Rhubarb, Rhubarb

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

875g sugar

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.

15 thoughts on “Rhubarb, Rhubarb

  1. Missy Torlach says:

    Hi Sally,
    Just for the first time opened at bottle of your sparkling rhubarb drink and am in LOVE with it as well as my kids and husband! I am just interested though, you have mentioned that you could use any fruit, and am looking forward to doing that but was just wondering as well, if you can use previously frozen fruit and if it needs to be defrosted first or can be thrown in as is?


    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Missy – yes, you can indeed use frozen fruit. I’ve done this several times now. I just threw it in as it was and it worked fine. Just make sure that you stir it after a couple of hours so that the fruit as it thaws is evenly distributed in the mixture.



    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Rosemary – I have used quinces too – even just the quince cores and peels and it worked really well. I have tried using apples twice, but while the recipe still worked by way of developing the characteristic sparkle, I did not like the flavour at all. I would say that it was the type of apple maybe, but I used different varieties for each batch. You could give it a try though and you may have better success. I wish it would work as I have just picked the apples from our (very small) tree. In fact, your query has inspired me to experiment with it one more time and I will sacrifice a few of my precious apples to do so. Let me know how yours turns out if you are going down this track as well. I’ll keep you informed about the end results of mine.



  2. Edna Withers says:

    Hi Sally,
    26 November 2014
    I am growing rhubarb for the first time from crowns in Perth. I understand that you don’t harvest for the first year to let the plants establish.
    So do you just leave the stalks to die back? Do they rot? So keep watering and shade in Perth in Summer. Thanks Edna


    • Sally Wise says:

      Goodness, I’m not sure about that Edna. I’d not read this, so have always used mine as soon as they produce stalks. It doesn’t seem to have done them any harm. I’ll research this more for you and let you know what I come up with.



  3. Bridget says:

    Hello Sally, I love your books and have had a great time making many sparkling fruit and berry drinks from my orchard. Have you ever made a sparkling citrus version??


    • Sally Wise says:

      Yes I do, though it’s a slightly different recipe. Would you like me to send it? Or if you have a copy of A Year in a Bottle, it’s in there – recipe title is Homemade Lemonade, but you could apply this to any citrus fruit. Regards, Sally


  4. Kathy Gameau says:

    Sally, I made this last Friday but it has no bubbles when I tried it today. Am I being impatient or have I done something wrong?


  5. Anita Ettles says:

    Can you use the fruit to stew after it comes out of the tub/bucket? I have just made my first rhubarb batch but am feeling it such a waste to chuck the fruit as it still looks so good. Or better to give to chooks? I am so excited. It looks so beautiful… like fairy wine!!


  6. Cheryl Westbury says:

    I would love to try this, but my daughter is anaphylactic to citrus. Is it worth trying with artificial lemon concentrate, or is it a ‘magical citrus’ chemical reaction?


    • sallywiseau says:

      Best not to use the artificial lemon concentrate. I wouldn’t be surprised if it contains citric acid or similar. You can make your own pesto, omitting the lemon juice. The remainder of the recipe contains no lemon or any other sort of citrus.

      Here is my recipe for pesto:

      PESTO (made in the food processor)

      2 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
      ½ cup pine nuts or cashews
      2 gloves garlic, peeled
      ½ cup light olive oil
      1 teaspoon mild mustard (optional)
      ½ cup shaved or shredded parmesan
      ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

      Place the basil leaves, pine nuts or cashews and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

      With the motor running, gradually add the oil, then the Parmesan and process till combined. Add salt to taste.

      Pour into a container and cover surface with a little olive oil. Cover with a lid. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

      NOTE: I make large amounts and freeze in small round freezer containers for future use.


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