It’s STILL not strawberry time, but take heart! There’s lots to do wih what we have–and time is running short, so dive in. Here are a few easy and ingenious recipes to maximize your rhubarb pleasure for the next couple weeks until the berries pop.
Use this potent liquid as an alternative to lemon juice in many recipes, or to make a delightful rhubarbade with the addition of sugar and either flat or sparkling water.
Rhubarb, although very acidic, isn’t quite as acidic as lemon juice, so keep that in mind when making substitutions. Most lemon juice has a pH of around 2.1. I measured the acidity of my rhubarb extract at 2.9 (yes, I’m one of those geeks who keeps a pH meter lying around). That’s not quite as close as it sounds because pH is measured logarithmically, like earthquakes. It is, nonetheless, acidic enough to do achieve the desired effect in many recipes. If you use lemon juice to add acidity for canning purposes, be aware that you want the overall acidity to be 4.3 or under, so rhubarb extract can also be effectively used for that purpose.
4 cups chopped rhubarb
Cook rhubarb over medium low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until fibres have completely broken down into the liquid. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes, then strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze cheesecloth firmly to extract all liquid. Transfer rhubarb to ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, seal in a freezer bag until ready for use.
Caramelized Rhubarb Jam
Based on the recipe on Jess Thomson’s blog, Hogwash, this jam is simple, a enticingly caramelish alternative to the standard compote, and a great way to get jamming early in the season.
- 4 cups chopped rhubarb
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups sugar (roughly; adjust to taste)
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven 375˚F. Combine all ingredients in a large, shallow baking pan. Roast rhubarb, stirring only once, for 3-4 hours or until stalk fibres are broken down and surface has a brown, caramelized appearance. If canning with sterilized equipment, can immediately; otherwise, set aside for half an hour to cool, then transfer to containers and refrigerate or freeze until use.
One of my favourite uses, this one is too simple to write down in recipe form: just chop up a cup or so of rhubarb and pop the pieces in a bottle of your favourite gin. Seal, refrigerate, and leave for 5-7 days. Strain out the rhubarb pieces and return the gin to a clean bottle. Enjoy with tonic water on a warm summer evening.