I Love Rhubarb

I’ve spent the last few weeks totally fixated on rhubarb.  Before I move on to something new (there were cherries at the market last Saturday), I thought I’d gather together all the different crap on my computer desktop into one convenient spot.  These are the highlights from the great rhubarb extravaganza of 2012.

Jam

I’ve made many, many jars of this basic rhubarb jam that I posted a few weeks ago.  It’s a simple recipe that uses rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice, and it’s the perfect blank canvas for experimenting with different add-ins like vanilla beans, lavender, rosemary, cardamom….   (As the rhubarb season has progressed, the jams have gone from bright red to pale pink to greenish-brown….. )

Know what makes me really happy?  Greek yogurt + rhubarb jam + a drizzle of honey + granola.  You gotta do it.  It’s like dessert, but healthier.

Syrup:

Rhubeena, from The Hungry Tigress, should be considered a pantry staple like tomato sauce.  It’s that good. Before the rhubarb season is over, I also need to make this Rhubarb-Lime syrup, from Hitchhiking to Heaven, because  citrus sounds like the perfect partner for rhubarb.

Cocktails:  

Rhubarb Mojitos: a classic mojito pumped up with rhubarb syrup

Rhubarb Granita Cocktails: ridiculously good frozen cocktails made with rhubarb granita, vodka and soda.  (The other night, while I was drinking one of these, I decided that they’re the best fruity cocktail that I’ve ever had in my life, ever. I love these. They’re dangerous.)(We’ve also made Local Kitchen’s Rhubarbitas, because apparently, you know, I drink a lot and really like rhubarb.   I love me a fruity pink cocktail, what can I say).

Rhubarb Fruit Leather:

Making rhubarb syrups means that you’ll end up with some leftover cooked rhubarb pulp.  It depends on how long you’ve cooked the pulp, but sometimes there’s still a lot of flavor left in there.   I was pleasantly surprised by the way the rhubarb leather turned out;  the flavor in the pulp that was definitely a bit on the bland side concentrated in the oven and came out perfectly sweet, tart and bright by the time it was finished dehydrating.   You don’t need to own a dehydrator to make leather — it comes out fine in the oven using a cookie sheet with raised sides.

Cook Time: 8 hrs. or so

Ingredients:

  • a couple cups of cooked rhubarb pulp leftover from other recipes
  • lemon juice to taste
  • sugar
  • cooking spray or neutral flavored oil

Heat the oven to 150 degrees or the lowest setting available.  Use a blender to puree the rhubarb pulp.  Taste it, and add a splash of lemon juice if it needs some brightness.  Add a bit of sugar to taste, but remember that the flavors will concentrate and sweeten in the oven, so be careful not to overdo it or it will come out really sweet.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet with neutral oil or cooking spray, and then pour the rhubarb puree onto it.  The puree layer should be about 1/4″ thick.  Put it in the oven until it’s dry and looks like fruit leather, somewhere from 6-8 hours.  (Check it more often when it’s almost done so it doesn’t get too dry).

When it’s done, peel it off the cookie sheet and cut it into convenient sized pieces.   Theoretically, it will keep for a long time at room temperature in a jar or a tupperware, but we ate ours in just a couple days.

Desserts:

Everyone knows about rhubarb pie, but there are so many other sweet treats that you can make with rhubarb.  Like this cake (or is a tart? or a pie?):I give you: strawberry rhubarb kuchen, which is what happens when you stumble onto this recipe for Rhubarb Krack from the Hungry Tigress (which is an adaptation of  Cakewalk’s Rhubarb Kuchen recipe) and realize that you don’t have enough rhubarb to make it but if you just substitute some strawberries for part of the rhubarb, things could still work out well….There’s not really much point in writing the recipe out again since two other talented ladies have already done it.  The only information that really matters is that you can substitute some strawberries for the Tigress’ recipe if you don’t have enough rhubarb, but that it’s probably wise to reduce the sugar since strawberries are pretty sweet on their own.  I used 1 c. of sugar for the filling instead of 2 c. and it was plenty sweet for my taste.  (I also used all-purpose flour, not the whole wheat pastry flour that the recipe calls for, but it was only because I didn’t have the whole wheat on hand.)

I’m pretty sure this recipe would be amazing with any ripe fruit.  I’d love to try it with peaches, or pears, or plums….  That custardy fruit layer is really just everything I could ever want out of a dessert.

I wish I could say that I’m done working on rhubarb recipes, but I’m totally not. (I definitely still want to make the rhubarb mostarda from What Julia Ate and this Rhubarb Custard Pie from Saveur.) and I really haven’t experimented enough with all of rhubarb’s savory applications….  It’s a vicious cycle of rhubarb, it’s true.

Okay, I gotta go get a slice of that pie….

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This One Is Dangerous: Rhubarb Granita Cocktails

So I’m in the middle of a pretty intense obsession with rhubarb- I’ve made a ton of jam, rhubarb syrup, rhubarb mojitos, and most recently this rhubarb granita.Granitas are simply frozen syrups that you stir during the freezing process, making a texture something like a snow cone. ( The Los Angeles Times has an article here explaining the general process.) They’re almost are always a good idea- they’re sweet and cold, the perfect treat for a hot day.

This granita is superpowered, though.

It’s already amazing because it’s made of rhubarb…. but this granita also has vodka in it.  Throw some in a glass and top it with sprite or seltzer water, and you now have one of those deceptive cocktails that definitely doesn’t taste as strong as it really is.  Fizzy, sweet and tart, cold….  it’s the perfect cocktail for a sunny afternoon.  Whenever I put recipes up here for the whole internet to see, I like to taste them one last time to make sure I have the measurements right.  That means that right now (9:42 a.m.) I’m having to remind myself that drinking vodka cocktails before breakfast is never, ever a good idea.

oh, but what a breakfast it could be….

(no! step away!)

seriously though, these are addictive.  Serve it at your next party and all of your guests will love you.

Rhubarb Granita 

I got the idea for this recipe here, from A Crafty Lass’s recipe for Rhubarb Slush.  I didn’t really follow the recipe, so I’m not 100% sure, but I think her version is more like frozen rhubarb jello.  I omitted the gelling step, changed a couple ingredients, and figured a basic granita would be just as good.

Cook Time: oh, with time in the freezer included, about a day- but don’t let that scare you- it’s easy.

Makes: a lot- almost a gallon

Ingredients:

  • 8 c. rhubarb, chopped into 1″ sections
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. strawberry jam
  • 2 c. vodka
  • for serving the cocktails: sprite, 7-up, ginger ale, seltzer…. anything fizzy will work

Step 1: Make the rhubarb syrup

Combine the rhubarb, water, sugar and lemon juice in a large pot and cook on high heat until the rhubarb is soft, about 20 minutes.  Strain the mixture through a colander, reserving the rhubarb syrup.  (Save the pulp- it still tastes good and you can put it in quick bread, mix it into yogurt, make fruit leather, etc.)

Combine the rhubarb syrup with the strawberry jam and the vodka.

Step 2: Make the granita

Pour the rhubarb-vodka mixture into a large, shallow dish.  Cover with saran wrap and place in the freezer.  (If you don’t have enough space in the freezer for a large dish, it really will work ok in a bowl too.  It just might take longer.)    Most granita recipes will tell you to stir the liquid every 30 minutes, but I didn’t do it nearly that often and it turned out fine.   The idea is that you don’t want to let it freeze solid.  I stirred mine with a fork every hour or two, then let it freeze overnight and gave it another stir in the morning.

Step 3: Cocktails

Top with seltzer water, sprite, ginger ale, whatever you like, and drink immediately.  The granita will last awhile (days? weeks? but who could let it sit in there that long without drinking it?) in the freezer, but the texture may change a little, becoming more frozen.  You can always let it thaw for awhile to soften it back up and it should be fine.

Mint Syrup & Rhubarb Mojitos

This project started out as an attempt to preserve spring herbs.When I first started my garden, years ago, I was working with this bare hillside covered with brush and weeds.  I didn’t really have any experience with garden planning and made some strange choices, once of which was to plant a whole bunch of mint.  I liked the idea of mint growing around my garden without me having to do anything, and since it would spread I figured it would take over the space from all the weeds.

Yeah…

That was about the dumbest idea I’ve ever had.  Now we have mint everywhere.  Don’t plant mint in your garden.  Put it in a container, not the ground.  The roots are so invasive, and even when you think you’ve dug them all up, they come right back.  God forbid you run a rototiller through it — then all of the roots split into little pieces and sprout new plants, and instead of having a million little mint plants you have ten trillion of them.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to use this ridiculous amount of mint, to turn it into something that would actually make it worth the space in the garden.  Later in the summer, it shoots up pretty purple flower spikes and I put it in our bouquets for the farmers market.  I wanted to find a culinary use for it, though, so I figured I’d make a mint simple syrup since mojitos are a staple around here during the summer. Oh yeah, that beautiful shade of baby poo green? That’s why most people put green food coloring in their minty canned goods.

I’d never made anything like this before, so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out.  It’s good, but if you’re using it for mojitos I think it works better in addition to the fresh mint than it does as a substitution for the fresh stuff.  The flavor in the cooked syrup is definitely very minty but loses some of that fresh brightness that the leaves originally had.

So while that whole project was going on, I was also working on rhubarb things and finally made the Tigress’s recipe for Rhubeena, (rhubarb syrup), which is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages now.  It came out perfectly – it’s everything that the mint syrup isn’t, actually.  It tastes tart and bright and turns a stunning shade of hot pink. At this point, my mediocre herb-preservation project joined forces with the power of rhubarb to make some absolutely stellar cocktails.  You don’t necessarily have to use rhubeena to make these- any rhubarb product you have around will work.  I even made a couple using some rhubarb pulp leftover from a totally different project.  Rhubarb jam would work.  Technically… you don’t even need to use rhubarb as the fruit flavor.  You could substitute any fruit product that makes you happy:  blueberry jam, apricot butter, chopped fresh strawberries… whatever you want.  The rhubarb is amazing, though, and I highly recommend it. It seems like everyone always looks forward to summer for fun stuff like grilling and fizzy cocktails and eating outdoors.  Spring has always seemed like a some kind of preparatory period leading up to summer, but recently I’ve been thinking that, you know, the weather right now is totally beautiful, the garden has plenty of nice things going on, and – most importantly – late July and August on a farm tend to be so busy that there’s not much time to stop and enjoy everything.  I’m embracing spring as the time to celebrate.  The sun is back out.  Make a cocktail and clean the grill off, no reason to wait.

(I know, I know, it might still frost/snow/sleet etc., I’m starting the party early anyway).

Mint Simple Syrup

Thanks to Cindy from SB Canning for helping me make sure that this project would be safe to can (she’s pretty smart about that stuff).  Lots of recipes on the internet for mint syrup that goes in the fridge, but I wasn’t sure if it would be shelf stable.  This recipe should work for other culinary herbs as well.

cook time: oh…. 40 minutes including processing time?

makes: a little over 3 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 3 c. water
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 huge bunch of fresh mint, washed thoroughly: I don’t mean the little teeny bunches that they sell at the grocery store- I mean a big huge handful!

This recipe comes together pretty quickly, so you might as well start by bringing the boiling water canner up to a boil right off the bat.

In a nonreactive pot, combine the sugar and water.  Cook on high heat, stirring for a minute or two, to dissolve the sugar.  Add the mint into the pot and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat.  Remove from heat and strain through several layers of cheesecloth or a jelly bag.   Pour into clean half pint jars leaving 1/4″ headspace and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

 

Rhubarb Mojitos

cook time: 5 minutes

makes: 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

  • ice & seltzer water
  • 2 ounces rhubeena
  • 1 ounce mint simple syrup*
  • 6 or 7 fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 of a lime
  • 1 ounce rum

Cut the lime into wedges.  In a pint glass, combine the rhubeena, mint syrup, and rum.  Squeeze the lime wedges into the glass to release the juice and then throw them right in there with everything.  Add the mint leaves.  Add some ice.  Top with seltzer water.  Mix well.

*In the past I haven’t bothered making mint syrup for mojitos, but I think it actually made a significant improvement in the cocktail to do it this way.  If you don’t want to can a big batch, you could just infuse a small batch of simple syrup with some mint leaves and put leftovers in the fridge.

Rhubarb Jam

I’ve been making marmalades for months now.  There have been oranges, lemons, tangerines, kumquats, grapefruit and pomelos scattered all over every surface in kitchen. Every time I finish with one case of citrus, I’ll swear to myself that I’m not doing any more marmalades because I’m so sick of finely slicing things… and then about two days will pass, I’ll forget my vow, and then decide it’s a good idea to do something idiotic like make 40 jars of kumquat marmalade.  (About 5 minutes after I start, I remember that I totally meant to not go down that road again, but since I don’t like wasting things I end up powering through several cases of kumquats and getting a bunch of calluses on my fingers from all the knife-work.)

After this whole marmalade saga, I can say that as of right now, I’m officially down to one last single lemon. If you see me at a farmers market, please just say:

LISTEN.  DON’T DO IT. IT’S NOT WORTH IT. STAY AWAY FROM THE ORANGES.

(But just writing that, I start thinking – ah, but I don’t really have enough blood orange things in jars, and I never got to do anything with those rangpur limes that Shae keeps raving about , so I can basically guarantee that I’m going to continue down this destructive path of citrus addiction for atleast another month or two.)

I’m trying though! See? This rhubarb jam is completely different from all of the elaborate marmalades I’ve been working on.  It’s just plain rhubarb, no bells and whistles at all.  I wanted to make something that was bright and clean tasting and completely true to the flavor of the fruit. So the rhubarb ends up doing this sweet-tart thing that’s so, so tasty….  This is, without a doubt, in my top 5 favorite preserves.  I want to put it on everything.  I like it so much that I’m pretty sure I’m going to put in a twenty foot row of rhubarb in the garden so that I can really have enough to play with.  Rhubarb Jam

This recipe is my own, but very much inspired by the methods used in the Blue Chair Fruit cookbook and the vibrant colors of the jam over at INNA Jam, which I’ve never tasted before but I’ve stared at a lot on the internet.

Makes: a little more than 5 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 lbs. rhubarb
  • 4 c. sugar
  • lemon juice to taste, around 1/4 c.

Day 1:

Remove the leaves from the rhubarb stalks and discard.  Wash the stalks.  Slice the stalks into small pieces about 1/2″ wide.  In a nonreactive container (like a large tupperware or glass bowl), combine the chopped rhubarb and the sugar.  Cover.  Put the container in the fridge for a day or two to macerate.

Day 2:

Cook the jam: Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Put the rhubarb mixture into a wide, heavy-bottomed pot.  Cook on high heat, stirring occasionally.  Try to be gentle when you stir so you keep some chunks of rhubarb; the pieces are very tender and fall apart very easily.  I didn’t use a thermometer when I cooked this; I noticed that the jam visibly thickened more than it really looked like it had gelled.  The rhubarb will start wanting to stick to the bottom of the pot towards the very end of the cooking time, so make sure to keep stirring and keep a close eye on it towards the end of the cooking time.  It ends up being  a soft set jam, but the texture is wonderful, thick enough.  Add in the lemon juice towards the end of the cooking time, going about a tablespoon at a time.  I wanted this to be pretty tart, so I put in a lot, but you don’t have to use as much as I did.  It’s fine to turn off the jam, let it sit for a minute, taste it, and stir in a little more lemon juice if it needs a more brightness.

Ladle cooked jam into clean jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe the rims of the jars completely clean and screw on lids.  Process for 10 minutes, remembering to adjust for altitude if necessary.

NOTE: I like how simple this recipe is, but you could certainly use it as a starting point and add some other flavorings in.  Future batches might have things like candied ginger, orange zest, lavender, etc. mixed in, but I wanted something simple before I pulled out all the fancy stuff.

Rhubarb Is Basically The Best Thing Ever

This jelly was a small-batch experiment, and it came out great.  If you are a pie person, you must make this.  It tastes like, well, it tastes like the gooey stuff in rhubarb pie that’s not the fruit part or the crust- the stuff in between the strawberries and the rhubarb.  It’s tangy and sweet, with a good punch of lemon from all the fresh lemon juice. And since it’s jelly and not pie, somehow it falls into the “socially acceptable to eat for breakfast” category.

I’m definitely going to make this again in much larger batches and with a little bit of tweaking (maybe some cinnamon?), but this recipe is a perfect jumping off point.  Plus, there’s absolutely no added pectin, and whenever I make jelly without added pectin I feel like I’ve really accomplished something big in my life.

Rhubarb Jelly

makes: 1/2 pt. (plus a little extra)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. chopped rhubarb
  • 1 lb. crabapples, chopped in half
  • 6 c. water
  • 1/3 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 c. sugar

1. In a large, non-reactive pot, combine the rhubarb, apples and water.  Cover, and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.  Your whole house will smell like freshly chopped rhubarb and it will be amazing.

2. Transfer the cooked fruit and water mixture in a jelly bag to strain for 12 hours, if you have one.  You could also use cheesecloth.  I don’t have either of those things right now and I hate spending money, so I do it this way:

A picture is worth a thousand words, but let me try to explain what I did in much fewer than that…  Grab yourself a clean pillowcase (unless you want fun stuff in your jelly) and slip it over a large, nonreactive pot. Twist the base of the pillowcase and fasten with a rubber band or some tape. Pour the cooked fruit and liquid mixture into the pot.  The cooked fruit will stay on top of the pillowcase and a rich, flavorful juice will slowly drip into the pot.  Put the lid on top of the pot (but don’t press down on the fruit or the jelly will get cloudy later) and leave it to sit for 12 hours.

3. After 12 hours is up, undo the pillowcase and lift it off of the pot.  You could save the mushy fruit for making muffins or breads, but I fed mine to the chickens (because there’s only 24 hours in a day and I already made jelly, damn it. I don’t want to make muffins too).  You should be left with a really wonderful, aromatic juice.

4. Bring your boiling water canner to a boil.  In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the rhubarb juice with the sugar and lemon juice, and cook on high until it reaches around 220 degrees on a candy thermometer (ha! I don’t have one of those either, and I make jam professionally).  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can do the frozen plate test, like me. Put a few small plates or bowls in the freezer before you start cooking the jelly.  When the jelly is really boiling like crazy and you think it might be ready, put a teaspoon of jelly onto one of the frozen plates.  Wait 30 seconds.  Run your finger across the jelly on the plate.  If it’s ready, your finger will make a wrinkly line through the cold jelly on the plate.  If the jelly just stays liquid and there’s no wrinkling, cook it for another few minutes and try again.

5. Ladle the jelly into clean, hot jars. Wipe rims clean, and screw on lids.  Process half-pint jars for 5 minutes, unless you want to eat it right now, in which case you should go get a spoon.  Happy canning!

NOTE: This recipe was just a very small test batch, which I always do when I am finding new jams and jellies to bring to the farmers market.  When I make it next time, probably in a month or two when there’s more rhubarb in the garden, I will definitely double or triple it, which I would encourage anyone with enough rhubarb to do, since getting one jar of jelly can be kind of anti-climactic.