Saturday, April 21, 2012
RHUBARB IN SPRING AND WINTER
The world is divided into to four groups of people. Those who can do math, those who can't do math, those who like rhubarb and those who don't. It isn't for the faint of heart but worth pickling.
Why rhubarb? It is like lemon, when pickled provides a juice that makes a killer cocktail and outrageous salad dressing. Plus it is free.
Rhubarb requires creativity. Very fibrous, available in backyards across New England right along with skunk cabbage, rhubarb is not an obvious choice for bringing brightness to food. But rhubarb is the citrus in the locavore toolkit.
Timing is everything. Seek the rhubarb in spring, best from people's yards. Stealing rhubarb isn't the worst crime. It isn't as bad as stealing laundry off the line. One way to get it is canvas everyone you know. A friend has a single patch outside her porch. People trod on it all summer long. So I harvested that yesterday.
In spring, make a pie with rhubarb once the strawberries. This combination is legend. Then preserve it, in the form of pickling. If anything is worth the time to boil jars it is the humble rhubarb. Juice from the pickled mixture is worth its weight in gold for flavor, funky different flavor, not unlike pomegranate.
The pink stalks of rhubarb make a nice ingredient in whole grain salads. Jars of pickled rhubarb can hold up in the pantry for over a year. Come January, having the jars there on the shelf is as good as getting a box of grapefruits in the mail from Florida.
RECIPE: PICKLED RHUBARB
⁃ 1 pound rhubarb stalks (4 to 6 large stalks)
⁃ 1 cup apple cider vinegar
⁃ 1 cup water
⁃ 1/2 C honey
⁃ 1/2 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, combine the apple cider vinegar, water, honey and salt and bring to a boil.
Wash rhubarb stalks well and trim to fit into two, clean, wide-mouth mason jars. Slice lengthwise for uniformity.
Pack the rhubarb pieces into the jars.
Once the pickling liquid has boiled and the honey is dissolved, pour it into the jars over the rhubarb, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Tap the jars gently to dislodge any air bubbles. If the headspace level has dropped significantly, add more pickling liquid.
Wipe jar rims, apply lids and rings and process jars in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
When time is up, remove jars from canner and set them to cool on a piece of newspaper or cardboard.
When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and test seals. If jars are at all sticky, wash them to remove that residue.
Let this pickle cure for at least 48 hours before eating.