This is the season for fresh produce and I enjoy taking advantage of it whenever possible. Though it's the end of spring here and the start of summer, the temperatures have been a bit cooler than usual and I haven't really ventured out to the local farmer's markets in D.C. as much as I would like to. Rhubarb has quickly become a favorite in the kitchen and I always pick up some at the farmer's market. This time I decided that I'd do something completely different and work on a pickled recipe for this season, just to have a little stash tucked away for the cooler months to come.
Indian pickles are very different from western pickles. They combine a complex mix of flavors and spices. The diversity in flavors can vary from super hot to mild, to sweet to tart, or a combination of all or some. They generally use a bit of oil and some acid and sometimes sugar to preserve the vegetable or fruit that's being pickled. This pickled rhubarb recipe incorporates all of those tastes and preserving agents. Honestly, I wasn't really sure how rhubarb would taste when pickled but amazingly enough it absorbed all the flavors making it very tasty.
The end product was tender and sweet, sour, and mildly hot. The rhubarb stalks got soft as they aged and pickled in the vinegar and were ready to eat after a week. This pickle goes delicious in sandwiches with roast meat (beef and lamb), chicken, turkey and even vegetables. It also goes really well with simple meal of rice and fish. Feel free to adjust the recipe quantities, if you want to make more, I made two jars and will probably scale this up once I pick up some more rhubarb (I got a couple of requests to make some more).
indian-style sweet and sour pickled rhubarb
yields: two 500 ml jars
8 rhubarb stalks, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 dried chipotle chili pepper, whole
2 tablespoons ginger root, peeled and julienned
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup jaggery or raw brown sugar
2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Cut the rhubarb stalks length-wise in half and then cut them into 4 inch pieces. Divide them equally into two clean sterile canning jars. Keep covered with a clean sterile cloth or paper towel.
2. Heat up a thick bottomed-sauce pan on a medium-high flame. Add the olive oil and heat till the oil. When the oil is hot (but not smoky), slice the chipotle pepper in half and add it with the seeds into the hot oil. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and immediately add the ginger, cumin, turmeric, and fenugreek seeds. (If anything burns toss the oil out and begin again).
3. Carefully add the jaggery and stir continuously. The jaggery will melt and being to caramelize a little in the oil. Slowly fold in the vinegar (be careful at this stage) and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook the liquid for another minute or two. Switch the stove off and add the salt (taste the liquid to make sure the salt and sweetness is enough and adjust accordingly. Do not add water at any stage, just add more vinegar).
4. Pour the hot liquid along with the spices into jars containing the rhubarb. Place one chipotle pepper in each jar. Seal with sterile lids and process for 20 minutes to can. Store in a cool, dark and dry place. Let the pickles age for a week before opening.