Wondering what to make with rhubarb when it’s coming out your ears? Whether you have a giant patch, recklessly bought a trunkful of rhubarb, or it was dropped on your doorstep, here are seven things to do with rhubarb.
Several years ago, I bought 180 stalks of rhubarb. What can you DO with that much rhubarb? It really was a lot, but they were so tempting.
They were just ten cents a stalk, after all, and they looked so good.
Just $18 for All. That. Rhubarb!
Plus, it was fun helping the farmer cut them and toss the giant (poisonous) leaves. We got chatting and … 180 stalks ended up coming home with me.
That Sunday, I blurted out “I’m DONE with rhubarb!”
An elderly gentleman reminded me, ever so gently “You do know that strawberries will be coming soon don’t you?” That was early days, when I was just learning about the rhythms of seasonal produce and home food storage.
Then we bought our cabin in the woods and became proud owners of The Giant Rhubarb That Will Not Die.
We cut off huge stalks of it and gave shopping bags full of them to people we knew.
A sick goat self-medicated by eating it to the ground.
And when the septic tank was installed, it was accidentally dug up by the backhoe, dumped upside down and covered in dirt. It was dead.
When we were last out at the cabin, there’s a new baby rhubarb plant growing out of the bottom of the giant root. This beast could teach us a lot about survival and tenacity.
It’s about as tenacious as botulism and that’s saying a lot!
That’s the fun of eating local and seasonal food – sometimes you end up with a crazy amount of one food to process. Whether you buy them, are given them, or you have a monster rhubarb patch, what do you DO with it all?
No, these aren’t a bunch of fancy, detailed recipes.
These are EASY.
These are the kinds of things you do when you buy or harvest 180 giant stalks of rhubarb.
What to Do with Rhubarb #1 – Slice and can it!
This is easy.
Cut it into 1″ pieces and place in a pot with 1/2 cup sugar per quart of fruit.
Let sit several hours, then bring to a boil quickly. Fill a boiling water bath canner with water and bring it a boil – WITH your jars in it. Remove the jars, one at a time, fill them with rhubarb, add lids and rings, and carefully put them back into the pot.
Once the water has returned to a full boil, set the timer for 10 minutes.
The reason for removing one jar at a time, filling it and returning it to the pot is “thermal shock”. You want everything to remain as close as possible to the same temperature at all times.
If you’re new to canning, learn more about it here:
Canning High Acid Foods vs Low Acid Foods – and why it matters
Traditional Old Fashioned Canning Methods – Still Not Safe
How to Deal With Rhubarb #2 – Dry It!
After that, I started playing around. I dehydrated a lot of it. I ended up with 1 1/2 quarts of dried rhubarb, and since that stuff shrinks down to practical nothingness, I expect that that’s the equivalent of 10 quarts.
You can learn to dry food at home easily, especially if you start with something as mistake-proof as rhubarb.
No pre-treatment. Just cut it into slices and dump on the tray. I did find that using parchment paper under the slices helped considerably. Fewer burned, for some reason, and they weren’t constantly falling through the tracks.
Using Up Rhubarb #3 – Juice
A friend of mine called me recently and asked if I had a juicer.
“You mean the kind we used back in the 90s, and you spent two hours cleaning out all that awful pulp?”
“A friend gave me instructions to make watermelon juice and I figured you might have one.”
No way. I think I used mine half a dozen times before I convinced someone else how wonderful it was and passed it along.
Juicing rhubarb, though, doesn’t require a juicer!
I discovered rhubarb juice when I had a whole pot full of sliced rhubarb destined for the dryer, but no room on the trays. I thought putting water over them would keep them fresh in the fridge until morning.
Well, that worked, except … they were only a pale version of their former self. I dried most of them anyway, leaving a considerable handful in the pretty pink juice.
Hmmm …. I added honey and let that simmer away until the rhubarb had completely disintegrated.
Then I put it through a wire mesh strainer and ended up with beautiful red juice. The kids gobbled it up, and the mister declared it a keeper. Turns out that I discovered a traditional polish drink called Napoj z Rabarbaru Rzewienia z Miodem.
If you make it that way, don’t can it – the water dilutes the acidity of the rhubarb, making it unsafe to boiling water bath.
What to Do with Rhubarb #4 – Just Store It In The Fridge
As a note, which I discovered later, cut rhubarb keeps just fine overnight in the fridge.
Cover it, but don’t add anything.
If you add any sugar, it will macerate and the juice will come out.
If you add water, you’ll get rhubarb juice and pale chunks of fruit.
What to Make with Rhubarb #5 – Rhubarb Leather
Now, at that point, I was left with a lot of rhubarb mush. It was far more cooked and broken down than typical stewed rhubarb. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I spread it out on some parchment paper and put it in the dryer.
Okay … the blob of rhubarb pulp, before spreading it out, looks like something that you find in cow pastures … I’m sorry.
It dried quite quickly, and again, was happily eaten.
The next batch I did on purpose – rhubarb, honey to taste (about the same as for stewed rhubarb – 1/2 cup per quart), and I let it simmer away. I did not add any water to that batch. Again – strained it well and dried the pulp. Because this juice has no pulp, I canned it just like rhubarb, and we’ll dilute it with water for drinking.
You can see the dried rhubarb leather and the rhubarb juice in this picture. One tip – if you’re going to cook it up for juice, use the reddest stalks. Even the tough outer skin will soften up with this much cooking.
Although I used white sugar in the first batch of stewed rhubarb, I experimented with honey. For all of you locavores out there – honey works just fine. Put your rhubarb in a pot, pour the honey on top, and let it sit to draw out the liquid.
Cinnamon is also a nice addition to the mix, although it certainly darkens the mixture.
Ways to Cook Rhubarb #6 – Roasted Rhubarb
My final big experiment with figuring out what to make with rhubarb (when it’s coming out of ears) was using the oven to roast the rhubarb chunks.
That was a complete and unqualified success.
I used my large roaster, filled it up with rhubarb chunks (big ones because I was getting sick of chopping), sprinkled it with cinnamon, poured honey on top, let it sit until some liquid came out, and stuck it in the oven at 350F.
By the time I had my canner boiling away with jars in it, and my lids ready to go, the rhubarb was cooked, but still beautifully intact. It did not take very long at all.
Roasted rhubarb makes the MOST beautiful-looking jarred rhubarb.
Two More Things to Do With Rhubarb #6 and #7 -Rhubarb Ketchup and Victoria Sauce
Although I never took pictures of it, I also made Rhubarb Ketchup and Victoria Sauce. I’m not sure where I found my recipes, but Diary of a Tomato has them here. She also has a few other rhubarb recipes.
After doing all of that work, I sat down with a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in delicious roasted rhubarb …. and quickly discovered that I’m extremely allergic to it.
Epi-pen level allergic, in fact.
So I won’t be making it again, to the great sorrow of my family, but now you know what to make with rhubarb when you realize that you have far, far too much – and not one involved a secret package on your neighbour’s doorstep.