Last weekend I received no less than 3 big grocery bags full of rhubarb. Two friends, Dawn and Sheryl, each bestowed this bounty from their gardens and Tammy let me come and raid hers. Thanks guys!
It's taken me most of my adult life to develop a taste for this beautiful fruit, and I'm making up for lost time. My second-favorite thing to make with fresh rhubarb (the favorite being rhubarb cobbler) is rhubarb butter. It's actually rhubarb jam but has the consistency of apple butter. So, in true Karenpie fashion, I renamed it and made it my own. For those of you who despise rhubarb and are rolling your eyes at the very thought of this post - I'm sorry. It's been nice knowing you.
Here's my attempt at food blogging. Look out Bakerella. And Pioneer Woman. And Smitten Kitchen. And Kayotic. Sigh. I'm pretty sure they have nothing to worry about.
Oh wait - before I forget - here's a really important cooking tip. If you take nothing away from today's post but this, my work will be done. Ready? Got a pen and paper handy? Here goes:
Make sure your footwear matches the food you're creating. It's just one of the many nuggets of truth I've acquired in my quest to become high maintenance.
You're welcome. Think nothing of it. No, really. Stop! You're making me blush!
OK, enough of that nonsense. Let's make us some rhubarb butter.
Start with some beautiful, clean, red rhubarb stalks. About 4 lbs, trimmed.
Chop the stalks into small pieces. You should end up with 15 - 16 cups of chopped rhubarb.
Throw the chopped rhubarb into the biggest bowl you have. The bowl needs to be big enough to hold the rhubarb AND deep enough to do a lot of stirring because you are going to add . . .
. . . 3 1/2 cups of sugar.
Welcome to Mt. St. Sugar. A little known but highly desirable resort destination. It's right down the road from Chocolate Lake. I love to vacation there.
Stir it up and let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours. Or, if you're me, until you remember it 4 hours later. Try to stir it frequently and scrape the sides of the bowl during this time, to get the sugar down into the fruit where it will dissolve.
*Important Cooking Tip Alert* At this point it is vitally important that you do a taste test, just to make sure everything's, uh . . . tasting good and, uh . . . Oh just trust me. The little crunchy pieces of rhubarb with their coatings of sugar are yummy. Think celery but slightly sour. Try it. I won't tell anyone you have no self control.
It won't take long for it to look like this. See that lake of lovely, clear juice? Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. If you remember, stir it a couple of times before you go to bed.
The next day (or if you're me, two days later when you remember you started this project), pour off all the juice that has accumulated in the bowl. Pour it into a large stockpot. Pretend I measured it and know how much is actually there. Here's a serious cooking tip: use an 8 qt. stockpot. I'll explain later.
Bring the juice to a boil and add the rhubarb. Quickly return to a hard boil - one that won't stop when you stir it. Set your timer for 20 minutes and put 3 or 4 small plates in the freezer (I'll explain later). Lower the heat so you can maintain the hard boil without scorching. I had to put an oven mitt on my hand to protect it from the bubbling, popping, angry rhubarb. It had a total attitude and was punishing me for the extreme temperature. I ended up stirring it almost continuously for the 20 - 22 minutes it was cooking.
At this point I have 3 pans on my stove. The pan at ~10 o'clock is the one with the rhubarb in it. The small pan at ~12 o'clock is holding clean jar lids in simmering water and the largest pan on the right side has 4, clean, pint jars submerged in boiling water. Yes, I should have told you earlier - this recipe makes 4 pints.
When your timer goes off and the 20 minutes is up, get one of the chilled plates out of the freezer. Spoon a small amount of rhubarb onto it. It should "set up" within 2 minutes.
For me, a good "set" is whatever I like on my biscuits or toast. I prefer a softer, more spreadable consistency rather than the firm gel you find in something store bought.
Push it, like you see me doing with my freaky alien finger, to judge the consistency. If it's too runny, keep boiling the rhubarb and check it every 2 minutes, doing the frozen-plate-finger-push thing until you're happy with the set. If you're satisfied, add one final ingredient:
Store bought lemon juice. Do NOT use fresh-squeezed. A home economist told me that recipes deemed safe for home-canning use this lemon juice. It has a higher acidity, probably from the added ascorbic acid, and therefore more preservative properties.
Stir 2 tablespoons into the rhubarb and remove it from the heat.
If the rhubarb is cooked to your satisfaction, you're ready to can! These neato jar lifters are a fabulous tool for home canners. Pick up a jar, pour the hot water out and set it on the counter.
Place a canning funnel in the mouth of the jar.
Ladle the hot rhubarb into the hot jar, filling it to 1/4 inch below the jar rim. We expert, experienced canners call this "head space". Wipe the rim of the jar, in case you got sticky rhubarb stuff on it.
Get a lid out of the hot water with your neato, magnet tool and place on the jar.
Screw on a clean band.
Return the filled jar to the pot of hot water. When all 4 jars are filled and back in the pot, put a lid on and bring the whole thing to a boil. This is called a hot-water bath and is an important part of processing the rhubarb to make it safe to preserve. Boil it for 5 minutes. When it's done, take the jars out and leave them on the counter to cool. Keep them out of drafts - you don't want them to cool too fast.
When they are cool, test the lid (the flat part) for a good seal. If you can press down on the center and it doesn't move, it's sealed. If it pops up and down when you press it, you must refrigerate it. Get out that recipe for homemade biscuits or jam bars and use it up!
OK, remember about 42 hours ago when I said "use an 8 qt stockpot - I'll explain later"? Well, I used a 5 qt stock pot to cook the rhubarb. It was plenty big enough to hold the stuff, just not big enough to accommodate the hard boiling. Here's a sample of what I had all over my floor, stove, walls, nearby appliances and person, when I was finished:
This was WITH one of those splatter guards on top of the pot. Every time I lifted the cover, it was like this mutant rhubarb monster was trying to throw itself out of the pot. Sheesh.
Despite the fact that it looks like I murdered somebody in my kitchen, I love making this stuff. You make it and let me know what you think! I"ll bring the homemade bread over and we'll have a rhubarb eating fest.
(Click here for printable recipe)