• 1kg rhubarb
  • 350ml red wine vinegar
  • 650ml malt vinegar
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 545g raisins
  • 455g dates
  • 470g sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 115g stem ginger

Just the name of this chutney makes me think of those fabulous rhubarb and custard sweets I used to buy by the quarter before catching the school bus. I’d keep the little white paper bag in my blazer pocket and periodically pop one into my mouth whenever a teacher turned to write on the blackboard. Delicious and naughty though not great for my dental health I’m sure.

Like nearly all chutney this is easy to make but requires some patience before you try it. It needs around 3 months to mature and take the acidic edge off it. If you don’t like or have any rhubarb you could substitute apples or in fact, pretty much anything. My father in law made a wonderful beetroot chutney last year that won second place at the village fete. It’s in our fridge as I type.

NB: Making chutney does produce a vinegary aroma that permeates the entire house and indeed your clothes. I love the smell but in case your living companions don’t it might be best to make this when everyone’s out. And open a window. And put the extractor fan on. And open the back door. And maybe make it in your underwear though do wear an apron as it has a tendency to spit a little. It’s a rude chutney.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg rhubarb, washed and cut into pieces about 1 inch square (Mine was frozen as I stockpile it throughout the year… just cook from frozen.)
  • 350ml red wine vinegar
  • 650ml malt vinegar
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 545g raisins
  • 455g dates chopped into quarters
  • 470g sugar (I used demerara but any will do.)
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 115g stem ginger (the kind you get in syrup) chopped finely

Put the rhubarb and garlic into a very large saucepan (stock pots are ideal) and then pour over the vinegar. You want there to be at least 4 inches between the vinegar and the top of the pot. Boil with the lid off until the rhubarb is soft. Then add everything else on the list and boil gently, lid off, for about 45 mins giving an occasional stir to check the chutney hasn’t started to stick. The chutney is ready when you can drag a wooden spoon through the middle and still leave a kind of parting of the chutney sea.

You need to leave the chutney to cool slightly and then spoon very carefully (ever been burnt by hot chutney? I have, it’s not great) into sterilised jars, using oven gloves to hold the glass. Until recently I was not a dishwasher owner so had to wash jars in warm soapy water, rinse and then put into an oven Gas 2 for about 30 mins until very hot and dry. Now I just shove them into the dishwasher and run the hottest setting. Marvellous.

Anyway, I digress. Once you have filled the jars almost to the top just leave to cool slightly and then put the lids on. Label with the contents and date just in case you forget what on earth the brown chutney was made from and leave for 3 months before enjoying on cheese sandwiches, ham sandwiches, toasted wraps with goats cheese, crackers laced with Stilton… and so on and so forth. Top tip – write the labels before you stick them on. It is hard to write on a curve. Is it just me who’s made this school girl error?

The chutney keeps for about a year so you can make, forget about it and then produce at Christmas for stocking fillers and look super organised. I should warn you that this chutney is a little on the gingery side. Reduce if you’re not in a gingery mood.

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