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Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Granma Lane's Fresh Rhubarb Fixins'
Rhubarb has always been it's own food group to me. I love it made every way possible and the possibilities are absolutely endless. It's packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, as well as oodles of other nutrients and fiber.
I love to eat it warm, and topped with a scoop of homemade vanilla-bean ice-cream for dessert or just because at any time of the day, really.
It's just as good served warm as a small soup with a few splashes of fresh cream, especially for winter breakfasts. I love it room temperature, or chilled with splashes of unsweetened cream.  The taste of the delicate fresh cream with the sweet-tart rhubarb is intoxicating! Add a couple pieces of toasted gluten free whole grain toast or even light gluten free biscotti. For a great after school or late night snack, lightly toast your favorite bread and spread on the rhubarb sauce or conserves. Oh yes, leave the butter off - you won't miss it at all! I can't even make it to a plate with this toast before I gobble it up and then have to make another just so I can be sure I tasted it. 
Frozen From Sprouts
I know that for many the ultimate pairing for rhubarb is strawberries. It's not my favorite. What I absolutely love to pair them with is dark sweet-tart cherries. 
Frozen From Costco
I usually cook equal amounts of both fruits with minimal water and sugar, and a pinch of salt, and just cooked to the soft stage. I really love to look at the sauce and see the strands of the rhubarb's soft fibers mixed in with the sweet-tart cherry halves. 
While I was photographing the rhubarb for this post, I quickly switched from the intended outcome to a glorious "soup". I added about 1 1/2 ladles of the rhubarb-cherry mix to my bowl, drizzled on maybe 2 teaspoons of fresh heavy cream (unsweetened!), and am slowly devouring it as I write. It's so satisfying, so cool, and just hits all of the senses my mouth is begging for. I added a few frozen cherries cut in half, which chilled the "soup" a bit, (frankly, I'll get a small ramekin of frozen cherries and snack on those any time day or night, they are so wonderfully sweet and cold, and basically dissolve in your mouth.) Fabulous! 

And now for something completely different...(thank you - Monty Python)...

Rhubarb is grown primarily for its fleshy stalks, technically known as petioles. The use of rhubarb stems as food is a relatively recent innovation, first recorded in 17th century EnglandMost of the time, it is stewed with sugar for use in pies and desserts, but it can also be put into savory dishes such as meats or pickled. Rhubarb can be dehydrated and infused with quite a few fruit juices. And of course plain all by itself is unbeatable. 
The stalks are often cut into one inch pieces and simmered in added water barely covering the pieces since rhubarb contains a large deal of water on it's own. The stalks should be soft, but still holding their shape until it's stirred which will then break the pieces up. Sugar is added at approximately 1/2 -3/4 cup per pound, and cinnamon, or nutmeg can be added to give it a warm flavoring. Lemon or lime juice can be added to brighten the flavor especially if too much sugar has been added. The general consensus is that it should be pleasantly tart rounded off with sweet.

Rhubarb is also called "pie plant" which was the more commonly known term in the US back in the late 19th century, and renowned by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her book "The First Four Years." 
It is also a medicine dating back through Chinese, Arabic, and Medieval European pharmacopeia prescriptions as cathartics and laxatives. 

Toxicity: Rhubarb leaves are highly poisonous from substances including oxalic acid which is a nephrotoxin and corrosive acid. The compounds are present in many plants, but the leaves of the rhubarb plant however should not be ingested. During WWI, it was thought that the leaves could be boiled with baking soda, that this would nullify the toxicity state, and so the word was spread that these leaves could be a regular addition to the normal foodstuffs. This is certainly not true as it has been proven to cause more forms of toxins to develop. The stalks or petioles also have these acids but at a much, much lower rate. This means that the stalks may not be hazardous, though one would still need to cook them to reduce the highly strong sour-tart taste which is not palatable to many. 
Wikipedia

Debbie's Take On Granma Lane's Rhubarb Fixin's

12 ounces fresh firm rhubarb,  washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
Or 12 ounces of frozen cut rhubarb thawed slightly
12 ounces dark sweet-tart cherries, fresh seeded and cut in half
Or 12 ounces frozen dark sweet-tart cherries, no need to thaw, but cut in half
½-¾ cups sugar or more to taste
water, enough just to cover half way up the saucepan
pinch of salt

1. Wash rhubarb and trim off the ends. Slice into 1/2 inch slices and place into a saucepan or dutch oven.
2. Cover rhubarb with water just barely half way to the top of the fruit. Then sprinkle the minimum amount of sugar and pinch of salt over the top. 
3. Watch closely and stir occasionally, bring the rhubarb up to a boil, then turn the heat down immediately to the lowest setting and simmer about 10-12 minutes. Rhubarb, as with any other fruit will burn quickly, so be watchful! Taste test, and add sugar at this point if needed-by adding a teaspoon at a time. 
4. Turn the heat off and cover the rhubarb with a clean kitchen towel - not a lid. this enables the rhubarb to finish cooking, and will allow the steam to escape. Putting a lid on will condensate the heat and drip back into your sauce, diluting it.
Notes:
Granma Lane fixed this treat all year long. She grew her own patch, and it was the best! We'd walk out to the back of her yard to the vegetable garden, me carrying a towel, and her-carrying a big knife! She'd hack a few stalks, which at times were taller than me, whack off the leaves-which were thrown onto a scrap/compost pile, and then layer them on the towel which covered my arms. Then back to the kitchen we'd go, to wash it, slice it, cook it and then ever-so-joyfully eat it! Granpa Lane loved it too! It didn't matter where on earth he was, when he smelled the rhubarb cooking, he came a runnin'!
Every year there was plenty to eat, and then we would can some so we could have it all year long. I loved to go to her "canned goods" shelves which had floral fabric gathered curtains she'd made just for this purpose of protecting the jars from dust and light. I loved to pull the curtain back and look at the many jewels of her efforts to keep her family supplied with good foods throughout the years. I found it fascinating, and it probably cemented my love for fixing foods in so many different ways.


Enjoy!