Saturday, June 13, 2015

New Use for Rhubarb in Chutney

I have been sidetracked since I ordered and received a new book (for me), called The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz. Knowing little on this subject, I had not realized (consciously) how many of the foods we eat are fermented. The fact that I have been entranced by Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and where I learned to create a sourdough starter from wild yeasts, somehow completely bypassed the thought of "fermentation" going on. I will go into this topic more at a later date. I am just beginning this particular journey and have yet to try any of the foods. At present, I have sauerkraut fermenting on the counter, as well as dilly green beans and - a creation of my own - "Lacto-Fermented Picalilli". None of these are ready to eat yet. Fermentation has begun, so we wait and see. Reading the book, and Katz's extremely clear explanations of these foods and how to make them, he points out instances of recipes that are actually in some other cookbooks I own! I had recently bought Anne Volokh's book, The Art of Russian Cuisine, wondering if my Grandmother's Serbian cooking roots had any basis in Russian cuisine. Katz cites Volokh's book a few times. I hadn't even had time to get through looking at "...Russian Cuisine" yet! 
Fresh rhubarb from Farmers' Market

So that is where my mind and heart have been lately. I have been "cooking", but minimally. When I was trying to use up the big bag of rhubarb my friend Tetiana gave me, I was making most things as desserts. When I think of rhubarb, I immediately think of Mom's Rhubarb Pineapple Pie. Since 2012, I have made Rhubarb Cake, Rhubarb Pecan Coffee Cake, Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars, Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam, Rhubarb Cream Pie, Gluten-Free Rhubarb Coffee Cake, and there may be other things I am forgetting at the moment. When I finally worked through the bag of rhubarb, I realized I had never written down my mom's Rhubarb Pineapple Pie recipe! I wanted to remedy that. However, a visit to the doctor a few days ago made me rethink all these desserts.

Since I have been avidly reading about lacto-fermentation of foods, I wondered how rhubarb would result if fermented. I was online, looking through recipes, when a totally unrelated recipe popped up, truly catching my attention. It is from a site called Peppercorns in my Pocket. The name of the blog caught my attention first. I love peppercorns! I may also have mentioned a time or two how much I love India, all things Indian, and Indian cuisine? Well the woman writing this blog, Pia, is from Calcutta, currently living in the UK. She writes wonderfully well, and has some excellent photography - not just of food - on her site. I have it listed now as one of my "favorite blog sites" at right, because she really captured my attention. I spent quite some time there, and plan to spend some more. She explains how rhubarb is not an Indian ingredient, yet when talking with her Mom, an Indian "pickle" came up as an idea. 
Rhubarb Cherry Chutney with Hibiscus Flowers

In the US, our idea of what constitutes a chutney has really broadened. More often than not it is a thick, cooked, sweet and sour mixture, similar to what we buy in the store as Major Grey's Mango Chutney. I make a really heavenly Mango Chutney that we really love in our household. Other chutneys, more true to Indian style are thin, such as Mint and Coriander chutney (Dhania Poodina) and a tamarind chutney. These bear no relation to the sweet, thick chutneys like Major Grey's. I love both kinds. Indian "pickles" however, are not what we in the US consider "pickles" at all. Many of India's "pickles" are made in the lacto-fermented style. They can be made with most ingredients, generally chopped up and fermented or cooked, or left in the sun to dehydrate. Some Indian "pickles" I have tried are mango pickle, both sweet and hot and lime pickle. I have not explored deeply into this aspect of Indian cuisine, but have enjoyed what I have tried. 

Rhubarb Cherry Chutney with Hibiscus Flowers

So, when finding the blog, Peppercorns in My Pocket, and reading a recipe for a Rhubarb "Pickle", I got an idea. Running with this idea, I made a list of ingredients to add to rhubarb to make a chutney of a sort. My first thought was mango, but this would necessitate a trip to the grocery. Somewhere I read online that dried cherries were used, so I switched to that idea. Dried cherries were already in my pantry ;-)
Hibiscus sabdariffa, whole and in bits

At the time of creating this recipe, I was also brewing some hibiscus tea (hibiscus sabdariffa), called Rosa de Jamaica in Guatemala. If you have not had this tea, the flavor, depending on how strong the tea is made, can be exceedingly tart. Think "cranberry!" So looking at the tea brewing, I wondered about adding some of the hibiscus, ground to a powder, to add flavor and color to the chutney. I actually used both dried and ground hibiscus and some that I soaked first, leaving the individual calyx "petals" whole. This part of the recipe is absolutely 100% unnecessary. If you do not own the tea, do not feel you cannot make this chutney. It was a complete after thought, though delicious. I used various spices that are generally associated with Indian cooking, such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, black pepper & brown mustard seed. The final chutney is quite delicious, and I cannot wait to use it either on pork chops or chicken, or with an actual Indian recipe.  Here is the recipe. 

Rhubarb Cherry Chutney with Hibiscus Flowers

makes about 5 cups
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, or 4 1/2 cups cut up
3 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 - 2 jalapenos, chopped, with seeds
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2-inches diameter
4 - 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried hibiscus calyces, ground
1 tablespoon hibiscus calyx bits, whole, soaked
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds, whole
4-inches true cinnamon (soft-stick)
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, whole
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Heat a large canning kettle about half filled with hot water. Bring to a low boil, reduce to simmer and place clean canning jars and rings into the pot to sterilize.

Cut the rhubarb into 1/2-inch bits and put them in a large stainless steel or enameled cast iron pot. Add the chopped onion and tart cherries and the sugar and vinegar. add the remaining ingredients and set pot over medium heat and bring to boil. Once boiling, stir occasionally for about a half hour, reducing heat if necessary to keep a low boil. Towards the end of the cooking time, stir more often, to avoid scorching, until the mixture thickens like for jam. 
adding ingredients to pan      |      stirring ingredients together      |     ingredients cooked to jam stage

(Complete canning instructions can be found here.) Once the mixture is ready, with tongs, remove one jar from the simmering water. Add in the round lids to the simmering water only at the last. Use a canning funnel to aid in filling the jars to about 1/2 inch from the top. Use a damp cloth to clean the rim of the jar.  Use the tongs or a magnetic wand to remove one lid from the water and set it atop the filled jar. Remove one of the rings and tighten onto the jar. Repeat this with all the jars and chutney. Set a canning rack into the boiling water and if too much water has boiled out, add in a little more hot water. Set the jars onto the canning rack and bring the water to a full boil. Cover with lid and boil for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude:

From 1,001 to 3,000 feet, add 5 minutes
From 3,001 to 6,000 feet, add 10 minutes
From 6,001 to 8,000 feet, add 15 minutes
From 8,001 to10,000 feet, add 20 minutes 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.