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I found last week that my apple-rhubarb crisp was just about perfect. Unless you are put off by the tartness in some fruit, it is a great dessert. Rhubarb is one of my signature ingredients and I make crisps, pies and coffee cakes with it. And now I have one more thing to do with this rhubarb-apple combination to make something good: Apple-Rhubarb Chutney.

My dinner habits are influenced by two things: I like curry very much and I also like chutney on it. There is no better dinner as far as I am concerned than a chicken curry made with coconut milk, served over brown rice and garnished with chutney. Some time ago I discovered a recipe for rhubarb chutney, and it is good, but most people who tried it found that the tart flavor of rhubarb can tip over into sour if you are not a fan. So I have had it in the back of my mind that I ought to fix this situation.

Another thing is that chutney is expensive! A jelly jar of it costs several dollars at the markets in Tucson and doesn't go very far. Making your own chutney is a self-evident improvement over buying it. You will commonly see Major Grey Chutney, which contains different mixed fruits, and mango chutney, which is made of mangoes and other ingredients. Both of them are delicious, but if I have to buy it I have been buying Major Grey-style chutney for years. But nowadays I think I have cracked the code with Apple-Rhubarb Chutney.

I already discovered that the Rhubarb Chutney was better than any chutney I could buy in the store, so cutting the rhubarb in half and adding apples makes it perfect as far as I am concerned. You needn't look for tart Granny Smith-type apples, either; Jonagold or Gala apples will be just fine because the tartness is already there.

It is also easy to make this dish; basically you put everything in a pot on a low boil and keep going until the texture is right. Turn off the heat and leave it alone until it is no longer dangerous and then taste. Adjust the seasonings and you are done. You end up with enough chutney to divide into several freezer boxes and have chutney for the next several months to a year.

So here's something to try when you can go to the store and pick up fresh or frozen rhubarb and fresh apples. Frozen rhubarb seems to be on the freezer shelves just about all year around nowadays, and the fresh rhubarb is in season right now!

APPLE-RHUBARB CHUTNEY

From Cafe Margot

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
2 cups sliced and chopped cooking apples
1 small onion, minced
3/4 cup raisins
2 cups packed brown sugar
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon (or more) red pepper flakes

Combine all the ingredients in a wide, non-reactive pot such as a ceramic-coated Dutch oven. You will need at least 4 quarts of working space in the pot.

Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring it to a low boil. Reduce the heat immediately to a setting which will maintain the low boil.

Simmer the chutney gently, stirring every few minutes, until it has thickened slightly. The chutney is done when you can draw your spoon across the bottom of the pot and it will leave a channel in the chutney.

Turn off the heat and leave the chutney to cool until it no longer hazardous. It will become thicker as it cools. Turn the chutney into one or more jars or freezer boxes and place in storage.

When it is time to eat the chutney, make sure you open the container at least half an hour before you are going to serve. Chutney needs the time to aerate; otherwise you will taste mostly the vinegar.

Chutney is one of the great dishes of Asia, coming as it does from India. It was introduced into Europe during the days of trade among the different nations of the British Empire, along with various types of tea and some vocabulary words like pajamas and madras (in textiles).

Long ago I visited Singapore and apparently my female friend and I freaked out a restaurant full of Indian gentlemen when we had lunch there. As far as we could tell, it was not customary for unescorted women to go there to eat. They took it with humor and we had a curry lunch to die for!

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