The Larder TM_TL_RHUBA_FI_001

When I was eleven years old, my family moved to a house that had once been owned by a botanist. She left behind antique apple trees, a row of lilac bushes and a rhubarb patch the size of a queen bed. Every April, the rhubarb would start to unfurl from the soil and I knew that spring was really and truly on its way.

My mom would make pies and cobblers for at least a month. When we couldn’t bear to look at another rhubarb stalk, she’d chop some of the stalks into hunks and freeze it for the future. There’d still be more after that, and it would go to my dad’s office in plastic grocery bags. It was a lot of rhubarb.

These days, the arrival of the local rhubarb is one of my most anticipated moments of spring. I buy several pounds and get to cooking. One of the particular joys of rhubarb is that it’s incredibly versatile. Most people know that it is an excellent starring player in pies. But it can also be simmered and strained into syrup or be cooked down with onions, mustard seeds and currants into a vivid, meal-enlivening chutney.

If the idea of homemade syrups and condiments has you a little intimidated, both chutneys and quick syrups make for very good starting places. Both these recipes simply require you to do nothing more than a bit of basic chopping and stirring. If you want to can them for shelf stability, it can be done, but they’ll also keep for weeks in a clean jar in the refrigerator.

If you like the idea of chutney, but aren’t sure what to do with it, try adding it to a toasted cheese sandwich or tossed with brown rice and sautéed greens. Paired with a log of goat cheese and a packet of good crackers, it’s my go-to contribution to casual parties and potlucks.

The syrup is an excellent way to enliven a glass of sparkling water or make a seasonal homemade cocktail. It’s also nice drizzled over yogurt or a loaf of slightly dry pound cake.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe basic pie dough (recipe below)
  • 1 quart strawberries, washed and quartered
  • 1 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)

Instructions

Preheat over to 425 degrees.

Combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, flour and vanilla extract in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

Roll out the dough on a well-floured board or counter. When it’s large enough to fully cover your pie plate with some overhang, use a spatula to loosen the crust from the board. Gently fold it in half and position the plate right next to it. Leaving the crust folded, scoot it half way across the plate, so that the seam of the fold is somewhere near the middle of the plate. Gently unfold the crust and work it into the plate.

Pour the strawberry rhubarb filling into the crust and dot the top of the fruit with butter. Set aside.

Roll out the second hunk of pie crust. You can either give this pie a full crust (making sure to cut several vents so the steam can escape) or create a lattice topper. Either way, when top crust is in position, trim excess pie crust and crimp the edges.

Whisk the egg together with a tablespoon of water and brush over the pastry top. This will give it a glossy finish and help it brown.

Put pie on a rimmed baking sheet and put into the oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. After that, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and the juices are thickened.

Let the pie sit for at least an hour before cutting, so that the juices have a chance to continue to thicken. This way, your pie won’t be a runny mess (though even runny messes are delicious).

Basic Pie Dough Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup ice water

Instructions

Combine the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the cold butter cubes to the bowl and pulse until the butter is incorporated into the flours and largest bits look to be the size of peas.

Then, with the motor running, slowly stream the water into the bowl using the tube. Stop once you’ve added 1/4 cup of water and test the dough by squeezing it. If it sticks together, it’s done. You want it to just barely hold together.

Divide the dough in two and wrap it in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Store in the refrigerator for at least an hour before using. Overnight is fine too. The dough can also be frozen for up to a month.

If you don’t have a food processor, pie dough is still within your grasp. Combine the flours, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Grate very cold butter using a box grater. When it’s all grated, combine with the flours in the bowl and work together using a pastry blender or your hands. Add water drop by drop until the dough comes together. Divide and store as recommended above.

Makes enough for a double pie crust.

Mustardy Rhubarb Chutney

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sliced rhubarb (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup minced onion (about 1 small onion)
  • ¾ cup currants
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a wide, non-reactive pot (give yourself at least 4 quarts of space to work with). Place pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it bubbles, reduce heat to medium and simmer gently, stirring regularly, until slightly thickened.

As the chutney gets closer to done, make sure to stir every minute or so to prevent scorching. You’ll know the chutney is finished cooking when you can pull your spoon through the chutney and the space you’ve created doesn’t fill in immediately.

Another way to determine whether the chutney is done is a method popular in vintage canning books. You scoop a small spoonful out of the pot and watch how it behaves once in the bowl of the spoon. If it runs to the edges, it’s not there yet. However, if it sits in a high mound, it is done.

Finished chutney can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks, or canned for longer shelf stability.

Makes three half-pints.

Rhubarb Syrup

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sliced rhubarb (about 1 pound)
  • 1½ pounds, coarsely chopped
  • 2½ cups granulated sugar

Instructions

Combine the chopped rhubarb with 3 cups water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rhubarb is soft enough to be easily mashed with a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes.

Place a large fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl and strain the rhubarb and its juice through the sieve. Let the rhubarb drip undisturbed. Do your best to resist the urge to press the rhubarb pulp to help it release its liquid as this will result in cloudy syrup.

Discard the solids in the sieve and return the strained juice to the pot. Add the sugar and bring to a boil, skimming any foam that appears on the top. Simmer syrup until it reduced by approximately one-third.

Remove the pot from the heat and pour the hot syrup into a heat-proof jar. Cool and refrigerate. To use, stir it into sparkling water or cocktails.

Makes approximately two cups syrup.

Comments

  1. Lovely dish! Would you be happy to link it in to the new Food on Friday which is all about rhubarb? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. Cheers

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