Fact: rhubarb is tart. Lie: In order to enjoy rhubarb we must overwhelm it with sweetness.
While the sweetness of ripe strawberries certainly pairs well with rhubarb, rhubarb can actually be a star all on its own. When I saw the first pink rhubarb stalks of the season a few weeks ago, local strawberries weren’t even ready for bubbling together in a pie. So I wondered what else I could do.
Looking back on other rhubarb recipes that I’ve previously shared, I wasn’t feeling good about the amount of sugar they contained. And I refuse to believe it is necessary. Then I remembered a rhubarb chutney recipe that Joann, our bookkeeper at RAFFL, shared a couple of years ago. Sadly, Joann will soon be leaving us and moving on, so I thought now was a good time to revisit her rhubarb chutney. Now I just need to figure out who will appreciate my sense of humor when she’s gone.
Since I didn’t get a chance to make Joann’s chutney at the time of posting (it was winter), I was excited to give it a try this spring and find that I was right – rhubarb doesn’t need to rely only on sweetness to taste good. I made a few adjustments to her recipe, like adding in orange zest and juice and replacing the sugar with honey, and I liked the results.
In this chutney, the rhubarb is sliced into pieces and sauteed along with chopped red onion. Before long, the rhubarb starts to break down and release its juices while the onion becomes tender.
The chutney gets a good kick of flavor from ginger and garlic, one of my favorite seasoning combos. A splash of cider vinegar and honey help round it out. I think rhubarb does need some sweetness, but it shouldn’t be overpowering. I think the mildness of honey helps solve my over sweet rhubarb frustration.
Raisins also help add some natural sweetness that I don’t feel guilty about while also not overwhelming the dish. Then, before the chutney finishes simmering, orange juice and zest are stirred in.
The result is part sauce, part condiment that can be paired with pork, fish and poultry or simply over toasted bread with melted cheese. But if you are looking for a sweet rhubarb idea, try this frozen yogurt or this compote.
- 12 ounces rhubarb
- 1 red onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup honey
- splash of apple cider vinegar
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 orange
- Wash and chop the rhubarb into half inch pieces. Roughly chop the onion.
- Heat a pan over medium high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the rhubarb and onion and let cook until rhubarb has softened and released its juices and the onion is tender. About 10 minutes.
- While that cooks, grate the ginger and mince the garlic. Add to the pan when ready to go.
- After 10 minutes of cooking, add the honey, vinegar and raisins. Taste and season with salt as you see fit. After 5 more minutes of simmering, add the zest and juice of the orange. Stir. Remove from heat and let cool to thicken.