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The Virtual Panier - Rhubarb

Posted by Cat / June 11, 2007

20070611_rhubarb-schnapps.jpgIt has taken me quite a while to become accustomed to the idea of actually having to pay for rhubarb. Beyond the bridges, tunnels, and expressways of this city, there lies a land where houses are bordered by verdant ditches and the rhubarb grows thick and plentiful.

Growing up, it seemed that everyone was so overrun by unruly rhubarb plants that you couldn't give the stuff away. Kids would munch on raw stalks dipped in sugar and mums would simmer great potfuls on the stove. Early spring meant bags of rhubarb, left on door steps, awaiting the next pie.

Living in the city, no such open rhubarb economy exists. But the beautiful pink and green stalks gracing the stalls at the Jean-Talon market conjure such deliciously homey childhood memories, that I find myself more than willing to pay good money for spring's first local fruit.

Actually, rhubarb is a vegetable, botanically-speaking, although in 1947 a Buffalo, NY Federal Customs Court ruled that it was a fruit, since that is how it is customarily (pun intended) eaten. It is even referred to as "pie-plant" in some regions.

Look for firm stalks with crisp leaves, if they are still attached. Be sure to cut the leaves off, however, as they are toxic. Pink stalks will lend a prettier hue to your rhubarb cookery, but greener stalks are perfectly fine to eat. Rhubarb is tart perfection, and can lend that welcome acidic note to sweeter dessert preparations.

Stewed rhubarb couldn't be simpler: chop the raw stalks, toss them in a saucepan with some sugar to taste, and gently simmer until soft and thickened. It's a bright note served on shredded wheat for breakfast, and works well as a spread on toast and muffins.

20070611_rhubarb-compote.jpgRhubarb compote - a more distinguished version of stewed rhubarb - can be made by chopping the stalks, mixing them in a bowl with sugar and a little lemon zest, then letting the whole thing macerate for an hour or so. Strain and simmer the liquid in a pot until it forms a thick syrup, then mix it back in with the rhubarb. Layered in a glass with mascarpone (or sweetened whipped cream, whipped ricotta, or ice cream) and crumbled ginger cookies, it makes a stunning - and stunningly simple - dessert.

Finally, if you do find yourself overrun with rhubarb (as I often am, no matter the price tag), try making a batch of rhubarb schnapps. Chop enough rhubarb to fill a one-litre jar about 3/4 full. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of sugar, and a generous 2 cups of vodka, then let it sit for 1-6 months, giving the jar an occasional swirl. Strain into a clean jar or bottle. Keeps almost indefinitely (except in my house). Serve over ice and impress your friends.



J Mac / June 12, 2007 at 08:57 am
Yum. Also, isn't "rhubarb" the word used by film extras to create the sound of a crowd of people talking?
Fairfax / June 13, 2007 at 02:12 pm
Oh man, rhubarb is SOOOO good.

And like you, it always reminds me of a childhood spent in more rural/suburban surroundings where the stuff was everywhere.

But it can be grown in the city too... a couple of weeks back I walked by a huge patch of it on a street just south of Laurier metro.
golu dolls / March 7, 2019 at 09:51 pm
Kanchipuram sarees / March 7, 2019 at 09:52 pm
Kanchipuram sarees / March 7, 2019 at 09:53 pm
Herbal Powder / March 7, 2019 at 09:54 pm

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