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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Rhubarb - Perennial Food, 3 Ways

Growing Rhubarb

Go ahead and get some roots and plant them.  My first rhubarb plants came from an old field in Massachusetts.  In some bygone time it was cultivated for rhubarb and had since been neglected.  I asked for permission to take some roots and those plant are still with me today.  They have traveled with me to Maine and continue to do well. 
I have found it easy to grow.  Plant it, keep it weeded at least until it is established and feed it with compost or rotted manure.  I is a heavy feeder, or likes that best.  

Cooking with Rhubarb

Sweet dishes are the most common and while strawberry is the most common addition to a rhubarb recipe, other berries can be pretty good too.  I have included a savory BBQ sauce recipe as well.  If you are not a big fan of sugary things, here is a tip for making low sugar rhubarb sauce.  Chop the rhubarb as you would for any recipe.  The smaller you chop, the quicker it cooks.  Larger pieces make for a chunkier sauce, your choice! 

Canning Notes:

Was your jars and lids in hot soapy water.  Boil for 10 minutes in water and set on a flat sheet or baking pan and put them in the oven at about 215 degrees to dry and keep sterile. Fill, wipe the lids with a damp, clean paper towel.  Then place the lids on the jars and snug the metal rings (not tight) onto the jars.  Process for 10 minutes in a water bath.  Since the lids are just snug, the small air space in the top of the jar will expand and escape under the water.  After the 10 minutes is up, remove the jars and place on the counter to cool.  The air will contract and, if the seal is good, the metal lids will "pop" down quickly creating a vacuum seal.  It's a good idea to check a canning book or website for further instruction.  Don't worry if  a good seal isn't made, just put it into the refrigerator and eat those first. 
Left to right - Rhubarb BBQ Sauce, Rhubarb Strawberry, Rhubarb Cranberry

Rhubarb Cranberry Jam or Sauce


2lb or 6cu fresh rhubarb
5cu granulated sugar
1/2lb cranberries
1/2cu water
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Makes about 5 standard size (1pt) jars 

Rhubarb does not have much pectin.  Adding some pectin according to package directions will help jell the mixture if a stiffer jam is desired. 

Prepare your jars and lids etc by sterilizing them (see above).
Wash the rhubarb and chop roughly into 2 inch pieces. Put a large, heavy, roomy pan with the sugar, cranberries and the water.
Bring VERY slowly to the boil to melt the sugar.
When it reaches the boil, turn up the heat and allow to come to a rolling boil, and boil until thickened and the setting point (see notes) is reached, which takes around 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice
Pot immediately in sterilized jars, and screw on the lids snugly while the jam is still hot.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Alternately, refrigerate and eat within a few weeks or freeze. 

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam/Sauce

5 one pint jars

Even though strawberries are the classic accompaniment with rhubarb, feel free to use whatever is on hand.  Try a frozen mixed berry package. So use whatever you wish.

Because rhubarb doesn’t have much pectin, add commercial pectin or apple juice to help set the jam. 

3 pounds or 8 cups rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups packed berries, fresh or frozen
1 cup water or apple juice
5 1/2 cups sugar
juice of one lemon
pinch of salt

1. In a large pot, mix the rhubarb, berries, and the water or apple juice. Cook, covered, stirring frequently over moderate heat, until the rhubarb is cooked through and thoroughly tender. It should take about 20 minutes.

Put a small plate in the freezer.

2. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and salt, and cook, uncovered, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface, until the jam is thick and passes the wrinkle test.

To do so, place a small spoonful of the jam on the frozen plate. Return it to the freezer and check it a few minutes later; if the jam wrinkles when nudged, it’s done. You can also use a candy thermometer; jam jells at approximately 220F.

3. Ladle the jam into clean jars, cover, and store in the refrigerator or process as above. 

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

4 c. chopped rhubarb
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 c. water
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
3 Tb. Dijon mustard
2 Tb. cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2-1 tsp. hot pepper sauce or red chili flakes (or to taste) Careful not to over do the heat. 
Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring often (especially towards the end of cooking), until the rhubarb is tender.
Blend until smooth using an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender or food processor to blend).
Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for about a week or freeze for longer storage.
Makes about 6 cups

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