Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What do you do with rhubarb?

Maybe I shouldn't ask that question because if DH and DS are any indication, many people might tell me something I don't want to hear. That's changing at our house, however. This year I finally made a rhubarb jam that they can't get enough of -- DH even said not to bother making other types while DS indicated he really liked it, too, but doesn't want us to forgo making grape jelly since he prefers that with his peanut butter sandwiches.

My mother always makes stewed rhubarb and while I like that now, it wasn't a big favorite as a kid. Tastes change, though, and now I can't wait for the first rhubarb each spring. Even DH and DS enjoy it as part of a fruit juice blend or a slightly sweeter fruit punch. Fruit leather is always a hit for a snack and we all like a rhubarb coffee cake or rhubarb upside down cake.

Sometimes I make a sweet bread dough and roll it out as a rectangle, spread sweetened cream cheese topped with rhubarb preserves or just sweetened stewed rhubarb down the middle and then cut the sides and lay over the filling as a braid. Last year I made all-rhubarb preserves and found that DH and DS didn't care for that -- I slowly used it up as a filling for the braid or by mixing it half and half with homemade bbq or chili sauce and using for a sweet and spicy sauce in which to heat smoked sausage slices or little smokies. Same idea as the ubiquitous grape jelly and bbq sauce recipe everyone used to prepare for potlucks at work and almost any preserves will substitute, not just rhubarb.

Besides using fresh rhubarb, I freeze rhubarb by cutting into 1-inch pieces and storing in a freezer bag (no blanching necessary) or dry it in the dehydrator. Once frozen or dried, I can use it to make any rhubarb recipe I have from a punch to rhubarb preserves.

If you need something to do with the rhubarb leaves, try making stepping stones like these. Or dye some yarn -- haven't experimented with that yet but Jenny Dean's "Wild Color" even mentions using rhubarb leaves as a mordant when dyeing and several other books on my dyeing shelf provide lots of information on the dyeing process and colors to expect from rhubarb.

Rhubarb Jam

[Yes, this uses gelatin mix but the strawberries are only now blooming and I didn't want to wait. Besides, I consider the end result, DH and DS clamoring for more rhubarb preserves, to be worth the use of one lowly package of gelatin. You can try other flavors of gelatin -- I recommend raspberry as a great substitute.]

8 cups chopped rhubarb
4 cups granulated sugar
3-oz. package strawberry-flavored gelatin

Put the rhubarb in a large heavy pot (at least 4-qt size or use stockpot) and pour sugar over top. Cover with lid and let stand at room temperature overnight.

When ready to prepare, bring the rhubarb and sugar to a boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring constantly, for 12 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in dry gelatin powder. Transfer to sterile jars and refrigerate or process for 10-minutes in boiling water bath canner.

My yield for one batch of this recipe was 7 half-pint jelly jars with about 1/2 cup leftover for tasting. This will be slightly runny or what I call "spoonable" but should firm up a bit more after opening and subsequent refrigeration.

Stewed Rhubarb

Start with any amount of chopped rhubarb you'd like to cook. It will reduce in volume so I suggest starting out with 3 or 4 cups at a minimum.

Place in heavy-bottomed pan and add a few tablespoons of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until rhubarb is soft. Check to see if additional water is necessary at the outset. Once the rhubarb starts to cook it releases liquid so you don't want to add extra if you can help it.

Add sugar at the last. If you started with 4 cups of rhubarb, add 1/2 cup sugar, stir to dissolve and blend and taste. Add more sugar as needed. I usually like about a 1 part sugar to 6 parts rhubarb but it's a highly individual call. You could also use strawberry jam to sweeten.

Serve as a side dish, a dessert sauce over pound cake or on toast for breakfast.

Rhubarb Fruit Punch

4 quarts chopped rhubarb
4 quarts water
2 12-ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
3 cups pineapple juice
2 cups granulated sugar
1 3-ounce package strawberry or raspberry gelatin powder

Cook rhubarb in water till soft. Press through sieve and add remaining ingredients, stirring to dissolve and blend. Serve chilled. Can be frozen.

You can also make plain rhubarb juice as directed in the first part of recipe. Use as part of the liquid when making lemonade or sweeten and serve as Rhubarb-Ade.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Leather

2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup water
2 cups strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup sugar

Combine finely chopped rhubarb and water. Simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add strawberries and sugar. Simmer another 5 minutes. Puree mixture until smooth in a blender or food processor. Dehydrate in a dehydrator or in oven.

To dry in an oven just set temp at lowest possible setting --about 140F. would be about right if you can set your oven this low. Dry until fruit feels leather like yet pliable. Best to use parchment paper laid out on cookie sheet to spread fruit on before drying in oven. Remove the leather while it is still warm and roll it up.

Rhubarb-Ginger Frozen Yogurt

3 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, adjusted to taste based on rhubarb tartness
16 ounces plain yogurt

Combine rhubarb, ginger and sugar in a pan and cover. Cook gently for 5 minutes, until the rhubarb is softening. Then remove the lid to allow any extra juices to evaporate. Taste and add a little more sugar, if needed. Put puree aside to cool.
Stir the yogurt then gently mix in the cooled rhubarb.

Freeze in an ice cream maker. Serve 4.

[Visit Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hosted by TammysRecipes.com for more great recipes and kitchen tips.]


BarbaraLee said...

Grow up on the farm we had enough of the stuff. I would make crisp that never last the day. A bread similar to banana bread. What ever was left went into the freezer.

Carolyn said...

Sometimes I put an oatmeal-brown sugar topping on stewed rhubarb and call it "rhubarb crisp" -- another way to get DH and DS to eat their rhubarb. ;-) Never thought to try a quick bread with rhubarb -- thanks for the idea!

bspinner said...

I've just read your post on rhubarb. Check out May 17, 2007 for my recipe for rhubarb pie. I think I've made at least 4 in the last rwo weeks. DH can't get enough of it. I still like it raw with a little salt.

Carolyn said...

Rhubarb's still coming in strong here so we tried your pie last night -- tasty! The filling with eggs makes it a bit different from our usual and we have LOTS of eggs to use up these days. Thanks for the suggestion!

P.S. Here's a link to bspinner's pie recipe if you want to try it out! http://funwithfiber.blogspot.com/2007/05/i-will-have-happiest-husband-in-world.html

Carolyn said...

Oops! Let's try making that a cut-and-paste from tinyurl.com instead.


magnusmog said...

I love rhubarb and our family favourite is rhubarb and ginger jam. My great aunt used to make it, it skipped a generation with my mum, and now it's my turn!

Carolyn said...

Mmm! Sounds good -- I love the rhubarb and ginger combo.

alke said...

I just wanted to thank you for that post and the one from last year you've referred to.
You have no idea how helpful it is to get the idea's in season. Every year I find this stuff AFTER the harvesting season.
I'm gonna start preserving now for the first year in earnest.

BTW: I did not grow up on a farm and have no generations before me to teach me ;-)

Carolyn said...

Thanks for the nice comment, alke. Hope you get a chance to give preserving a try this year -- especially with the rhubarb as I think it's versatile and easy to use, too.

I didn't grow up on a true farm but did have a mother and grandmother who did most of the this stuff as a matter of course. Their examples make it easier for me now but I always seem to have more to learn. Fortunately I like learning... :-)