Springtime Rhubarb Chutney

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One of the amazing things in my new life as a self-employed entrepreneur (better late than never) is the renewed ability to really cook with the seasons. To have time to leisurely visit the markets and to experience the first fruits and vegetables of the spring is a gift. For fifteen years, my job was to find, curate, expose, and teach readers and viewers about was what was new, different, and “hot.” But in the magazine world, life happens six months ahead of schedule, so one is often scrambling to find produce from the southern hemisphere so it looks the part in pictures when the season hits.

But now I am taking the time to see, feel, smell, and enjoy everything in real time. As I develop recipes and products for Mad Hungry, the pace is different. My schedule is completely my own to determine. As things get busier and busier, I am still loving this new period of discovery. My goal is to enjoy the process every day. We’ll see how that goes.

On Saturday, May 7th at the Union Square Farmers Market in NYC, the asparagus had just come in, the new field spinach was abundant, the ramps were nearly finished, and the first bundles of rhubarb were everywhere. My instinct was to make pie with it. Instead, I kept in my recent mode of exploring the world of preserving (my recent marmalade experiments were incredibly fun). And, after recalling one of my favorite preserving books, Mrs Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, this recipe stood out as one I had to try.

I remember the author Cathy Barrow telling me how amazing dry fruit is in preserving because it already brings such concentrated flavor. In this recipe she calls for dried strawberries, a perfect partner for rhubarb. And the spice-sweet-tang balance is completely on point. Everything cooks together easily in 45 minutes. No thermometers or complicated guesswork are required. The recipe worked perfectly.

Tonight I will cook duck or pork to serve with the chutney, or maybe, as she recommends I”ll dollop it over cheddar topped crackers. Either way this recipe is a keeper! The only change I made was substituting habanero for Thai bird chile because it’s what I had on hand. She also recommends using perfectly pink rhubarb if you want that red jewel-like tone in the end. The rhubarb I had gradated in color from pink to pinky-green, so mine is a bit muddy toned but I don’t care. It came from an organic farmer, and that is a good enough look for me!

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