I didn’t think we were going to have any rhubarb at all this year following the timber harvesting from the back field of some pine and hardwood during late winter.
The skidder, then the 18-wheeler on which the logs were piled, drove right over my rhubarb patch, scraping off so much snow and soil. But then, a couple of weeks ago, tiny, shiny purple balls began appearing in the patch. And now, small leaves are interspersed with more “balls” that are appearing. Thank goodness – there will be rhubarb!
Out ancestors looked forward to the appearance of this perennial fruit. Rhubarb was known as the pie plant.
After a winter of dried fruit, if any fruit at all, rhubarb was the first fresh fruit to appear and to immediately make into a pie. I feel the same way about seeing the rhubarb balls pop through the soil. I know it’s the beginning of the most wonderful season of spring, when everything comes to life, and so many fruits and vegetables become available, all in their own time.
After the rhubarb, as well as the cheerful crocuses and daffodils, come the asparagus spears, fiddleheads and tulips.
But for right now, my thoughts are on new and delicious ways to use this tart, but uniquely flavored rhubarb.
Pie is the standard. After all, rhubarb IS the pie plant. But there are so many other ways to use it. Rhubarb combines well with other fruits, too, such as oranges, apples and of course, strawberries.
Over the years, I have made rhubarb jelly, rhubarb jam, strawberry/rhubarb jelly and strawberry/rhubarb jam. A couple of years ago, I tried combining rhubarb and oranges for a jam. It was an instant hit! Everyone liked it, and now, if I decide to make just one rhubarb jelly/jam, it is this one.
Orange Rhubarb Jam (7-8 jars)
5 cups finely chopped red rhubarb
1 package powdered pectin
6 cups sugar
Peel half of one orange, then cut these orange-only (no white part) peelings into thin slivers and set aside. Squeeze juice from both oranges into a measuring cup. If the juice doesn’t make one cup, add enough water to make the cup.
In a large pot, combine the juice, slivered orange peel and chopped rhubarb. Stir. Whisk in the pectin.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar all at once and bring to a full, rolling boil.
Let boil hard, while stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Ladle hot jam into sterilized half-pint mason jars, leaving one-quarter inch head room. Remove air bubbles by running a knife around the inside of the jar.
Screw on the two-piece lids and tighten. Place jars in a canner with enough boiling water to cover the jars. Bring to a boil, cover and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner from heat, wait five minutes, then remove jars. Let cool, then store in the cool, dark place.
Rhubarb may also be combined with sliced apples for a unique cobbler or crisp. Because rhubarb is more tart than apples, more sugar than usual is needed.
Apple-Rhubarb Crisp (about 8 servings)
4-5 apples, peeled and sliced
2-3 cups finely chopped rhubarb
three-quarters cup flour
1 cup sugar
one-half teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon cinnamon
one-quarter teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick butter or margarine
Butter a two-quart casserole dish.
Stir together the apples and rhubarb and place in the buttered dish. Combine all dry ingredients, then cut in the cold butter. Spoon this mixture atop the fruit. Bake at 375 degrees for 55 minutes. Serve with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or plain.
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