Sweet and Sassy and Bluegrassy
There’s this little secret edible stalk of species (that may or may not look like a bunch of red celery) that I have always had a sweet spot for. It grows so well in the Midwest, and I have recently found out that it grows really well in the Pacific Northwest. Rhubarb. I once paid $12 a pound to have it in Texas because it does not grow at all down there. I think my mom had a heart attack when I told her that. The other day I paid $2 for almost 2 pounds of it up here. It’s the weirdest and quite possibly the most bland plant, but I love it. The amount of fun things you can make with it is incredible. Sweet or Savory. Rhubarb Crisp, Rhubarb Pie, Rhubarb Bread, Rhubarb Jam, Rhubarb Sauce, and a new one for me, Rhubarb Chutney.
My very first job as a 14 year old I worked in a Dinner Theatre called the Maple Club. And my best friend Melissa and I would work shifts on the weekend, spending most of our time slaving over the toothless dishwasher named Annabelle (“Daub the tops”) and stuffing our faces in the kitchen with the leftovers. The chef was one of the finest I’ve ever seen. And being from a small town in central Illinois that was a rare find. Joyce. She was a legend. And her culinary skills were extremely special. She would make this chutney and serve it over cream cheese and you would dip it with crackers and it was just ridiculous. Anyone that knew Joyce knew about this menu item. That and her chicken salad. Maybe I’ll hunt down that recipe someday!!
I recently tried out a Rhubarb Chutney recipe at our house. My neighbors gave me almost 5 pounds of it. A little tart and sweet and savory all at once. Sooo good over a little cream cheese. Makes a fantastic Appetizer.
2 cups diced rhubarb (about 3/4 pound untrimmed)
1 tart apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Combine all the ingredients in a heavy nonaluminum sauce pan. (I like to add in Cherries or Raisins to this recipe) Bring slowly to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb and apple are very soft but still hold their shape. Do not allow them to turn into mush. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cool and chill before serving.
There is this band that I have forever loved… I saw them once at The Railroad Revival Tour with Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe in Los Angeles. They have the ability to take me back to Illinois as a small town farm girl. Old Crow Medicine Show, an American String Band from Nashville, is the kind of band that I always want to listen to in the kitchen. They make me so happy!! Their song Down Home Girl has me singing and dancing in all the right ways. Even while making Rhubarb Chutney. A little Sweet and Sassy and Bluegrassy. A familiar flavor and feeling from my childhood.
I remember my mom growing rhubarb in the backyard every summer as a kid. I remember the huge stalks of it that we would clip and turn into pies and crisps. It always meant the end of spring and the beginning of summer. That turn of the seasons from mild degree temperatures to really hot. The opening of the pool. The immediate shift of shorts and tank tops. It's the combination of the sassy pick of the banjo and the sweet yet savory flavor of the rhubarb that has me reeling this spring. And I hope it will do the same for you!