Rhubarb Ketchup, Two Ways

This is part four of the Rhubarb Happy Hour series.  Watch for future posts in this series during the upcoming weeks. 

There are few pleasures as simple as meeting up with a good friend after work for a cold beverage and splitting an order of hot, crispy french fries.  Place said happy hour on a sunny patio on a gorgeous spring day, and throw in a couple of juicy burgers, and you really can't top it.

Unless you are enjoying that burger and fries with some delicious rhubarb ketchup, that is.
Rhubarb ketchup is one of those things that has been haunting my kitchen garden ambitions for quite some time.  Every time I would stumble upon an recipe, I became more and more intrigued with the idea of experimenting with this unexpected condiment, and every time I would pass it up for a different recipe, it would pop up in a new place, daring me to give it a try.  Last weekend, armed with an ample harvest of rhubarb, I finally gave in and decided it was time to try my hand at rhubarb ketchup.  There was only one small problem: which recipe to use? 

Aside from the variations in seasoning and cooking method, there seemed to be one main difference in the recipes: some included tomatoes and some did not.  Both versions sounded good to me, and as I read what other bloggers were saying about one or the other, I kept going back and forth over which version to make. Since last week's storm gave me an abundance of rhubarb to process, last Sunday I decided to make a batch of each and see how they compared.  

For Rhubarb Ketchup #1, I used a recipe from Edible Twin Cities (via Minnesota Locavore).
I combined 4 cups of diced rhubarb, 1 1/2 large yellow onions (coarsely chopped), 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 28 oz canned diced tomatoes (including the liquid), 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon pickling spice tied in cheesecloth.  I brought it to a boil and then simmered for 1 hour. After removing the pickling spice, I blended it with an immersion blender until it was velvety smooth.
I wish I could have captured the aroma in my kitchen to share with you; the scent was as rich and warm as the taste!  The color and flavor was similar to a classic tomato ketchup, but spicy and tangy and warm.  After it had cooled, the cinnamon was especially noticeable, so next time I will probably cut back just a bit, but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing.  The recipe yielded a total of four pints, three of which I processed in half pint jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

For Rhubarb Ketchup #2, I followed a recipe from Learn to Preserve (via City Girl Farming Blog).
I roasted 4 cups of diced rhubarb, 1 large red onion (chopped), and 4 cloves of garlic (chopped) in a foil lined pan at 350 degrees for one hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.  I then transferred the roasted vegetables into a large pot and added 4 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon celery seed.    I simmered this over low heat for another 15-20 minutes, before pulsing with an immersion blender until smooth.  
This ketchup didn't have that same similarity to tomato ketchup, but it is a tasty condiment none the less.  The rosy pink ketchup is both spicy and sweet (I think it will be excellent with pork roast or chicken).  I followed City Girl Farming's lead and used the immersion blender instead of a food mill, but between that and the oven roasting, it did need some extra liquid added back in during the blending.  I also increased the amount of onion and garlic the original recipe called for.  This recipe yielded about a pint and a half.
I can see both of these condiments having a prominent place in my kitchen repertoire for the foreseeable future, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be Rhubarb Ketchup #1.  Rhubarb Ketchup #2 was still very good, but not in the same familiar and classic burger-and-fries way.  In fact, this entire week's menu  at our house is planned around burgers, garden potato oven fries, brats, grilled chicken, and a few other excuses to consume rhubarb ketchup.  Springtime and grilling season just took on a whole new level of awesomeness.

Stay tuned next week for the final Rhubarb Happy Hour recipe, which will be a perfect companion to any patio-worthy happy hour fare!

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