Not having grown up in New England, many locally-grown foods were unfamiliar to me when I moved here. Rhubarb seemed very exotic, with its fleshy crimson and acid-green stalks, and hint of danger contained within its toxic parasol-like leaves. Commonly known as “pie plant,” I began by dutifully making strawberry-rhubarb pies. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate rhubarb’s ability to stand on its own, as featured in a rustic galette made with a cornmeal crust. This season I look forward to trying rhubarb as a juice, pickled, and in a savory dish combining it with lentils.
Its appearance at the farmers’ markets also marks the beginning of the preserving season. Frozen or as preserves, the tart nature of rhubarb brings a welcome brightness to winter desserts. In its frozen form, rhubarb can be used in many recipes or left to process into preserves at a later date. Rhubarb preserves make for a quick dessert spooned over ice cream, fresh ricotta or yogurt, or swirled with a dollop of creme fraiche and served as a topping for buttermilk biscuits or pound cake.
Frozen Rhubarb: wash, wipe dry, trim ends, cut into ½ to 1-inch pieces, freeze on trays, pack into containers and store in freezer.
1. Wash and trim off both ends of each stalk. Cut into ½ to 1-inch pieces, depending on size of stalk).
2. Add ½ cup sugar to each quart of sliced fruit. Let stand for several hours to draw out the juice.
3. Begin heating the water in canner. Prepare jars and lids.
4. Boil the rhubarb with their juices for 1 minute.
5. Pack into clean hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Cover with hot juice, leaving ½-inch headspace.
6. Process pints and quarts for 10 minutes in boiling water bath canner.
Notes: A quart of trimmed rhubarb is a little over a pound. 1½ quarts of rhubarb makes 2 pints of preserves. I let the preserves settle for at least several weeks before using. Recipe adapted from “The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food”.