It’s that brief, glorious time of year when rhubarb is plentiful. If you know the right people, chances are it’s even free. I love it so much that I want to eat it all year, whether or not it’s available, so I have no other choice but to can it or freeze it. My absolute favorite way to eat it is in a fruit compote mixed in with yogurt. This one, taken from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is made with strawberries (dug out from last year’s stash in the freezer to make room for this year’s crop) and a touch of anise.
Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote
about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch segments
about 1 quart strawberries (frozen is fine)
3/4 c sugar (more or less to taste—how tart is your rhubarb?)
zest and juice of one orange
1 or 2 star anise
1) Dump everything in a pot:
It will look dry, but not to fear: the sugar will soon release the juices from the strawberries.
2) Heat it up until it’s boiling, then turn down the heat to medium low. Cook it until it’s all falling apart and mushy, about 30 minutes or so. Stir it occassionally. If it’s not mushy yet, keep cooking.
Eat promptly. If you don’t want to eat it promptly, you have two choices. You can freeze it (easier, lazier, and my preference), or you can can it in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Actually, we haven’t covered that, have it? Not to fear. It’s very easy. Take a look at the canning in the pressure cooker post. You’ll follow steps 1-3:
1) Make sure the food you want to can is hot and have clean, sterilized jars standing by. Keep the water in the pot that you boiled the jars in going, because you’re going to need it later.
2) Meanwhile, heat up the lids in a separate pan.
3) Transfer the hot food to the jars and screw on the lids. You want them comfortably tight. No forcing.
Here’s where it’s a tad different.
4) Remember that big pot with the boiling water for sterlizing the jars? Presumably it has some sort of rack on its bottom to keep the jars from breaking? Make sure that’s still there. Now, gently, and CAREFULLY, lower the jars into the boiling water. When it starts boiling again, start timing. For rhubarb, you process for 10 minutes.
5) Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water and set them aside to cool. They make tools for this. After a few hours they should be sealed. If they don’t seal, you are forced to eat them (or, I suppose, freeze them).
As always, if you’re confused about canning, check out the Web site of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.