The lovely Elisabeth Bailey, author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round, kindly submitted this blog post. You may remember Elisabeth from our summer 2011 cooking series where she shared her rhubarb syrup to make a refreshing rhubarbade for our meal.
Just like Alison, I love the mess out of rhubarb. One of my favourite childhood memories is sitting on a neighbour’s back porch with my best friend Andy on a warm evening, dipping stalks of rhubarb fresh from her garden into a bowl of sugar and crunching away. That’s still my favourite way to enjoy rhubarb, but it’s just the first in an arsenal of uses I’ve developed over the years.
Most springs I use the garden bounty to make rhubarb custard pies or rhubarb strawberry crumble, but the one recipe I follow without fail is rhubarb syrup. You can make it with any amount of rhubarb, large or small, and it’s an easy and guaranteed way to preserve the flavour and nutrition of the fresh stalks for any time you wish to experience it.
- Chopped rhubarb, as much as you have
- Sugar or honey to taste (optional)
Stew 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 mesh produce bag OR a colander lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze mesh or cheesecloth firmly to extract all liquid.
Got it? Simple. Now, here are a few things you can do with it:
1. Use as a rhubarbade concentrate. If this is your intention, add sugar (my preference) or honey during the stewing process. Mix syrup with flat or sparkling water to taste. Ta da! Freeze excess syrup for consumption any time of the year.
2. Use as a cooking acid instead of lemon juice or vinegar. If this is how you’d like to use your syrup, do NOT add sugar or honey during the stewing process. Preserve by freezing in an ice cube tray to make easy portions. Store frozen cubes in a freezer-safe bag, and use a straw to remove excess air from the bag before returning to the freezer.
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 syrup 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 since pH is measured logarithmically, like earthquakes. It is, nonetheless, acidic enough to 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 under 4.3.
3. Make candy. Pour about 2/3 cup rhubarb syrup sweetened with sugar onto the fruit roll sheet of your dehydrator and dry at the highest setting until syrup is solid and malleable, about 12-18 hours. Shape sheet of dried syrup into individual candies and wrap or store in an airtight container. These taste just like Jolly Ranchers, only better!
Do you have other uses for rhubarb syrup? Share your ideas in the comments below–and enjoy!