Rhubarb Six Ways from Sunday

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.

Al and I have corresponded. He anted up his rhubarb recipe after I shared the chocolate raspberry recipe (and I promise to share it here, as soon as raspberries are in season.)

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.

I still hope to…

Try this strawberry rhubarb caramelized onion jam

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.”


Rhubarb Six Ways from Sunday on Punk Domestics

35 thoughts on “Rhubarb Six Ways from Sunday”

  1. I’ve not yet picked up any rhubarb this year, but I will this weekend. Two of my favorite recipes for it are Rhubarb-Red Wine Sauce – delicious with salmon, and Rhubarb-Grapefruit Marmalade. I think I’ll add to the list your Strawberry-Rhubarb pie in a jar. It’s a terrific idea.

  2. wow…real rose petals! Very clever, and delicious I’m sure! And lavender! I love it! Looking forward to giving these recipes a whirl when my rhubarb pops in a few weeks….

  3. Many thanks for the rhubarb love! 🙂 I’m now totally ogling your rhubarb-lavender-honey jam…way too many things to try before the season’s up.

  4. Cathy, I can’t wait to find some rhubarb at my Farmer’s Market so I can make some of these fabulous recipes. And, you are so sweet to mention my Dad, who will love this post. Sending to him now!


      1. how much vodka to the 2 cups of Rhubarb? we have a plant with leaves 2 feet across. Both of us are laughing at how successful a first year patch can be if the year before was spent in a pot – and the new bed was WELL FED. WOO HOO I love Rhubarb

  5. You are amazing! But then, we knew that, didn’t we? I am a big rhubarb freak–just made a rhubarb rose jam the other day. I think our pictures are almost exactly alike!

  6. I never did much with rhubarb because it doesn’t grow in my garden (it can act like a weed in north Idaho), but you have inspired me.

    I have made rose petal jelly and it is divine. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything with it but keep it natural. At this time in my life, my two favorite jellies are crab apple and chokecherry. Wow! Sometime this summer I’m going in for the elderberry. Mostly I want it for syrup. A number of studies have shown that elderberry syrup cuts you healing time in half when you have colds, flus, etc. Plus it tastes delicious.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Cathy!

  7. Cathy, what is culinary lavender? I always just use regular lavender in recipes. I didn’t know there was a variety for cooking.

    1. Different lavender varieties are used for different purposes. In my mind, Lavender ‘Grosso’ is more perfumed, while ‘Provence’ tastes better. Also, if you purchase lavender that is marked culinary, you can be assured no sprays were used.

  8. Lisa flagged your rhubarb recipes for me because she’s seen me in the kitchen obsessively cutting rhubarb and strawberries for a compote that is like the filling for my Mom’s pie. It’s total comfort food for me. I can’t get enough of it. I add tapioca and very little sugar. Delicious! As for the rhubarb, I got it at the farmer’s market for a few weeks in a row, but there was never enough. So I bought two more plants there. Mine, planted last year, is not doing great. The grower tells me they do best in shade, NOT sun, yet sun is what the growing instructions always say. Can you comment Cathy on growing rhubarb?

    1. FEED THEM lots and lots of Manure. and give them LOTS of water. They are hungry little beasties but if you water and feed them you get such a reward. Ours are in full sun, but you could get by with a bit of shade (mom’s were always a bit shaded) the big issue is food and water…. those crisp stalks are full of water, they have to get it somewhere!

      1. ecoteri said exactly what I would.

        I moved our most recent rhubarb patch from shade to sun, and it’s going crazy — it was not doing too well in the shade. Because I live in a remote-ish area, there are many old, long-gone homesteads, but their rhubarb still continues to grow — it’s always in the sun.

        One also needs to remember *not* to pick it for a couple of seasons after the initial planting; it will often die if picked before this. Our soil is very well drained, which helps keep their feet from getting too wet.

  9. Cathy, I have to make one more comment that is a fun memory to share. Growing up in Alberta Canada, rhubarb was one thing that did very very well in our garden and short growing season. We gorged on it. I have fond memories of my mom picking the thick, reddish-green stalks for her pies. If my siblings and I were around, she’d give us each one to dip in sugar and eat, like a sour sweet candy. Heaven!

    1. Hi Kathy, My mom used to let us dip raw rhubarb in sugar too. Nice memories! Planting it? I’ve had no luck at all. I put three plants in and the deer chomped them to the crown. This is the third attempt. Tried sun, tried shade. Makes no sense at all, as I know it’s a noxious weed in many places, but I can’t grow it to save my life.

    1. Hi Liz,
      Try HMart (up Georgia Ave. in Wheaton) or sometimes Whole Foods. Any Asian or Latin grocer is likely to have them. There’s also a great Thai grocer in Silver Spring (902 Thayer Ave.)
      I grow my chiles every summer. Easy easy easy. Just pop a few plants in pots, window boxes or garden beds. All they want is a lot of water and sunshine. Freeze them whole to use all year round. I have jalapeno, serrano, cayenne, and Thai bird peppers already flourishing.
      When all else fails, substitute a teaspoon of crushed red pepper.

  10. What a nice collection of rhubarb recipes! I think rhubarb is a neglected vegetable/fruit but to me, it symbolizes summer. I remember sitting on the steps of my grandmother’s house with my cousins, rhubarb stalks and a bowl of sugar in hand. FINALLY it is strawberry season in New England, off to make some rhubarb/strawberry jam, can’t get enough of it! p.s. I’m adding these recipes to my recent post about rhubarb. Happy summer!

  11. Oh mercy.

    Just returned yesterday from 9 days in Paris where I had an impeccable french pear tart and thought of you. Some other good stuff too, as you might imagine. Look forward to seeing you on the 19th.

  12. i’ve been thinking of making an indian-inspired dinner for my book club meeting (we’re reading sea of poppies) and that rhubarb chutney will be a perfect seasonal accompaniment. thank you!

  13. Wow! I cannot quite believe that there are people around who don’t know what rhubarb is!!!!
    Our rhubarb patch is having a spectacular year this year, and I really do need to get out there and harvest some for the freezer — just wash, chop, and pop into ziplock bags! I also make stewed rhubarb, using no water, just rhubarb and sugar, cooked until soft.
    Lovely recipes, thanks.

  14. If I reduce the amount of sugar in the strawberry rhubarb sauce will it still be safe to can? I like more tartness to my sauce, so don’t want to make it too sweet. Thanks

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