Along the Grapevine


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Rhubarb Chutney

I have been making rhubarb chutney as long as I have been cooking. It is more than an condiment for Indian dishes – it can be added to sauces, meatloaves, dressings, dips and sandwiches. It is simple and quick to make, and takes care of all that surplus, if that is a problem, in a way that will preserve it for the months to come. I have not made it the same twice – the choice of spices is endless and it is worth trying different combinations. Starting with rhubarb, sugar and vinegar, just add whichever spices you fancy. Make it as spicy or sweet as you wish, and just follow your nose (the olfactory part that is).

The problem with my rhubarb is that it is not of the ‘pretty’ variety. The middle is green, and although it tastes as good as any, it makes the chutney brown. In this recipe, I attempted to make an appealing red colour, so I offer a few tips to achieve this, as well as a method to prevent overcooking the rhubarb which I think also detracts from its appearance.

In order to do this, I used forced rhubarb, a method I described in an earlier post. This is not necessary, but it did make a difference in the colour. Below is a picture of my freshly picked forced rhubarb. It really is a bit sweeter and more delicate than the grown-in-the light variety.

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I also made a rhubarb custard pie with some of it, just to highlight the beautiful colour.

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To reduce the cooking time of the rhubarb and prevent it from collapsing into a stringy sauce, I cooked all the other ingredients first and added the rhubarb just for the last few minutes.

I processed half the jars in boiling water for ten minutes, and this also had an effect on the colour, so if you want a really pink product, it’s best to seal in jars and store them in the freezer. I also used a red vinegar, namely one in which I infused red choke cherries, but I’m not sure this made a significant difference.

Rhubarb Chutney

Ingredients

6 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups cider or red vinegar

1 onion

3 red chili peppers

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

1 stick cinnamon

3 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp fennel

1 tsp salt

1 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

Method

Mix the sugar and rhubarb and allow to stand overnight or about 12 hours. Strain the syrup from the rhubarb and mix it with all the other ingredients. Cover the mixture with a tight fitting lid, bring it to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the rhubarb. Continue to cook for a further 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is just soft but not disintegrating.

Makes 1.5 litres.

DSC03387.JPGLinked to Fiesta Friday #172

Dandelion Flower Syrup on Punk Domestics

Other rhubarb recipes: Rhubarb Ice Cream;  Crabapple, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam;  Sumac and Rhubarb Soup;  Rhubarb and Berry Crisp;  Spruce Tip Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Sauce;   Wild Berry Tarts with Rhubarb Curd;  Rhubarb Crabapple Ketchup


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Rhubarb Tart

Now that rhubarb is in season, here is a novel way you can serve it. Baked in a vegan custard and a puff pastry it is a simple recipe to add to your answers to “what do I do with all this rhubarb?” DSC03045.JPG

I developed this recipe in response to a recipe challenge set by one of my favourite food bloggers, Sonal of Simply Vegetarian. If you are not familiar with her blog, do pay her a visit. Her reliable, delicious and exotic recipes are a credit to the food blogging community.

The conditions of the challenge were to make a vegetarian semi-homemade, that is homemade with a store bought pastry base of any kind. So I purchased a package of puff pastry.

It is really just the beginning of rhubarb season here, and my rhubarb was not quite ready for picking when I baked this. However, a couple of weeks earlier I had started an experiment to force the first shoots. I covered one small patch with a ceramic chimney (actually our well cover) and placed a stone on top – any tall opaque vessel would do. Two weeks later I uncovered my experimental patch and this is what I found.DSC03026

The covered patch was much taller and ready to pick while the other rhubarb was close to the ground as seen in the above picture on the right. The leaves were smaller and yellowish, but the rhubarb was bright pink or red with snowy white interior.DSC03030

This variety of rhubarb is usually green inside with only streaks of red on fairly green stalks – fine for cooking but not the prettiest. This was much prettier. It was also sweeter and a lot less fibrous. Of course, any rhubarb will work, but the redder the variety you get, the better the appearance. I will definitely be doing this again next year and more of it.

I also wanted to make a vegan custard. As the challenge is for a vegetarian dish, though not necessarily vegan, I wanted to make it appealing to as many readers as possible. Also, I was running low on eggs. This was definitely another experiment for me, and again one that worked. For the custard-like consistency, I simmered some flax seeds and strained them. A little sugar, cardamom for flavouring and almond milk for bulk, it really couldn’t be easier or more fool-proof.

Rhubarb Tart

Ingredients

500 grams puff pastry

a few stalks of rhubarb

flax seed liquid+

2 cups almond milk

3 Tbsp thickening flour (I used tapioca flour)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp freshly ground green cardamom

1 Tbsp rhubarb or other fruit bitters (optional)

Method

+ To make the flax liquid, bring 2 Tbsp flax seeds to a boil in 1 cup of water. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Use the seeds in the strainer to add to a smoothie! For a lighter colour than I achieved, use golden flax seeds rather than the dark ones.

Roll out the puff pastry to fit a pan 12 inches by 9 inches and prick all over with a fork. Mix the flax seed liquid, milk, flour, sugar and cardamom and heat gently, stirring frequently, until it thickens and the flour is cooked. It will still be more liquid than the final product since the flax seed won’t set until cooled. When semi-cooled, add the bitters if using them.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and place rhubarb pieces of about 3 inches in length and slit lengthwise if very thick neatly on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the crust is golden and the rhubarb is cooked, about 30 minutes.

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The custard will be very liquid when it comes out of the oven, but will set as it cools. Serve as is or with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or drizzle of syrup. I used honeysuckle syrup.

Many thanks to Sonal for her initiative and for inspiring me to try something new! I enjoyed every bit of it.


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More about Bitters & a Recipe for Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream

This ice cream and the meringues are both flavoured with rhubarb bitters , the recipe for which I posted a couple of weeks ago. The flavouring is very subtle, not at all bitter, but really does enhance the flavour of the dish. These are just two examples of how a fragrant fruit bitters can be used.DSC02979

Since I made my first batch of bitters, I have been curious as to just how to make use of them. After all a good half litre is a bit much for the odd cocktail. I have used it to make a salad dressing for fruit salad, mixed with fruit juice, zest, ginger and honey;  I used it to glaze sweet buns; best of all I added a teaspoon or two to my coffee. In each of these applications, the bitters enhanced the flavour of whatever it was added to with the most delicious floral notes and aroma.

Ice cream seemed a good place to start, and if you have a favourite recipe of your own, I would recommend adding the bitters to that. Frozen desserts are one of my favourite ways to experiment with flavours, so I decided to stick with the rhubarb theme and mix that and fresh ginger in a sauce which was mixed into a standard ice cream custard mixture. If you are not convinced that it is worth making your own ice cream, just consider the wonderful variations you can create which you would never find even in the best ice cream parlours – much less any supermarket.

Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar or honey

1/2 cup chopped rhubarb

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 cups 10% cream

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

4 Tbsp rhubarb or other fruit bitters

Method

Mix the first three ingredients in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and simmer until the rhubarb is soft and the ginger cooked, about three minutes.

In a separate pan heat the milk to just below boiling. Gradually add a small amount (about 1/4) cup to the egg mixture and blend, then add another of the same amount and do the same. Pour the egg mixture into the milk and simmer until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and mix in the rhubarb mixture. When the custard has cooled, add the rhubarb bitters. Chill, process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then freeze. Makes 3/4 litre.

And since I had three egg whites, I whipped them with 3/4 cup sugar, 1/3 tsp cream of tartar and a splash of bitters. Dried in the oven for an hour at 220 degrees F and allowed to cool in the oven once done. I made some ice cream sandwiches with the small ones, and the larger ones I used as a base. Either way they were great.

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Linked to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #113, Sonal at Simply Vegetarian and Laurie at ten.times.tea.

Related posts: Anise hyssop and Peach Ice Cream; Olive Oil Ice Cream with Balsamic Wild Strawberries; Salted Caramel Spruce Ice Cream


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DSC02951Until recently, bitters were just something I kept in the liquor cabinet for the odd occasion when a cocktail was called for. Since my lone bottle was not getting a lot of attention, I started to add it to some savoury recipes for a little extra zing. Without really understanding what bitters were, my ideas for its uses were somewhat limited.

Lately bitters have been garnering a lot more attention, and rightly so since they can enhance the flavour and aroma not only of cocktails but myriad dishes including pastries, desserts, grilled anything to name just a few. Once I realized the variety of flavours on the market (for example orange, lemon, coffee pecan, cardamom, celery) I determined to find out more about this promising concoction and how I could make my own.

So I bought a book. This one is by Brad Thomas Parsons and is called A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes & Formulas BITTERS. It is a riveting read about the convoluted history of this tonic, its uses, sources and how to make it. He offers a definition of bitters which I found very helpful to understand what to expect.

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Bitters are an aromatic flavoring agent made from infusing roots, barks, fruit peels, seed, spices, herbs, flowers and botanicals in high-proof alcohol (or something glycerine).  … One of the biggest misconceptions about bitters is that  using them will make your drink bitter. Although this is understandable – tasted by themselves, bitters often taste slightly bitter or bittersweet – the term “bitters” refers not to a specific flavor but rather to the category of aromatic solutions made with bittering agents such as gentian root and cinchona bark. Bitters are essentially a liquid seasoning agent for drinks and even food…”

After reading several of the recipes, I figured I would have to tweak them as the ingredients were numerous, sometimes unknown, and often difficult to find. But tweaking works, as long as you have a combination of alcohol, principal flavour, bittering agents and and assortment of spices, herbs, flowers etc. These recipes also allow me to use some of my own cultivated or foraged plants, such as hops, wild cherry bark or dandelion leaves.

Since rhubarb season is soon upon us, I decided to follow the recipe for rhubarb bitters making a few changes according to what I had available. Since my rhubarb is greener than what is recommended, something that does not affect the taste, I decided to enhance the colour with a couple of reds, namely dried hibiscus petals and highbush cranberry sauce. Most of the unusual ingredients, like cinchona bark, can be found at a good herbalist’s, such as Herbie’s Herbs in Toronto.DSC02937

The basic method is to infuse the ingredients in alcohol (usually vodka, bourbon or rye) for two weeks. After straining this infusion, set the liquid aside and add some water to the solids and cook briefly. Allow that to sit another week. Strain and combine the two liquids. Add a little honey and allow to sit for another three days.

Rhubarb Bitters

Ingredients

2 cups chopped rhubarb

zest of 2 organic lemons

2 Tbsp highbush cranberry preserve

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

3 juniper berries

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp cinchona bark

1 Tbsp dried hibiscus flowers

2 cups vodka

water

2 Tbsp honey

Method

Place all the ingredients except vodka, honey and water in a jar. Pour in the vodka and give it a good stir. Allow to sit for two weeks in a cool place away from direct sunlight, and give it a shake daily.

After two weeks, strain* out the liquid and set aside in a jar. Place the solids in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for ten minutes. Pour this mixture into a jar and store for a week out of direct sunlight and give it a shake daily.

Strain* this mixture, combine the two liquids in a jar and stir in the honey. Set aside for three days and again, shake daily.

*To strain, I first use a regular sieve to remove the majority of the solids, then I strain it through a funnel lined with a coffee filter. This takes some time, but the result is clear and requires no additional filtering.

Rhubarb Bitters on Punk Domestics

This same method can be used for virtually any combination of flavours – I look forward to creating more flavours using local and seasonal ingredients. This recipe makes about 2 cups of bitters. At first I thought this might be excessive, but having tried it I know I will have plenty of ways to use it, some of which I hope to share in future posts.

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As a first taste test of the final results I made a very simple soda and bitters drink. I used about 1 oz. of bitters and 6 of soda, but mix according to your own taste. As Parsons explained, the result was far more aromatic than bitter, and a very light and pleasant drink.

Linked to Fiesta Friday #111, Naina at Spice in the City and Julianna at Foodie on Board.

 

 

 

 


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Wild Berry Tarts with Rhubarb Curd

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When I read Lindy’s post on rhubarb curd, I knew I had to make it. Not only do I have a huge supply of rhubarb, but I also happen to be fond of all things rhubarb, and good rhubarb recipes are not easily found. I will not re-write the recipe, as her explanations are clear and easy to follow and can be found here.

It is a delicious variation of lemon curd and can be used easily for any recipe calling for that. I am always happy to find recipes where local ingredients can be used in lieu of imported ones. Not that I have anything against lemons, but I know the lemons we get here are not the same as where they are grown, so why not find a local alternative when possible.

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I figured this would be a perfect combination for the berries I have been picking lately, and the best way to pair them would be in small, bite-size tarts. Any berries would work, but I used mostly black berries, raspberries and red currants.

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Any kind of pastry is fine, but I made two versions of this one, a dark one with palm sugar and red fife flour and a light one with white sugar and white flour:

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups ground almonds

1/2 cup palm sugar (or other sugar)

1/3 cup butter

1 egg

Method

Blend all the ingredients together until you can form it into a ball. Cover and let rest in the fridge for about an hour.

It is difficult to roll this pastry, so just roll each tart separately using an appropriate amount for the size of mould you are using.  Once in the tin, weigh it down with some marbles or other weight (like beans or lentils). Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for another five minutes. Allow to cool.

To make the tarts, fill the centre with some curd and arrange berries on top. They keep well refrigerated for up to three days.

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Blueberries, now in season, would be perfect too!

Linked to Fiesta Friday #79


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Spruce Tip Panna Cotta with Mint Rhubarb Sauce

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The season for spruce tips is quickly drawing to a close, so I wanted to present one more recipe using this not-to-be-passed-up-on ingredient while there is still time.

I’m told there are slightly different flavours on different trees and that a common favourite is blue spruce. I have been sampling tips wherever I find them, and really can’t say my taste testing has helped me come up with a favourite, but you might want to sample some for yourself. The flavour should be citrussy, sweetish and with a light resin taste.  This is the tree I picked from.

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Something that pairs extremely well with the flavour of spruce is cream, which is why I decided to make a panna cotta. Less rich and certainly less work than ice cream, it makes for a light and refreshing dessert, especially when combined with fruit. Rhubarb happens to be the only fruit I have in the garden just now, so that and a little mint which goes with just about anything is what I used to embellish this dessert I am taking to Fiesta Friday #69.

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Spruce Tip Panna Cotta with Mint Mint Rhubarb Sauce


Ingredients

2 cups cream (10%)

1 pkg gelatine

1/4 cup hot water

4 Tbsp sugar

1/4 cup spruce tips

Method

Dissolve the gelatine in hot water. Heat to just before boiling 1/2 cup of cream and mix with the gelatine until it is completely dissolved. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Mix the rest of the cream and the spruce tips in a blender or food processor until the liquid becomes a smooth green with not tips visible. Strain through a sieve and mix with the gelatine mixture. Pour into 8 ramekins or other moulds and chill until set.

For the rhubarb sauce, sprinkle 4 Tbsp sugar over 1 cup of rhubarb. Allow to rest until the sugar dissolves. Heat the rhubarb until soft. Add 6 finely chopped fresh mint leaves and 2 Tbsp white wine. Bring to a gentle boil for 1 minute, cool, pour over the panna cotta and serve.

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Crabapple, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

At this time last year I was harvesting no end of crabapples and managed to use them preserved in some form or another for the whole year. I discovered several varieties, all of which were a pleasure to cook with. It became my favourite fruit – easy to pick and store, pretty, and useful in so many recipes – from spicy marinades to sweet treats. Some of my favourite recipes were: crabapple cordial; crabapple pastebiscottivinaigrettechips.

I was looking forward to finding more varieties this year, maybe planting a tree or two, and trying some new recipes. However, our one tree has so few fruits on it this year, I figure I will just let the birds have them all. Here is a picture of our tree last year.

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I did manage to collect some from a generous sister on a recent visit, enough to make a couple of new recipes. If you are lucky enough to have a source of crabapples this year, I hope you will find these recipes useful.

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The first I made was a jam mixed with rhubarb, which is still flourishing, and a little fresh ginger. Crabapples are wonderful to mix with other fruit as they have so much pectin you don’t have to add any. I made it rather tart, but if you like a sweet jam, just add another 1/2 cup of sugar. I did not strain the crabapples after cooking, but if I can make this again I would because it would be better without the skins. The fruit is young enough the seeds are not a problem, but later in the season you will want to eliminate all of them too.

Crabapple, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

  • Time: 1 hr
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 3/4 lb or 5 cups crabapples

1 lb or 4 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sugar

2 Tsp grated fresh ginger

1 cinnamon stick

Method

Sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb and set aside. Put the apples, ginger and cinnamon in a large pan and barely cover with water. Simmer until they are nice and soft, about half an hour on a low heat. At this point, I recommend cooling it a bit and straining it through a food mill or sieve.

Return the strained juice to the pot and add the rhubarb and sugar. Continue to cook about another 15 minutes until the rhubarb is tender. Pour into 3 medium sized jars.

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No need to limit eating this jam just to toast for breakfast. It is also good with yogourt or with cheese.

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