The Rhubarb or the Rum?
Don’t throw out that rhubarb!
There was no pivotal rhubarb-related moment from the dusty days of my childhood. In fact when my mom used to hand me a handful of fresh picked rhubarb and a bowl of sugar I would cringe inside, act like it was the best day EVER and then hand it to my brother the moment her back was turned. Like seriously mom? Rhubarb? While everyone else was getting McDonalds for a treat I was getting produce. Of course now the trainer and nutritionist in me would high five any parent that gives their kids fruit or veggies as a snack instead of the endless supply of processed snacks that flow like water through our households. And I wouldn’t high five them in the face either, it would be palm to palm like we just won a long odd bet on the superbowl.
One way that I did like rhubarb as a child was in my moms’ jam. Man that women makes good jams. When I visit I make it a point to leave room in my bags for a fresh supply. I know, I know, I can make my own. But there is something special about opening one of the jars made with love by my mother. Hopefully my daughter will get that same feeling one day when she opens mine.
I have a huge rhubarb plant in my backyard. Like Titanic huge. It’s hard to make enough jam to use it all so I started fooling around with reductions and syrups to expand my options. Have you ever burned a simple syrup on the stove? DON”T. It smells like death and you will work your fingers to nubs trying to scrub the pot clean. Or throw it out like I did. Syrup 1 – Terri -0.
I have finally perfected one through and have been sipping it steadily in drinks. So steadily, that I've become mildly addicted to it. To the syrup of course, not the rum…Muddled with mint, then lightened with sparkling water, it reminds me of cream soda with a heady, rounded vanilla sweetness, but herbal and sour at the same time.
We're almost out but I have about ten pounds in the freezer just waiting to be turned into a little bit of this flavor heaven.
I like my finished syrup to have the approximate consistency of maple syrup. Depending on the rhubarb used and your own tastes, it might be necessary to further reduce the liquid in a saucepan on the stove (after the fruit has been sieved out).
A generous 2 pounds (1 kilogram) rhubarb, cleaned and trimmed
3/4 to 1 cup caster sugar
1 fresh vanilla bean, split
Juice from half a lime, optional but you should do it anyways
Preheat an oven to 375°F (190 °C).
Cut the rhubarb into chunks, mine were about 2-inches in length. Skinny stalks can be a bit longer, fat ones can be more stout - you want everything to cook in reasonably similar time.
Pour the 3/4 cup of the sugar into a large roasting pan or ovenproof casserole. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean with the dull side of a knife and drop them into the sugar. Add the bean too. Using your hands, rub the vanilla seeds and pod into the sugar, breaking up clumps of seeds as you go. Once thoroughly mixed, add the rhubarb and toss to coat.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and roast for 35-45 minutes until the rhubarb is soft when pierced with the tip of a knife, but not falling to mush. Remove the foil and roast for another 5-10 minutes, to further reduce the collected liquid (keep in mind, the syrup will continue to thicken as it cools).
Using a fine-meshed sieve, strain the juices from the rhubarb. Stir the fruit to extract as much liquid as possible, but be careful not to push any solids through that might mar the clarity of the syrup. Remove the vanilla pod from the fruit in the sieve.
At this point the fruit can be reserved for another use.
While the syrup is warm but not hot, check for sweetness. Depending on your taste and the specific qualities of your rhubarb, you might want to add a bit more sugar or a squeeze of lime. Once to your liking, chill thoroughly.
I like to fork the fruit into a chunky compote, then eat it with Greek yogurt, and an extra pour of syrup to finish.
The syrup can be used as you would a simple syrup in cocktails and lemonade, or simply over ice with sparkling water and mint. It's particularly nice over scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Keep both the fruit and syrup refrigerated until needed.
Makes around 2 cups, depending on the fruit and the thickness of the reduction.
4 mint leaves
1 ounce lime juice, about 1 lime
1 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce rhubarb syrup
Place the mint leaves in the glass and muddle them to release their oils.
Fill the glass with ice.
Pour in the lime juice, rum and syrup and fill the glass with club soda.