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Sure sign of spring: Rhubarb ready to go

Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2002

Look around the Kenai Peninsula and you'll notice some people harvesting rhubarb. Spring must be here!

Rhubarb chutney is an excellent way to use and preserve rhubarb, especially if you like to prepare curry dishes. I've included another suggested use for this chutney, which immediately follows the rhubarb chutney recipe.

Rhubarb Chutney

8 cups chopped rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups seedless raisins

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

Combine rhubarb, brown sugar, raisins, onion and vinegar in a large sauce pot. Simmer over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until thick. This may take 30 minutes to an hour. Add spices and simmer 5 minutes. Pour hot chutney into hot, sterilized jars leaving (one-quarter-inch) headspace. Add prepared two-piece lids. Process in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes. Yields about four pints.

Rhubarb Chutney Appetizer

Combine until smooth one, 8-ounce package nonfat cream cheese, softened and 1 tablespoon milk. Spread it on the bottom of a shallow bowl. Top with 1 cup chutney. Slice four green onions and put this on top of the chutney followed by one cup chopped, dry-roasted peanuts. Serve cold with crackers. Use a knife to spread it on crackers.

Freezing rhubarb

There are several ways to prepare rhubarb for freezing which can be done lickety-split. After pulling the stalks, remove leaves and woody ends. Trim away blemishes and wash rhubarb under running water. If you harvest some tough stalks, discard them.

Opinions regarding blanching of rhubarb vary. The Ball Canning Book doesn't mention blanching rhubarb, whereas many university resources suggest a one-minute blanch. Blanching is done to reduce enzyme action, which can lead to undesirable changes in color, flavor, texture and nutritive value in frozen plant foods.

Since blanching is associated with quality rather than food safety, I encourage people to try it both ways to decide which method they prefer.

The dry pack method is very fast. Just cut rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and pack into freezer bags. For the sugar pack method, mix one part sugar with 4 parts cut rhubarb. Allow to stand until sugar is dissolved. Pack rhubarb into plastic freezer containers.

If you prefer a syrup pack, prepare a medium syrup by combining 3 1/4 cups sugar, plus 5 cups of water. This mixture yields 7 cups of syrup. Pack cut rhubarb into plastic freezer containers and ladle syrup over rhubarb, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Rhubarb also can be stewed, steamed or made into sauce before freezing. The Cooperative Exten-sion Office has a publication on rhubarb that includes directions for these methods. For more information about preserving rhubarb, contact us at 262-5824. Outside the central peninsula area, we can be reached at (800) 478-5824.

Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs. The Kenai Peninsula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.



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