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Rhubarb Chutney

rhubarb chutney

After going completely crazy for rhubarb back in the spring, I took a bit of a break from it in June (with all the other summer fruits and vegetables coming into ripeness, there was plenty to keep me occupied). However, during that fallow time, I still had rhubarb that needed to be used, tightly wrapped and tucked into the bottommost corner of my left-hand crisper drawer. When the 4th of July weekend rolled around, I decided to have a weekend of many canning projects. I made multiple batches of pickles (bread and butter & dilly beans) and jams (apricot), and finally did something with that neglected rhubarb.

Though the ends of the stalks were a bit worse for the storage time, the rhubarb was still in acceptable shape and more than good enough to be turned into something wonderful. Back when I made that batch of grape catchup (has anyone tried that recipe? It’s okay if you haven’t, it is sort of a weird one), I also noted two rhubarb recipes in close proximity. One was a recipe for rhubarb butter and the other was a rhubarb chutney. I headed into my canning extravaganza with every intention of making the butter, but on that Friday night, when I finally got around to dealing with the rhubarb, I had just finished making six pints of apricot jam, and I was weary of all those sweet notes.

My fingers flipped to the chutney recipe and wouldn’t you know, I had every single ingredient the recipe called for right there in my kitchen. It was fated (or I have a ridiculously overstocked kitchen. I think Scott would argue for the latter) and so I made chutney from my beloved New York Times Heritage Cook Book.

Thing is, I don’t really come from chutney people. We McClellans like our condiments just fine (I grew up dipping steamed broccoli in mayonnaise and roasted potatoes in mustard), but my mother has never been a sweet-and-savory-in-the-same-bite kind of person, so I grew up unaccustomed to the ways in which a good chutney can transform a dish. And I must say, this simple recipe is fairly transformational (at least for this chutney innocent).

It’s quite tasty (although I think if I make it again, I’ll make it just a bit spicier) and I have plans for it to encounter a nice slab of chevre sometime in the very near future (my latest party trick, when called upon to bring a contribution to a potluck or evening of in-home drinks with friends is to bring jam, goat cheese and crackers. It is so simple and people are completely impressed). If you’ve got some rhubarb to use up and you are tired of jams, cobblers, slumps and crisps, this is a good way to go.

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Grape Catchup

clean grapes

I have something of a problem when it comes to vintage cookbooks. I can’t walk by a used bookstore or thrift store without stopping in to scan for some interesting new title. Some I buy just for their kitsch factor, but I find that many older cookbooks I pick up haven’t lost their utility to age and have quite a lot to offer, particularly for a girl who’s interesting in reviving the waning art of canning.

One of my favorite volumes is the New York Times Heritage Cookbook. It was originally published in 1972 and was written by long-time NYT food writer Jean Hewitt (she also wrote the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, which was a staple of my childhood). It’s an unembellished book, but it manages to capture the many distinct faces of regional food that were once present in this country (fast food, national grocery brands and TV have homogenized us in so many ways).

5~ cups grapes

I pulled it off the shelf a couple of nights ago, in my search for pickled lime recipes. While it didn’t yield any helpful recipes in that direction, I discovered a very intriguing recipe for something called Grape Catchup (yes, spelled just like that) in the Mountain/Northern Plains section (the book is organized by region of the country). It seemed both easy, calling for nothing more than grapes, apple cider vinegar, sugar and spices, and strangely appealing.

I made it last night, filling the apartment with the pungent smell of hot, fruity vinegar (sounds like the name of a band made up of pickle makers). What came out was a really tangy, sweet/sour condiment that would make a great dipping sauce (I also think it would be amazing on baked chicken or roasted pork – oh god, a pulled pork sandwich with this instead of bbq sauce would be amazing). It has sort of a runny consistency, as the recipe doesn’t call for any pectin or thickener beyond the grape skins (which do contain some natural pectins).

Grape Catchup

Being that I now have four pints of this grape catchup in seven separate jars, I’m giving away two half-pint jars to a couple of lucky readers. If you want to try this tasty condiment that you absolutely won’t be able to find on your grocery store shelves, leave a comment by Sunday at 5 pm. And, if you want to make a batch yourself, the recipe is after the jump.

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