A rhubarb and apple chutney made with raisins, onions, brown sugar, and spices for a sweet and savory sauce that pairs wonderfully over grilled pork chops.
I admit that I haven’t always loved rhubarb. It’s honestly kind of a weird food. It looks a bit like celery, can be stringy and tough, is somewhat unpleasant raw, and is at its best when paired up with other ingredients. On its own, I find rhubarb to be an acquired taste and one that isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. Yet, with the right match, there is much to offer.
rhubarb can have other friends than just strawberries
The most famous of rhubarb’s culinary companions is the strawberry. I don’t deny that this is a tasty seasonal combination. But you don’t actually need strawberries to enjoy rhubarb. Maybe it’s my aversion to sticking with tradition. Maybe it’s that I think we should cook outside the box. Yet, 90 percent of recipes featuring rhubarb also involve strawberries. As my friends’ two-year-old would ask: why?
In fact, despite its tanginess, I refuse to believe that you need a crazy amount of sweetness to make rhubarb palatable. Not only are most recipes for rhubarb paired with strawberries, but they’re also loaded up with sugar. I have nothing against the farmer who sold me the rhubarb and assumed I would be making a pie. And certainly nothing against Prince Harry and his new wife, who served their wedding guests rhubarb tartlets this past weekend. I’m just saying that rhubarb doesn’t have to be made super sweet to enjoy, even if that’s where we’re immediately inclined to go.
All you need is a good mix of flavors to complement the uniqueness of this perennial springtime vegetable. If you opt to go in the sweet direction, I don’t blame you; I only suggest evaluating the amount of sugar in your recipe. If it seems unreasonable, then cut back, maybe just a little at first, and see what you think. Doing so will allow the rhubarb flavor to stand out a bit more while also helping you avoid a few empty calories. Especially if you do pair rhubarb with strawberries, don’t forget that strawberries are already quite sweet themselves.
making rhubarb and apple chutney
And then, you could take rhubarb in an entirely different direction. Oddly enough, the sourness of the rhubarb does well to cut the fattiness of the meat, such as pork. Rhubarb also takes on spices, such as ginger, surprisingly well. With that in mind, a chutney makes for unusually great use of rhubarb. A little sweet, a little tart, and with lots of spice, rhubarb chutney is the perfect accompaniment to a grilled pork chop this time of year. With an extra apple hanging around, I threw that into the mix for a rhubarb and apply chutney pairing. While the rhubarb cooked down into an applesauce consistency, the apple remained firm and provided some crunch. The vinegar added more sour notes, while the red pepper flakes offered just a tiny amount of spice.
Cooking this chutney was a symbolic transition into early summer. It incorporated a local apple, a fall/winter fruit that got me through the past many months. It also included both rhubarb and asparagus, vegetables that signify spring is here. And it was the first time I cooked on the grill this season. Unfortunately, in the process of cooking dinner, I had the realization that I’m desperately in need of a new grill.
The window of time on fresh rhubarb is short. While I tried it savory this week, I already have a rhubarb crumble recipe picked out for next time. Rhubarb ice cream is another one of my favorites. If you can, find a friend with a rhubarb patch who will allow you to divide some up and plant it in your own yard. That way, you’ll never miss out on rhubarb season. That's my plan, anyway.
how to freeze rhubarb
Don’t forget that rhubarb freezes particularly well, and you might want to save some to pair with the fruits of late summer. To freeze rhubarb, wash it off, shop it up into pieces, and put it directly into freezer bags. There's no need to cook it first, so it's a quick option to save your rhubarb for the future. When you're ready for it, use the rhubarb directly from the freezer.
If you want another delicious spring dinner, check out my Green Pea Pasta with Mint.Print