I have this year been growing about 50 rhubarb plants. I use it primarily in a non-alcoholic sparkling rhubarb (recipe to follow) and occasionally to make chutney. I am growing such a huge amount to pass on to Alistair for use in his wonderful rhubarb tarts.
Recently I was making raspberry jam. Now I like to let each fruit stand in its own right but had a couple of rhubarb stalks leftover from a pie, so decided to just dice the rhubarb finely and add at the outset to the one kilo of raspberries I was softening in the saucepan. It worked really well. The rhubarb doesn’t detract from the wonderful summery flavour of the raspberries, but leaves a subtle aftertaste and roundness that is very pleasing indeed.
Rhubarb is also very good preserved by the waterbath (Fowlers) method – in jars in a heavy syrup, which is equal parts of sugar and water, but less sugar on none at all can be used. I simply slice it (or whole stalks can be bottled and look very attractive in the jars). I slowly bring it up to 85 degrees celsius in the preserver, and hold it at this for one hour.
Here is the recipe for the sparkling rhubarb drink. It is very simple to do and children love to get involved. There is an old Peter Paul and Mary song that says “It’s magic and you don’t want to know, just how it’s done it would ruin the show”. This truly applies to what happens almost magically in the making of sparkling rhubarb. Ingredients are simply placed in a food safe bucket and left to stand at room temperature for 2 days. It is then strained and bottled and a week or two later you have a truly wonderful, additive free sparkling drink, with much less sugar than regular commercial soft drink. Other fruits can be substituted for the rhubarb with the exception of apples. However, crabapples work well, cherries, strawberries and so on. I have even used quince cores and peels, leftover from making quince conserve, very nice indeed.
875g rhubarb, diced
1 lemon, chopped
200ml white or cider vinegar
18 cups cold water
Combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon, vinegar and water in a food safe bucket. Mix well, cover with a tea towel and leave to stand 2 days. Strain and bottle. I strain it first through a colander, then the resulting liquid through a nylon kitchen sieve. I use empty soft drink (PET) bottles, filling them just to the necks, and screwing the tops on tightly. The bottles can also be purchased new from home brewing suppliers.
It is best to chill before opening.