TASTE BUDS

Damp weather inspires Rhubarb Chutney

Posted May 25, 2011, at 11:45 a.m.

Everybody except my rhubarb is complaining about all this damp weather. I can’t remember seeing such lush stalks this early with huge dark green leaves suitable for wearing as a rain hat or carrying as an umbrella. There’s plenty of rhubarb available merely for the picking to make into chutney, marmalade and juice, in addition to the usual crisps, pies, cakes and sauces.

I keep my rhubarb in good condition by ruthlessly cutting off the blossom stalks as they sprout up, otherwise the plants would think they had fulfilled their destiny as far as procreation was concerned and die back. I don’t let them do that very quickly, greedy little rhubarb eater that I am.

This chutney recipe is based on one by Helen Witty whose daughter Anne lives in Georgetown, and whose wonderful preserving and pickling books I turn to all the time. (“Fancy Pantry” is one and “The Good Stuff Cookbook” is another). The recipe calls for fresh ginger, but I have substituted candied ginger when I had a bit too much of it on hand, and I have fortified the ginger flavor by adding a little ground ginger to the mixture, too. I also increased the onion and golden raisin content.

This is my first preserving exercise for the season and opening a new box of canning jars reminded me to caution you about the lids on jars sold in the new shrink-wrapped box. Be cautious about using those lids for sealing your jars full of food. The lids are actually put on tightly enough to turn them into used lids, and they may not hold a seal for your preserves. It may irritate the dickens out of you to do so and make you feel wasteful, but it is wiser to discard them rather than risk your jars not taking a seal. Why waste your canning effort with bad lids? Throw them out and use new lids!

Rhubarb Chutney

6-7 cups rhubarb stalks cut into small pieces

2 cups coarsely chopped onions

2 cups golden raisins

1½ cups white sugar

¼ cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root

1 tablespoon pickling salt

2 teaspoons mustard seed

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups cider vinegar

Combine everything except the vinegar in a heavy bottomed pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring very steadily to prevent sticking until the chutney thickens up and a spoonful dropped on a saucer does not weep thin liquid. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a quarter-inch headspace, clean the rim and put a lid on it. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Allow chutney to develop flavor for three weeks before using it.

Yields about eight cups or 4 pint jars.

Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. Email: sandyoliver47@gmail.com. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.

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