When Carol Sacks, a Twitter friend (@casacks but really #mrskravitz,) visited her family in DC, we had the chance to share an exquisite lunch at Jaleo. I brought her a jar of my chocolate raspberry sauce. After lunch, she returned to her parents’ house and opened the jar, offering a taste to her father.
It wasn’t long before Carol sent me a message – will you share your recipe with my Dad? How could I say no? Especially when I learned Mr. Sacks was a food preservationist! While he doesn’t actually can, he has a thing for rhubarb, and he freezes containers of the tart sweet goodness every Spring. I’m writing this post with you in mind, Al. I want you to try canning. Just a little boiling water. It’s easy. I’ve written about the basics here. And I’ve got some recipes and even more links to tempt you.
And all this talk got me thinking about rhubarb. Amazed at how many people I’ve met who don’t know what it is. For me, rhubarb is a ritual of spring, and a host of varied, inventive, every-year-without-fail, preserving projects. It’s one of the first fruits (or vegetables, actually) of the season with a taste, texture and savory-t0-sweet flexibility unlike many other foods. (Lemons, maybe…)
As a child, when rhubarb came into season, my mother always made a compote of rhubarb and strawberries, freezing it in one pint containers. We enjoyed that delicious mixture all year long, warmed over ice cream, stirred into plain yogurt, and devoured all by itself. Every Spring, I’m right back in the kitchen, remembering those Spring mornings with my mother, the rhubarb and tiny strawberries purchased at a roadside stand, chopping and stirring, the mixture bubbling on the stove, the canning kettle clanking and steaming away. Savoring the tang, the sweet, the sour, the taste of Spring.
Al Sacks has his rhubarb memories. I have mine. And when, Merrill Stubbs published a wine scented rhubarb compote on Food52, I wondered how many of you might have rhubarb memories. Is this a trend? Is an old-fashioned flavor just back in favor? Not in this house. It’s a passion.
While toiling in the kitchen, this rhubarb syrup from Food in Jars was just the ticket. A tablespoon or two in a glass of seltzer was refreshing and not too sweet. I’ve frozen two half-pints of this syrup for summer drinks. Add a shot of vodka and a squeeze of lime for a sultry summer cocktail.
Have you had your rhubarb today? Here are six ways to enjoy it.
Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce for Canning
I made this recipe with my friends Capie and Jess in mind. I know Jess loves rhubarb, and, as they’re off to a three year posting in Turkey – a rhubarb-free zone, evidently – I made a couple of jars for their pantry. I like this sauce poured over everything – pound cake, ice cream, yogurt and granola, semifreddo, ricotta – the list goes on. It’s thick for a sauce, but not quite a jam. Oh, no one will look askance if you put some on your toast.
Makes 4 pints or 8 half pints
5 c rhubarb, cut in a 1/2” dice
2 -1/2 c strawberries, hulled, quartered or halved and slightly crushed with a potato masher
5 c sugar
Juice of three lemons
Two vanilla beans, split and the seeds scraped out and added to the mix
Mix together and then macerate all the ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl overnight or at least 4 hours.
Strain the fruit and solids out and set aside.
Put the strained liquid into your preserving pot and bring to a boil. Skim foam after the temperatures are at 212°
Put your candy thermometer in place, continue to cook and stir, and bring the mixture to 220°.
Add back the fruit and boil for five minutes. Skim any foam
Ladle into sterilized jars, place lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.
Rhubarb, Lavender, Honey Preserves
Last year, I made the rhubarb rosemary honey preserves from Mes Confitures. From there, I got thinking about rhubarb and lavender. It’s the natural evolution of a recipe for me – after all I’m landscape designer, gardener and plantswoman, and the botanical similarity of lavender (lavendula) and rosemary (rosmarinus) spurred me to swap them in the recipe. Delicious, heady, and unusual. Thought I was so darn clever, until I realized Tigress, the awesome DIY blogger and creator of the Can Jam, had done it already TWO YEARS AGO. I’m sure she would agree, it’s a wonderful woodsy note next to the tart rhubarb, and simply magnificent as an accompaniment to cheese. I might add almond slivers, toasted, next time.
makes 6-8 half pints or 12-14 quarter pints
4.5 c sugar
14 oz light honey (acacia or tupelo)
Juice of two lemons
Peel of two lemons
2 T dried culinary lavender
Macerate all the ingredients for at least an hour or as much as overnight.
Strain the rhubarb and bring the syrup to a boil.
Bring the syrup to 219°
Remove the lemon peels.
Add in the rhubarb and bring back to a boil.
Stir gently and boil for 5 minutes.
Ladle into 4 oz jars. Wipe the rims clean. Place lid and ring. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
I wanted to make a chutney and I tested three different chutney recipes until I came up with one I liked. We made it at the Food52 get-together,and added the one element it needed – much more ginger! Here is the tweaked, final recipe.
makes 6 half pints
5 c diced rhubarb
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves, slivered
3/4 c crystallized ginger
1 c dried cherries
1 tsp mustard seed 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c apple cider vinegar 1 c brown sugar
6 small, super hot thai chiles, pierced
Put everything into a non-reactive preserving pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, stirring regularly and gently, for 45 minutes.
The chutney will get thicker, but try not to let the rhubarb pieces break down too much.
Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie in a Jar
3/4 c white sugar
3 T ClearJel
1/4 c water
2 T lemon juice
2 tsp ground ginger, 1 T Grand Marnier, 6 cardamom pods, seeds crushed
1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp allspice
3 c rhubarb
2 c strawberries, slightly crushed
Whisk together the clear jel and the sugar.
Add to the preserving pot with the water and lemon juice. Stir well to avoid lumps.
Add the spice mixture
(alternately, add 1 tsp vanilla to each quart jar after ladling in the cooked filling)
Bring to a boil stirring the whole time.
Add the fruit and cook for five minutes once it returns to a boil.
Ladle into clean quart jars. Seal and process for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Rhubarb Gooseberry Strawberry Rose Petal (RGSR) Preserves
Gooseberries just appeared in the market last week. Their natural pectin is high, so I knew I could take the low pectin rhubarb and strawberries and create a new flavor combination that would have body. At the last minute, I added fresh rose petals for a whisper of floral, just enough. The color is amazing and purply red, lush and what a wonderful smooth texture and tartness. It will suit both savory and sweet, but right now? I’m swooning over a hot buttermilk biscuit, pat of cultured butter and a big spoonful of this now favorite jam.
Makes six half-pints
2 lbs. or about 3 c rhubarb, chopped in a 1/2” dice (not peeled)
1 pint (12 oz) gooseberries, topped and tailed*
2 c whole small ripe strawberries, hulled
3 c sugar
Juice of two lemons
Mix the fruits, sugars and lemon juice and macerate overnight.
Strain the fruits and set aside.
Bring the liquid to 220°, stirring all the while.
Add back the fruit and bring to a full rolling boil for five minutes. Do not stop stirring.
Turn off the heat and let the fruit settle into the hot liquid for 3-4 minutes.
Ladle into the prettiest jars you have.
Place lids and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
*Topping and tailing is the worst part of gooseberries. Use a sharp kitchen scissor and cut off the top and the tail – or you will get a little tough unpleasantness in every bite.
Asian Style Rhubarb Pickle
I read several recipes for rhubarb pickles, but it wasn’t until I found this one, that I was inspired. This is not a pickle for everyone. It’s assertive and unusual. I adored it. Others did… and didn’t. It’s easy to make just one jar, so give it a try!
Inspired by the Baking While Depressed blog
Makes two pints
1 lb rhubarb
1/4 c sherry vinegar
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
3/4 c rice vinegar
1/2 c honey
1/2 c pomegranate molasses
1/4 c brown sugar
1 T coarse salt
4 cardamom pods, seeds retrieved and crushed
2 star anise
3 black peppercorns, crushed
Cut rhubarb into batons and stand in a pint jar snugly.
Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil, pour into the jars over the rhubarb.
The pickle will be ready in about an hour. Even better in a week.
I still hope to…
Check out this sweet and savory rhubarb jam
Make rhubarb jelly with grapefruit sections from Mes Confitures
Concoct the strawberry vinegar from River Cottage Preserves Handbook
Really must try rhubarb, dried cherries and rosewater (tho, truth be told, I’m not a big fan of rosewater, so it might be rose petals) from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook.
I put two pounds of rhubarb, diced, on a sheet pan and froze it (IQF – individually quick frozen.) It’s in a ziplock bag, in the freezer, awaiting further experimentation as other fruits come to market.
I’m going to do the same thing with strawberries this weekend. Two pounds. Just in case I want to mix them with plums. Or apricots.
Last week, there was a small sign at the market that said, “next week, raspberries and cherries.”