simmer slowly on the stove for as long as it takes to thicken. I tend to make a triple batch at a time so this simmering can go for a couple of hours on low-med heat. Trust me. It is worth the wait. Opening a bottle of homemade chutney to accompany a roast pork, bbq steak or piece of chicken is a truly pleasant feeling.

That glugging contentedly on the stove, I chopped the rest of the rhubarb and built a crisp for dessert tonight. Combining with the vinegar-ry shock of the chutney cooking, the sweet bready smell of the crisp tried its best to attack us. Luckily, no one seems hungry at the moment and the cooling crisp is safely cooling on the counter. So I guess that a rainy Sunday isn't the end of the world. Life siddles by and we hug as much of it as we can.



  1. I love rhubard, but have never tried it as a chutney. The recipe sounds delicious and I will definetely give this a try. What would you serve this with?

  2. This stands up well to good with a bbq steak, can be more subtle with some roast chicken or even a grilled pork chop.

  3. I used a apple chutney recipe from moosewoods and added rhubarb. It was so great. Thank you for suggesting it! Such a great idea.

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