Category: rhubarb

The best laid plans of rhubarb & jam.

This whole thing started when I encountered this recipe on Pinterest (you might laugh and say “I COULDA TOLD YOU IT WOULDN’T WORK” but I’ve had nothing but great experiences with both recipes and crafts I found there. Seriously. I have no complaints). It seemed awesome, and I decided that it was a pretty perfect dessert for Mother’s Day. My mother enjoys unique or different things (I made her rosewater-vanilla cupcakes one year) and I like coming up with new things, which (usually) makes it a match made in heaven. I figured maybe I’d do something different, like use that rhubarb curd to fill pavlovas. Pavlovas, in case you aren’t aware, are basically meringue cookies made into a large bowl-ish shape, and usually filled with fresh fruit, fruit curd or sauce.

Sounds great, right?

I thought so.

Food Network magazine, May 2013: all about rhubarb!

Rhubarb can be quite elusive. Despite having an entire feature in this month’s Food Network magazine it’s still not exactly one of those fruits or vegetables that’s easily found, like strawberries or broccoli. Like I said last year, it’s on the rare side, and even if you find a place that has it, it seemingly doesn’t last long. Probably because most stores don’t order large quantities of it. If you’re lucky enough to have a farmer’s market around, you might fare better… but not always. It seems those pesky food bloggers or “foodies” always get there first & get the good stuff. With rhubarb, that’s usually the issue. Either the store doesn’t order it so they don’t carry it, or they did but they ordered limited quantities & all the other food bloggers (or food blog readers) jumped on them first. Of course, life is great if you grow it yourself… but I do not.

So I bought my rhubarb (after hunting it down), got my eggs, I had my vanilla beans. And all was right with the world.

Rhubarb stalks

But then disaster struck.

I have no idea what happened, but my curd just didn’t work. It wasn’t only a terrible color (and it really was) but it wasn’t so much curd as a loose, weird custard thing. Not even a custard- it was a mess. It was bad. Or at least, it looked bad. So bad I didn’t want to even attempt tasting it. I tossed it in the garbage, thankful that I hadn’t used up ALL the rhubarb I bought on it, so it wasn’t a total waste. But still. Talk about a shitty experience… and it has nothing to do with the original recipe, I’m sure. It’s probably user error. Maybe I screwed something up somewhere along the way and I’m just not seeing it. It happens. Who knows.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t infuriating, but it happens. (SIDE NOTE: I told you blogging was hard!)

I ended up using the rhubarb stalks I had left to make a quick rhubarb jam. Yes, I could have tried the curd again. But then if it had failed I’d have been left with no rhubarb, no eggs, and TWO massive failures to ruin my week. Plus, of course, by this point I was in a state of total “I don’t really care”-ness. I was so pissed off that my plans of beautiful, fluffy meringue filled with smooth, pink delicious rhubarb-vanilla bean curd for Mother’s Day were ruined that I think I pulled a muscle in my arm stirring the jam so violently. Of course I realize this isn’t the end of the world. It’s just disappointing. I’m sharing it with you (instead of posting another recipe & pretending it didn’t happen) because I want you to understand that, too. I’ve written before (most recently around Easter, in depth) that I sometimes think I’m part of a culture that promotes perfection when it comes to food- or at least aesthetic perfection. And I hate that for one reason: when things like this happen, people might give up. Or think, “Well shit, if she did it & I can’t then forget it.” I hate the idea that that could be a possibility. I hate to think anyone would give up on anything because of one failure.. or even 100 failures.

Because honestly, sometimes shit just doesn’t work, and we’ve gotta accept that. And if that means having a box of cake mix stored away for emergencies, than so be it. But it doesn’t mean any of us are any less awesome! Not everything is perfect, and not everything has to be. So you make a mistake, big deal.

Oh… and yes, my mother will have a special dessert come Sunday. Just not a rhubarb-y one. Happy Mother’s Day.

 

It’s the time of the season for rhubarb.

“You will escape into domesticity & stifle yourself by falling headfirst into a bowl of cookie batter.”
-Sylvia Plath wrote in her journal in 1957, after a day spent baking a pie.

Rhubarb always seemed to me like an old-fashioned thing. Until the year before last, I was sort of immune to it’s charms, and blissfully unaware that it was even still something people ate. My grandma used to talk about it, as if it was something that was extinct; along with the T-Rex and the icebox. And then of course, Boardwalk Empire made a reference to rhubarb pie, which was just so perfect because honestly, that’s exactly the era I thought people stopped eating it. As a child the only rhubarb I ever heard of was Strawberry Shortcake’s friend’s pet monkey. I didn’t even know if it was a fruit or a vegetable. Truth be told, I still don’t, however thanks to Wikipedia I learned that “…rhubarb is usually considered to be a vegetable; however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction on imported rhubarb tariffs, as tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits.”[2] And literally, that was the extent of my rhubarb knowledge. Other than some pictures on the web I didn’t even know what it looked like. But then, lo and behold, back in spring of ’10 my mom’s friend Carina sent her an easy recipe for a rhubarb crumble-type thing, and I made it for her after tracking a few stalks of rhubarb like a deranged bounty hunter. Let me tell you, before this canning boom, it was not easy to find around here. Three markets told me they stopped carrying it due to low demand. I’m not even kidding. And then last year, since the crumble was such a big hit, she requested I make her some rhubarb ginger jam. It was a bit easier to find last year, but not like this year.

This year it was in the supermarket! Right out there in the open, the bright pink rhubarb stalks were sitting there all happy with a big sign declaring them. In your average, everyday, suburban supermarket. I was almost irritated, actually, after my two previous years of having to hunt it down. But it’s convenient, I admit. Also it’s convenient that most people (okay, everyone) was walking right past it, so I had my pick.

I decided to make a rhubarb pie slash crumble because I wanted to make something with rhubarb, but also because I wanted to brush up on my pie crust skills… and use a pretty pie plate. I’ve got this new pie plate obsession, you know. It’s sick, and it’s extending into a sort of all-encompassing baking dish obsession. I also decided to make this during the first heatwave of the season, when it was about 86° at 8 p.m. That’s ’cause I’m a genius. So anyway, I made a pie crust for the bottom, filled it with the rhubarb filling, then added a “crumble” on top. Just a plain ol’ down home humble little crumble pie. Easy, impressive, and fun. And summery of course. What’s more summery than rhubarb pie!? For the bottom pie crust, go to this post where I have a recipe, or use your own favorite pie crust recipe. You only need a bottom, though, so be sure to halve it if it’s a double-crust recipe. Or you can refrigerate or even freeze the other half, either in plastic wrap or in a pie plate until you need it.

And as usual, I will not judge you if you use a pre-made or frozen pie crust. Do what you gotta do. But hey look, enough about you. Look at how much better my pie crust is! I might have finally gotten the hang of pie crust rolling. Maybe.

RHUBARB LEMON HUMBLE CRUMBLE PIE

Ingredients:

Pie filling:
  • 1 9″-inch pie crust, ready to go
  • about 1 ½ pounds rhubarb stalks (roughly 7-9 stalks that are around 10″-15″ long)
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 drops pink or red food coloring (100% optional, I didn’t use any myself in this pie but I’m certainly not against it)
Crumble topping:
  • ¼ cup butter, room temperature (not too soft, not too cold)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare pie crust in a pie plate or pan, set aside. Combine lemon zest and 1 cup sugar in a bowl and let sit for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Trim and rinse the rhubarb stalks. Slice particularly thick or large stalks in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise in ½” to 1″-inch lengths. Combine sliced rhubarb and water in a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons flour with the lemon zest/sugar mixture, stirring until well blended; add to the rhubarb mixture. Stir well and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover but leave the cover ajar to let steam escape and continue simmering for about 5 minutes, or just until tender. If desired, add a little red food coloring to make the filling more colorful. Spoon filling into the prepared pie crust.
  3. With a pastry blender or fingers, combine the topping ingredients until blended and crumbly. Sprinkle over the top of the pie. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until topping is browned and the filling is bubbly. Serve slightly warm or room temperature with plenty of whipped cream.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how weird life is. I mean, if you’d told me years ago I’d be making rhubarb crumbles and pickles this time of year and not having boozy barbecues or drinking Heineken’s out of the back of my friend’s boyfriends Jeep until early morning, I might have had you committed. And on top of that, if you told me I’d love being in the kitchen and I’d obsess over kitchenware, I’d just think you were a nutjob. I didn’t really want to be anywhere near a kitchen unless it involved defrosting something or it was Christmas time & there were cookies involved. Can you believe it? It’s kind of bizarre. I used to have watercolors & gouache on my mind & ink stained clothes, now I have recipes on my mind & crusty, floury baking stains on whatever exposed areas of clothing my aprons don’t fully protect. But life takes you down different paths, and where I once thought domesticity was stifling, I know see it as an open door. Life doesn’t always travel the exact trail we think it will, we have to be open to new things, new ideas, new concepts. New ingredients aren’t exempt from that either. Who the fuck would’ve thought that I would be baking… least of all baking with rhubarb?! ‘Cause when was the last time you knew someone who knew that the hell rhubarb was? And I mean someone who wasn’t a baker or food preserver, and most especially someone who doesn’t have a food blog.

Exactly. But now you know about rhubarb, and all it’s tart wonderfulness… and thanks to these lovely ladies, you have lots of other choices on how to use it.

I still love art. I still love to draw, although lately it’s been more digital art/graphic design (and a bit of photography for the blog) than anything else. But it’s okay, because I know these things ebb & flow. Right now, my freelance graphic design, my blog and my baking/cooking is what’s happening, someday watercolor painting or drawing will be in the mix again too, along with who knows what else. Gotta get my mojo back is all. But hopefully no matter what, I’ll still always have time to be in the kitchen. One of the best things I ever did back in early 2006 was walk into a kitchen and start cooking & baking. It’s opened me up to a whole new world I never even thought about. It saved me. I don’t know where I would be right now without that outlet. I’ve cooked and baked and canned my way through every sad, happy, funny or boring day for the past almost 7 years. It’s been part learning experience, part coping mechanism, part creative outlet. It’s been both my Prozac and at times my biggest aggravation. But at the end of the day I always felt better, thanks to it. Maybe… if you need saving too, you should try it. Make some rhubarb crumble pie. Just give it a shot. Especially if it’s new. It might open up a new door for you.

And by the way, Sylvia, domesticity ain’t so bad. It might have even saved you, if you’d have let it.

In a jam.

My mother has a habit of sending me recipes, usually it’s a hint that she wants me to make them for her. If it’s a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake, or anything involving fruits (especially berries) or balsamic vinegar, I know right away she’s not sending it to me because she thinks I’ll like it. So when I told her I ordered a canning kit, and she saw me become a fan of Punk Domestics on Facebook, and then within a few days received this recipe in my inbox, I knew where she was going with it. See, I don’t like rhubarb. It’s not my kind of flavor, personally. And I don’t like jam much either. I love making it, just not using it, which actually makes me the perfect person to make it. Like Biggie said,Never get high on your own supply.” Word. So anyway, she passed along the recipe and I knew that she’d want me to make it for her. And I obliged. I made this a week or so ago, so it was before her birthday (which is today, July 5th; happy birthday to her!). I just did it because I’m wonderful. For her birthday, I made her French vanilla ice cream, David Lebovitz‘s “improved” lemon curd, another really quick blueberry jam (those recipes are all coming soon, folks, be patient) and vanilla panna cotta with balsamic strawberries (her favorite). *waits for accolades & applause*

So this particular jam is a ginger/rhubarb combination, which I’ve heard (from people who’ve tasted it) is an amazing duo. Usually it’s strawberry/rhubarb that you see in pies, etc. Anywho… yes, I made this lovely, quick & easy jam like a good daughter. The best part? It doesn’t even require a canning kit! You don’t need anything fancy to make this… and it really is ridiculously easy.

As far as the ingredients, I’ll leave the details to Wikipedia:

Rhubarb is grown primarily for its fleshy petioles, commonly known as rhubarb sticks or stalks. The use of rhubarb stems as food is a relatively recent innovation, first recorded in 17th century England, after affordable sugar became available to common people, and reaching a peak between the 20th century’s two world wars.

Rhubarb can be dehydrated and infused with fruit juice. In most cases it is infused with strawberry juice to mimic the popular strawberry rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb root produces a rich brown dye similar to walnut husks. It is used in northern regions where walnut trees do not survive.

Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family (Zingiberaceae). Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal.

Fresh ginger can be substituted for ground ginger at a ratio of 6 to 1, although the flavors of fresh and dried ginger are somewhat different. Powdered dry ginger root is typically used as a flavoring for recipes such as gingerbread, cookies, crackers and cakes, ginger ale, and ginger beer.

Candied ginger is the root cooked in sugar until soft, and is a type of confectionery.

Natural brown sugar is brown sugar made by partially refining sugar cane extract, whereas most brown sugar is made by adding molasses to fully refined sugar.

Golden coloured natural brown sugar is produced by extracting the juice from sugar cane, heating it to evaporate water and crystallise the sugar, then spinning in a centrifuge to remove some impurities and further dry the sugar. It is commonly used in baking and to sweeten beverages such as coffee and tea.

In the United States, a similar sugar is commonly called turbinado sugar, after the centrifuges or turbines in which it is spun.[1] In the United States, most turbinado sugar is produced in Hawaii and is often sold as an organic product. A product sold in the U.S. is marketed under the name brand “Sugar in the Raw”.[2] There are slight differences in taste between turbinado and demerara sugar.[3]A third, somewhat lighter, type is produced in Mexico under the name Azucar Morena[4].

All three of these ingredients are interesting in and of themselves, but who would’ve thought by just boiling them together with a little citrus zest you’d get a quick little jam? And …I had to make a pound cake to go with it, just to make it more interesting for me. Rhubarb is a very ‘stringy’ vegetable/fruit/thing, and when cooked it gets gluey very fast, despite being low in pectin, and the caramelized sugar helps to hold it together really well. It gets firmer after being in the fridge for a while, it’s looser if you use it warm. And who doesn’t like some jam on pound cake? I mean, aside from me, that is. Either way- this pound cake is terrific, with or without the ‘barb jam. More about that after the recipe, though. First- jam!

RHUBARB GINGER JAM (From Local Kitchen Blog/adapted from Bon Appétit, July 1997)

Yields about 1 and ½ cups

Gather yer stuff:

  • 1 lb rhubarb, trimmed, washed and sliced to ⅛-inch pieces (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 3 oz crystallized ginger, chopped (about 9 tbsp)
  • 1 ½ tsp lemon & orange zest (about half:half), coarsely chopped

Then do this:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar and prevent scorching.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, until jam thickens and mounds on a spoon, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a glass bowl or jar, cover and chill in the refrigerator. Store refrigerated for up to 3 months, or canned & kept in a cool, dark spot for up to a year.
  4. Options: Evaporated cane juice, or processed white sugar, will produce a more rosy colored jam than the turbinado sugar, but turbinado gives a hint of caramelized flavor.  Your choice. · This produces a quite gingery jam; if you don’t love ginger, try making it with 1-2 oz ginger first. If you adore ginger, try 4 oz. · Given the acidic rhubarb and dried, candied ginger, this recipe is safely acidic for water-bath canning should you want to increase the amounts and save some for room temperature storage.

I used about half, maybe a little more than half of the amount of ginger in the recipe, and it was more than ginger-y enough (or so I heard). I also used the turbinado sugar, because I figured it was in the original recipe for a reason. The caramelized color/flavor was enjoyed very much, so I doubt I’d stray from it. I plopped the jam in a cleaned-out spaghetti sauce jar (I told you, SAVE YOUR JARS) and had room to spare (the above photos were taken after liberal amounts were dispersed among slices of pound cake & into people’s mouths). The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, though. If you aren’t quite ready for real canning, there are tons of these quick jam recipes out there that are really easy and a good foray into the real thing. By the way, this post is in the ‘vegan’ category because of the jam, not the cake. Duh.

Okay, now on to that pound cake. I got this recipe for a traditional pound cake from that book I mentioned a while back Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories by Patty Pinner. I figured, if I’m gonna make a pound cake, why not go for the gold and make a real, authentic Southern one. I used a plain tube pan, but a fancier bundt pan would be nice too. The cake itself doesn’t need a lot of bells & whistles; it’s perfect plain, as I said, but also an awesome backdrop for ice creams, any kind of jams or jellies &  especially sauces (raspberry sauce, rhubarb sauce, strawberry sauce, chocolate sauce… you name it). Also, a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar is always nice on top, but not 100% necessary.

Talk about a beautiful goddamn pound cake! It was perfect, from the texture to the crumb to everything. Best pound cake ever.

POUND CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease & lightly flour a 10-inch tube pan. Set it aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture is light & fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the flour to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk; begin and end with flour.
  4. Beat on low speed, just until blended, after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract. Mix well.
  5. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then run a knife around the inside edge of the pan. Unmold the cake carefully onto the rack to cool completely.
  6. Transfer the cake to a decorative platter and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, if desired, before serving.

So there you have it. A perfect combination of treats to bring to a barbecue or picnic. Or, to make for your mother.