Raising the Rhubarb

If your only familiarity with rhubarb is from A Prairie Home Companion’s fictitious commercials, use the spring season to give the stalks a try in something other than pie.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

Strawberries and rhubarb are the perfect pair for springtime drinks, jams and desserts.

Rhubarb fits spring’s aesthetic perfectly with its pale to deep pink colors on its celery-like stalks. When eaten raw, rhubarb has an extremely tart flavor, which is why it’s usually cooked down and added into sweets and baked goods—think cookies, pies and jellies. In fact, its use as a complement to sweets means it’s usually treated like a fruit instead of the vegetable it is, earning it the nickname “the pie plant.” The most classic rhubarb pairing is strawberries, with a sweetness that tones down rhubarb’s acidity and a harvesting season that perfectly coincides with rhubarb’s mid-April through June season. 

When buying rhubarb for your next culinary challenge, look for stalks that are neither too thick nor too thin to avoid getting tough, stringy texture, and make sure to get firm stalks with a bright, glossy appearance. Jeanie Skibiski, master gardener with the University of Missouri Master Gardener Extension Program, says the deeper the color, the sweeter the flavor. Green stalks with green flesh will be sour and be good for jams and jellies, which are typically sweetened with sugar. Red stalks with green flesh will have a more mellow, tangy flavor good for cakes and cookies in which they won’t be too cloying. Red stalks with red flesh will have a sweet, almost raspberry flavor. 

No matter what color your rhubarb is, make sure to never eat the leaves, raw or cooked. They contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can be fatal. Simply trim off any leaves from your stalks and discard them before cooking or eating.


Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Makes about 2 cups of jam
Recipe adapted by Claire Porter

1 cup strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
1 cup rhubarb, washed and cut into ½-inch slices
Zest and juice of one half navel orange
1/3 cup raw honey or to taste
½ teaspoon ground cardamom (or substitute ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg)
1 tablespoon chia seeds

To Prepare
Set a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add strawberries, rhubarb, orange juice and honey to the saucepan. Cook the mixture for about 15 minutes or until fruit has broken down and started bubbling, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Taste the mixture and add more honey if necessary. Reduce heat to low, and stir in orange zest and cardamom (or cinnamon-nutmeg mixture if using). Let cook for one minute, stirring. Turn off heat, and stir in chia seeds. Let sit for five to 10 minutes until jam has thickened and chia seeds have gelled. Serve atop toast, goat cheese or biscuits. Store remaining jam in an airtight container and refrigerate


Strawberry Rhubarb Slab Pie

Serves 10
Recipe from The Food Channel

4 cups fresh rhubarb cut into ½-inch slices
3 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered zest and juice of one orange
1½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 pinch kosher salt
1 pinch black pepper
2 batches pre-made pie crust (homemade or store-bought), separated
1 pinch sanding sugar
1 egg, whisked

To Prepare
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Combine strawberries and rhubarb slices into a bowl and zest orange over the fruit. Juice orange into the bowl. Add both sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, pepper and salt and stir mixture together. Roll out one half of the pie crust and lay over the base of a raised-edge baking sheet, leaving enough overhang to crimp the edges. Pour fruit mixture into bottom crust. Roll out other half of pie crust and layer over top of the pie. Crimp edges of crust to seal. Brush the top crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle sanding sugar over the top. Cut vents into the top crust. Bake pie for 55 minutes to one hour until crust is golden brown. Allow pie to cool before serving. 



Rhubarb Juliet

Serves 1
Recipe from The Food Channel

Ingredients for Juliet
2 ounces gin
2 ounces ginger liqueur
3 ounces rhubarb syrup (see recipe)

To Prepare Drink
Fill highball glass with ice. Add club soda, ginger liqueur and rhubarb syrup. Top with club soda. Add a sliced piece of rhubarb for garnish.

Ingredients for Rhubarb Syrup
3 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

To Prepare Rhubarb Syrup
Combine chopped rhubarb, sugar and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until rhubarb softens and breaks down. Remove from heat, strain the liquid and discard the pulp. Refrigerate until cool.


Pineapple Rhubarb Crisp

Serves 4
Recipe from The Food Channel

4 cups frozen rhubarb, thawed and drained
4 cups cubed pineapple, drained
2 cups sugar, divided
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups salted butter, cubed

To Prepare
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Combine rhubarb, pineapple and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Simmer until juices are released and syrup forms. Pour into a buttered, 2-quart casserole dish. In a medium bowl, combine flour, remaining sugar and butter, mixing with hands until butter forms coarse crumbs. Distribute crumbs evenly over rhubarb mixture. Bake for 40 minutes or until bubbling and browned on top. Serve warm. 


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