Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cooking from the garden: rhubarb

Rhubarb and garlic pickle
Let's talk rhubarb.  This is a vegetable most often treated as a fruit.  It gets cooked with loads of sugar to make it palatable.  I'll admit, I find it hard to resist a sweet rhubarb crumble or pie, but we don't really eat those any more.  We treat rhubarb as the vegetable it is.

So what to do with this sour vegetable?

There are many recipes floating about for savory treatment of rhubarb.  My favorite is to simply chop it small and add it to a stir fry.  Usually it cooks down to a mush and adds a sour tang that complements soy sauce.  I add it to stews too:  it adds a nice note to the broth.

I have made a delicious lacto-fermented rhubarb and garlic pickle.  Simply chop up rhubarb (peel it if stringy) and garlic, cover with water, add salt (1 tablespoon to 1 L of water), and let ferment on your countertop for about a week, or until it tastes good.  The first time I made this, I ate the whole jar!

I'm experimenting with two other new-to-me recipes: pickling in vinegar, and wine making.

I started a few jars of rhubarb with garlic and various spices in vinegar.  I won't open them until winter, I think.  If they're truly dreadful, at least they were pretty cheap to make--I only bought the vinegar.

I have also begun a batch of rhubarb wine, made from my mother-in-law's rhubarb.  I've never had it before, and it'll probably be a six months to a year before I actually get to taste it...but I got the recipe from John Seymour's The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency.  He has a very enthusiastic section on homebrewing, and I hope to try a few more of his suggestions.  Here's hoping the wine lives up to its recommendation--I've read elsewhere that it's horrible, so...
Pink rhubarb wine, bubbling away (elderflower in background)
I was given two batches of rhubarb by a neighbor recently, and it was just so much rhubarb!  I froze a big ziploc bag full to use later.  There's only so many rhubarb-thickened broths you can eat.  I even made steak and rhubarb pie.  Yes I really did (and it was awesome).

One confession though:  after straining off the boiled rhubarb for my wine, I plunked the mush--this was before adding yeast--into some strawberry jam I was making for teacher gifts.  So I did make a sweet rhubarb-y treat after all.  Boy was it tasty! 
Strawberry rhubarb jam

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