This year my rhubarb is the best it has ever been. I planted rhubarb probably at least 15 years ago, maybe more. Some years have definitely been better than others, but this year is amazing. I was reading about growing rhubarb and it said that it likes a period of dormancy provided by freezing weather. Perhaps our colder than usual winter was good for something!
One of the things I like best about rhubarb is that it (along with nettle) is one of the first plants ready in the spring. If you don’t already have some growing in your garden, consider adding it this year.
Rhubarb is a vegetable not a fruit, although we often treat it like a fruit (with an addition of a sweetener). It is one of the lower caloric vegetables (21 cal/100 gm), and has a healthy amount of dietary fiber, and is a good source of vitamins and minerals. Of course if you add sugar to counteract the sourness, it has a lot more calories. A word of caution – the leaves contain oxalic acid and are poisonous. You just eat the stems (or petioles).
I found a delightful book in the library called “Rhubarb, more than just pies” by Sandi Vitt and Michael Hickman. I also discovered an amazing website with tons of recipes and information about rhubarb. www.rhubarb-central.com. Check it out.
I picked 13 lbs last week and made a Rhubarb Shrub, Rhubarb loaf, Fruity Rhubarb conserve and Strawberry Rhubarb sauce. This weekend I picked another 10 lbs and made a Rhubarb Apple Galette, as well as having a lot to freeze.
Rhubarb Shrub recipe – my version after reading a number of versions on the internet
6 lbs of rhubarb, chopped
3 ¾ cups of sugar
2 ¼ cups of vinegar (I used a combination of white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar, mainly because I didn’t have enough of either.
I placed all of these in a large pot, brought it to a boil. Then reduced the heat to low and cooked it for about 15 minutes until the rhubarb was soft and broken apart. I allowed it to cool slightly so I wasn’t worried about burning myself while pouring it into my jelly strainer. I let it drip through for at least an hour.
I transferred it to a large glass jar and served it on the weekend diluted with carbonated spring water in about a 1:4 ratio. It makes a tangy, sparkling, refreshing drink with just a touch of sweetness.
Makes 2 loaves
1 cup of oil
2 cups of brown sugar
2 tsp of vanilla
2 ½ cups of rhubarb, finely diced
½ cup of walnut (I substituted pecans)
3 cups of flour
2 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp of baking powder
½ tsp of nutmeg
½ tsp of allspice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 – 9”x 5” loaf pans. Combine eggs, oil, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat with a mixer until thick and foamy. Stir in rhubarb and nuts. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and allspice. Add dry ingredients to the rhubarb mixture and stir until just blended. Divide batter between 2 prepared pans. Bake for 70 minutes or until cooked through. Cool in pans and then turn onto rack.
Makes 10 – 1 cup jars
4 cups of rhubarb chopped
5 ½ cups of sugar
1 ½ cups of chopped dates or raisins
½ cup or crystallized ginger
1 cup of chopped walnuts (I’ll use pecans again)
Place rhubarb in a large pot, stir in sugar until well blended. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Cut unpeeled oranges and lemon into thin slices; remove seeds and cut each slice into small pieces. Add to rhubarb-sugar mixture along with dates and ginger. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes or until thickened. About 5 minutes before removing from the heat, stir in nuts. Fill prepared jars to within 1/8 “ of the rim. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Store in a cool dark place. Wonderful spread for crackers or toast, and an excellent accompaniment to roasted beef or lamb.
2/3 lb. pure lard (Example: “Tenderflake”)
1/3 lb. all vegetable shortening (Example: “Golden Crisco”)
5 1/2 or more cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp. vinegar plus water to make 1 cup
6 cups of peeled, cored, sliced apples
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. apple pie spice OR 1 tsp. cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg
dash of salt
3 cups water
1 egg white, for garnishing
raw sugar, for garnishing
Combine the pastry ingredients, adding the water ingredient gradually, until dough comes together, pastry should not be “sticky”. Lay a large piece of parchment paper on the counter for each pie to be made. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Pat pastry dough into a ball, and using a rolling pin dusted with flour, roll out the pastry into a circle, about 12 inches wide – the edges will be uneven. Transfer the parchment and the pastry to a baking sheet, OR to a foil pie plate.
Add the 3 cups of water to a pan. Combine the lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, spice and salt together and mix it into the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and allow to boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking and burning. Add the prepared apple and rhubarb pieces and return the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer mixture for about 6 – 8 minutes, stirring often as mixture will begin to thicken. Remove mixture from heat, and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the center of the prepared pastry, forming about a 10″ circle. Fold the pastry over just to cover the edge of the filling. Lightly brush the crust with the egg white, and sprinkle the pie with raw sugar. Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375° F and continue to bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until done. Note – If the pie edges begin to get too dark, make a pie crust shield to prevent them from burning.
I filled a large pot about 2/3 full of chopped rhubarb, a little water and a large bag of frozen strawberries from last year. I cooked this up until the rhubarb was falling apart. I added just a little sugar (perhaps 1/2 cup or less) as the strawberries had added a lot of sweetness. I let this cool and then put it through my food processor, pureeing it. I spooned it into small jars and processed in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. This was delicious on yogurt.
Source: Rhubarb, more than just pies. Sandi Vitt, Michael Hickman, Publisher: The University of Alberta Press, 2000. Pg 131.