When I was a little girl growing up in my grandmother’s house, we had few store-bought canned goods. I ate homemade strawberry preserves and red plum jelly plopped on buttermilk biscuits regularly for breakfast. Could explain why my dress size was a “chubby” in those early years. The food in my grandmother’s kitchen was pretty amazing, although for me it was just how food was—never encountered the Pillsbury Dough Boy back then. But some things my grandma cooked up were not as appealing… at least not to me. For instance, my grandmother had an immense fondness for stewed rhubarb on toast.
I couldn’t begin to count the mornings I sat at the breakfast table watching her ladle this slimy, pink concoction onto dry toast. I simply refused to try it. After all, the alternative was strawberry preserves and plum jelly. No brainer in my young mind. But this negative image stuck, and I have shunned rhubarb, even in the popular traditional dishes like strawberry-rhubarb pie, all my adult life. I figured if you had to keep covering it up with strawberries, how good was it, really? But I’ve matured (I hope) with a more open mind.
So this summer, in the spirit of being brave in the kitchen, I set out to make a dish with rhubarb. It took me to the end of its season—when it had all but disappeared from the market—to get my nerve up. And, as luck would have it, the end of rhubarb season is the beginning of ground cherry season. Might I find inspiration in this combination of citrus-flavored little golden berries and the sour, tangy taste of rhubarb? Perhaps I could hit on something original for those who are burnt out on the strawberry-rhubarb combo. Keith Biver had everything I needed—the rhubarb and the ground cherries, so off to the kitchen to experiment with Rhubarb and Ground Cherry Chutney.
This was not my first attempt at a chutney—a usually sweet, sometimes spicy condiment that traditionally shows up with India cuisine to brighten vegetarian dishes and makes a flavorful topping for meat and seafood, too. You can add chutney to a simple dressing to create a whole new salad experience, and it is a great way to use up garden produce that might never have a chance to make it into your kitchen; for example my Green Tomato Chutney from last fall, when I was “stuck” with 10-plus cups of green cherry tomatoes that would never turn before the first frost. It was a winner! Donald was all about Green “Tomato” Gal Chutney dolloped over SS Backwards Longhorns grilled brats. For me it made a wonderful addition to grilled salmon and cod.
Bravery did pay off here. My rhubarb cooked down to a beautiful consistency (Maybe the “slime” was simply a child’s perspective.), and the last-minute addition of the delicate ground cherries created another layer of sweetness, texture and complexity. I’m just not sure how my memory of rhubarb could be so far off reality, except that my palette did actually mature (There was even a time when I did not eat tomatoes as a child!) and my commitment to writing this blog has forced me outside the comfort of strawberry preserves.
Hope you can give this recipe a try. The biggest challenge was finding ground cherries before the rhubarb disappeared. Their respective seasons barely overlap. However, I came upon this handy-dandy website called Rhubarb Central that contains tons of recipes and step-by-step freezing instructions! I will be freezing quite a bit of rhubarb next year and keep on being brave.
- One pound rhubarb, washed, dried and cut into one inch pieces (If there is very tough skin on any of the stalks, I remove that with a vegetable peeler.)
- Two cups ground cherries, hulled, washed and dried
- One-half cup chopped dried apricots (I strongly recommend you avoid conventionally dried apricots and spring for organic.)
- One cup light brown sugar
- One-half cup apple cider vinegar
- Two whole cloves
- Zest and juice of one large orange
- Two tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- Pinch of salt
- One-half cup raw chopped pecans (My pecans come from local Cooley Farms.)
- Combine all ingredients except the ground cherries and the pecans in a heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally so that the mixture does not stick.
- Once the rhubarb has cooked down and become soft and silky, add the ground cherries and cook for about 20 minutes more.
- Remove from heat, fish out the two whole cloves, and stir in the pecans. Let the mixture cool down; then, refrigerate.
Keeps about two weeks in the frig. Makes a lovely homemade hostess gift, if you are taking it to a party.
If you’ve been reading along with me this summer, you know I recently took a big step forward in my culinary journey by spending a morning with good friend Lony Less learning to can. Of course, I was considering the possibility of canning my new rhubarb chutney as I stirred my little pot, and next year I’m pretty sure we’ll give it a try. It will be the hit of the 2017 Christmas Box. On my ground cherry bucket list for sure!
For this fall, I’m all about learning to can sauerkraut. You see, sauerkraut is not so much a food I enjoy (In fact, I can barely stand it.) but a medicinal supplement I use during cold and flu season—a natural, probiotic protection for my lower gut, the place where, according to the latest research, all problems start. So I’m for anything that will make sauerkraut taste better, including new canning recipes.
I was delighted to discover an informative article in Delicious Living Magazine entitled How To Ferment Your Own Foods by Carsen Snyder. There are two recipes for sauerkraut—one using green cabbage and one using red, plus several other ideas, including one for rhubarb! Do check it out and see if you can not only find a way to include healthy fermented foods into your diet for winter but also find some yummy recipes to grace your table and the tables of your family and friends.
So what new foods have you been cooking with this summer? Share!