Fresh from the garden rhubarb: more than meets the pie

After a long winter, the fresh flavours of early spring crops like rhubarb are welcomed.

Rhubarb is high in vitamins A, K, B and dietary fibre and has traces of iron, magnesium and potassium.

It also contains glycosides, which have a laxative quality.

Rhubarb leaves contain a toxin called oxalate and should not be eaten raw or cooked. Eating raw stalks is fine but they are too sour for most.

One pound (500 g) or 15 stalks are equal to three cups raw chopped or two cups cooked rhubarb.

While in season, preserve some for next winter. Rhubarb can be frozen without blanching. Just wash, dry and chop into one inch (5 cm) pieces and freeze.

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Mix this with sparkling water, lemonade or in cocktails for a fresh spring beverage.

  • 2 c. chopped red rhubarb stalks 500 mL
  • 2 c. water 500 mL
  • 1 c. sugar 250 mL

Bring the water and rhubarb to a boil, turn off the heat and cover. Allow to steep overnight. Strain and reserve the juice, add sugar to juice and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Chill.

Ginger Rhubarb Chutney

After making the simple syrup, I use the leftover pulp to make this chutney. This can be preserved using the hot water bath method and processing 15 minutes for a 250 mL (1 cup) jar.

  • 5 c. rhubarb, cut into 1 inch/2.5 cm pieces 750 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar 375 mL
  • 3/4 c. cider vinegar 285 mL
  • 1/4 c. finely diced fresh ginger 60 mL
  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest 15 mL
  • 3/4 c. golden raisins 285 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 3 mL
  • 3/4 c. coarsely chopped walnuts 285 mL

Combine the brown sugar, vinegar and lemon zest in a medium-sized non-reactive pot and simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
Add rhubarb, cinnamon and ginger and cook until rhubarb has completely broken down. Add raisins, walnuts and salt.
Simmer for another five minutes. Chill and serve.

Rhubarb Crostada with Creme Anglaise

Creme Anglaise is a thick pouring custard that can be used with cakes, pies and fresh fruit. I use a double boiler when making this.

  • 1/2 c. whole milk 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream 125 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla 3 mL
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp. sugar 45 mL

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they turn pale yellow. Combine milk, cream and vanilla in a double boiler and heat until steaming.
Temper the egg yolks by pouring about 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Slowly pour the yolk mixture back into the double boiler while constantly whisking and continue to cook. Stir constantly until mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not overcook.
Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about two hours or overnight.

Pastry Dough

  • 3/4 c. chilled, unsalted butter 285 mL
  • 3 tbsp. ice water 45 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour 375 mL
  • 2 tbsp. sugar 30 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 3 mL

Cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes (3 cm). In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt, add chilled butter and mix into dry ingredients using your fingertips. Stir with a fork while adding ice water gradually until a crumb-like texture forms. Turn out onto work surface. Knead once or twice and shape into disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour. In the meantime, prepare filling.

Filling

  • 5 c. rhubarb, diced into 1 inch/2.5 cm cubes 750 mL
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
  • 1/3 c. cornstarch 85 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 2 mL
  • 3 tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice 45 mL
  • flour for work surface
  • 2 tbsp. cream 30 mL
  • 1/4 c. turbinado (or raw) sugar 60 mL

Combine rhubarb and zest in large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add dry to rhubarb mixture and mix. Add orange juice and mix well. The dry ingredients should be slightly wet. If they are still dry, add more juice, one tablespoon (15 mL) at a time, mixing after each addition. Set aside.
Heat oven to 350 F (175 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and let rest on counter for about 20 minutes. Lightly flour the work surface, unwrap dough and roll, starting at the center, rotating to maintain a circular shape. Repair any cracks as necessary.
When dough is about 1/2 inch thick (3 cm), transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Mix the rhubarb filling again. It should be quite moist at this point. Pile the filling in the centre of the dough and spread out, leaving a two inch border (5 cm). Fold the sides of the pastry up over the filling. Repair any small tears. Brush the crust with cream (do not brush the filling) and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until filling is bubbling and crust is golden. Serve with Creme Anglaise or ice cream.

Rhubarb Custard Bars

This is very rich. It is best eaten the same day but will keep in the refrigerator up to three days.

  • 2 c. all purpose flour 50 mL
  • 1/4 c. sugar 60 mL
  • 1 c. cold butter 250 mL
  • 2 c. sugar 500 mL
  • 7 tbsp. all-purpose flour 105 mL
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream 250 mL
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 5 c. finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed and drained 750 mL
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened 250 g
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 3 mL
  • 1 c. whipping cream, whipped 250 mL

In a bowl, combine the flour and sugar, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into a greased nine x 13 inch (23 cm x 33 cm) baking pan. Bake at 350 F (175 C) for 10 minutes.
For filling, combine sugar and flour in a bowl. Whisk in cream and eggs. Stir in the rhubarb. Pour over crust. Bake at 350 F (175 C) for 40-45 minutes or until custard is set. Cool.
For topping, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth, fold in whipped cream. Spread over top. Cover and chill. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator. Yields three dozen
Source: adapted from Taste of Home.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: [email protected].

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