The Year of Rhubarb

The Year of Rhubarb

Or maybe it’ll be “A Year In Rhubarb”, given the voracity with which I am acquiring stalks for the kitchen. I can’t help it: there are so many plump juicy stems for sale… I have to make up for years of deprivation, you know: there was no rhubarb growing on the tropical island where I spent my childhood.

I am hearing from growers that this year’s wet cool spring has done wonder for rhubarb. Unfortunately, the cool spring is ending this week as we not-so-gently steam and wilt with the thermometer reaching 90 degrees  ( 32 C). The wet part is still on though with copious rain showers every day – rather tropical, really. What that will do for rhubarb is anybody’s guess, but I am furiously buying rhubarb. Close to 30 pounds to date, and few weeks to go still…

It’s been fun. I’ve made ice-cream (several batches and settled on proportions I like), sorbet, syrup, cordial, compote, tartelettes, fresh strawberry & ginger rhubarb tart, jam (some with elder blossom cordial, some with vanilla bean and some with fresh ginger root), rhubarb strudel (or was that baklava?) as well as fresh rhubarb chutney (delicious with a rack of lamb). And frozen a bunch, should I suddenly have a craving for rhubarb. It could happen.

It’s about time I share some recipes… so… on today’s episode we’ll learn to cook rhubarb once and make no less than 4 dishes! We’ll delve into the secret lives of rhubarb (oh… wait… we did that already!). Oh, well, then we’ll … learn how to coax the juice  from those stalks without turning them into mush and we’ll make first a  happy rosy syrup, and then a sweet and even happier little cordial.

Tomorrow (or next week, it’s all weather dependent as the garden is calling a lot to come work these days!),  we’ll chat about nifty things to make with the compote including a fresh strawberry and rhubarb tart (I don’t do pies, guys. You may as well resign yourself, it’s going to be a tart.)

Get yourself some rhubarb stalks, the redder they are the prettier the pink of your syrup & cordial. The green ones taste perfectly fine, I promise, they just don’t yield something as pretty to look at (but it still IS pretty – look at the syrup pictures: to the left the syrup made with red rhubarb, to the right with green stemmed rhubarb). The ginger can be omitted but that would really be a shame. In any event, get ginger as fresh and plump as you can, not old fibrous roots…

For long term storage, you should process the syrup in a boiling water-bath canner (10 minutes for pints or half-pints) or  freeze it in small containers. It will only keep a few weeks in the fridge, especially if there is any bit of solid floating around (it can – and generally will – mold after a while)

Red Rhubarb & Green Rhubarb Syrup
Red Rhubarb & Green Rhubarb Syrup

Rhubarb Syrup & Rhubarb Compote

Yields about 1 1/4 quart (1.25  liter) of syrup

– 3 lb trimmed rhubarb stalks (1.350 kg)

– 2 & 2/3  cup  sugar (725 g)

– 1.5 oz fresh ginger root (50 g), peeled and finely minced.

– 1 lemon, juiced

Chop the rhubarb in 1/4 inch slices. Layer with sugar & minced ginger in a non-reactive thick bottom heavy pan (like a Le Creuset Dutch Oven). Cover let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, then refrigerate for 24 hours.

After 24 hours,  most of the sugar should have dissolved, drawing out juice from the chopped rhubarb. Add the lemon juice to the mixture. Slowly bring to boil, stirring occasionally to make sure there is not undissolved sugar sticking to the bottom of the pan. Boil for 2 minutes, lower heat and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes.

Drain the rhubarb through a fairly fine meshed sieve over a large bowl to catch the liquid. Press on the solids a little bit to extract more juice.  Reserve the solids for another use (that is your compote!).

Rhubarb Cordial

Either immediately process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner (for long term storage), or let cool and refrigerate for a few weeks

How to use: to flavor ice-teas, homemade lemonade, to make glazes (reduce the syrup and try t with a pork tenderloin), over ice-cream, in cocktails…

Rhubarb Cordial

– 1 cup rhubarb syrup

– 1.5 to 2 cup vodka (depending on your taste)

Mix well and let age 3 months in a glass jar or bottle before drinking. Or making into cocktail – Rhubartini, anyone?

Locavore Log: Rhubarb!!!!

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