May 5, 2014 § 1 Comment
I wonder if I would get so excited about rhubarb if its season was in August, if it had to compete with luscious tomatoes and sweet, meaty melons? It’s a much tougher sell than those later season jewels. For one thing, you have to cook it. And it’s tart as heck, so you have to dose it with sugar. The leaves are poisonous, so those need to be tossed away. As I write, I’m beginning to wonder who even considered rhubarb as an ingredient in the first place? It must have been a cook long long ago who had endured a horrible winter … When the spring thaw finally came that cook spied bright pink stalks radiating from the soil. She was drawn to the rosy glow of the rhubarb plant and nibbled a leaf. It tasted horrible and she felt ill. Looking around for something else fresh to pick, she saw absolutely no other options. So, she returned to the rhubarb and broke off a stalk and chewed on it. It was awful – tart and astringent. Desperate for any fresh produce that wasn’t kale she brought the rhubarb into her kitchen, took down her sack of sugar and went to work…
I had a similar experience when I first took on a rhubarb recipe. Rhubarb is prone to mushiness, and finding your right balance of tart and sweet might take a few attempts. But in April, when all other local produce (outside of the brassica family) are just little sprouts and buds, rhubarb is ready to shine. Here is an ultra-simple recipe for a rhubarb compote. Use the brightest red fruit you can find, because it’s so pretty. A dollop of this over yogurt or served with pound cake is a sublime spoonful of Spring.
yield: 3 1/2 Cups
2 lbs rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1. Mix the ingredients together in a large glass bowl. Cover tightly and let the mixture sit at room temperature for six to 24 hours. The rhubarb will release its juices as it sits.
2. Transfer the rhubarb and juices to a large, non-reactive pot. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be gentle when you stir, to prevent the rhubarb from breaking down too much.
3. Remove the compote from the heat and store in the fridge for up a week, freeze, or preserve in canning jars.