‘Mom sent rhubarb jam.’
I glanced over from feeding Saira and saw Tony pull out a jar filled with pale pink rhubarb jam and place it on the kitchen counter. He picked it up again and started turning the jar around, considering it, adoring the pretty pink hue. Then he said, “Scones with rhubarb jam and cream?” Boy, he’s gotten pretty bold with his food suggestions lately!
I looked back and quietly said that I had failed at making scones earlier but I’d try again if he really wanted it. “If you want it that bad, I’ll make some.” Since he’s not the kind who likes to create any trouble he politely said he was just quoting the food pairing, “Like, you know, scones with rhubarb instead of strawberry jam and cream?”
“Ah, yes, that I like! ”
“Give some to Saira!”
“I don’t know, Tony, I’m afraid to give it to her.”
“Yes, rhubarb is like the Mother of Tart! And with that high of a pucker factor, what if she eats it and her face gets stuck in a pucker forever? What if her baby teeth fell out from shock and her adult teeth never come out?”
We both laughed, so did the little girl (just because we were laughing). I wish I was laughing because I was ecstatic about rhubarb.
Rhubarb is the rage every summer that I couldn’t care less for. It’s not for me. I like things sweet and mildly tart, not scandalously tart like that. I don’t want to utter any blasphemies against rhubarb, but here I go: I know it has a nice flavor behind its tongue-splitting tartness, but I just can’t see past it.
Since I have known the St. George clan, there hasn’t been a single summer without a jar of homemade rhubarb jam from my mother-in-law sent to her oldest son (who shares her love for rhubarb). My mother in law, Sheila, cooks rhubarb to make a simple jam. We inevitably end up with a fresh jar every summer – a jar that gets half eaten by Tony, with the remainder ignored and relegated to the back of the fridge until it’s time for it to go.
Later that evening as I opened the fridge there was the jar sitting next to a box of strawberries, reminding me of Sheila. Just like my Mom, making tometor (tomato in Bengali) chutney for me because I love it so. I couldn’t think of a half-eaten jar being thrown out; that would mean throwing out a mother’s love. Would Saira ask me to make jams or chutney when she is our age? I just hoped it wouldn’t be rhubarb.
So with the fridge wide open and me staring at a pretty pink jam jar, inspiration happened. Newfoundland rhubarb, come marry Bengali chutney, for you shall live until the bottom of the jar!
*Just so you know, like a good wife, I did keep my husband’s request. Instead of scones, however, I toasted some baguettes (I already professed my lack of talent at making them), replaced cream with goat cheese (even better), and rhubarb jelly was transformed to an even better chutney… best of all were the chive flowers that were absolutely meant to sit atop these crostini – made one happy husband!
Rhubarb Strawberry Chutney
- Simple Rhubarb jam: 2 cups
- Strawberry: 1 cup diced
- Raw Sugar: 1 and 1/2 cup
- Whole red dry chili: 1 or 2
- Whole black mustard seeds: 1 teaspoon
- Ginger: 1 inch finely julienned
- Vegetable/white Oil: 1 tablespoon
- Heat vegetable/white oil in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and the dry whole red chili and let the mustard seeds pop for a few seconds.
- Add the Rhubarb jam and stir. Reduce heat and add the diced strawberries, ginger and sugar.
- Stir continuously and let the strawberry melt slightly.
- Season with a pinch of salt and remove from heat.
- Let cool. Discard whole chili then refrigerate.
- This chutney can be frozen fabulously for later use.
Simple Rhubarb Jam can be made by combining 4 cups of diced rhubarb with 2 cups of raw sugar and boiling on low heat until the rhubarb has broken down. My mother in law adds Strawberry Jello at the end of the cooking process to give it a thicker consistency.