pen rainbow

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday's Cupboard — i ❤ Rhubarb

cleaned fresh organic rhubarb
Summer Canning Series:  Rhubarb Conserve

I am one of the rhubarb people.  Rhubarb people find one another in line at the farmers' market.  We notice when the hand of a canning comrade reaches for the last few stalks of organic rhubarb on the top shelf at Whole Foods.  A stack of those elegant red & green stalks is an open invitation for canners and pie makers to start a conversation.

"First batch of the season?"  
"Are you from the Midwest?"  
"What are you going to make?"

When I was a kid growing up in Omaha, everybody had a backyard garden, and pretty much every garden had a few large clumps of rhubarb growing in it.  Rhubarb was a mystery to me, though, because my mom never cooked with it.  I think that she may have been scared off by the leaves which are toxic when ingested in large amounts.  Even in small amounts, the possibility of being poisoned was enough to convince me that there were safer plants to grow in my garden.  

That is, until a Midwestern relative served me a slice of warm strawberry-rhubarb pie.  I think it was the Summer Of The Pies when we went back to the Midwest to meet my new husband's Illinois relatives.  Steve's grandmother made pies that surpassed culinary description.  They were a spiritual experience.  It may have been the humidity and the Ancient Ancient Age talking, but Ethel's grape pie, peach pie, blackberry pie, cherry pie, and rhubarb pie were exquisite.

That reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all time...WAITRESS, the greatest movie ever made about pies!

"Pregnant, miserable, self-pitying, loser pie...flambĂ©, of course."  

LOL—A great summer vid!
Anyway, I've cranked out two rhubarb canning projects so far this season, and here are the pix & the recipe for Rhubarb Conserve with oranges & lemon, raisins, dates, and walnuts.  This can be served on toast, with oven-baked chicken or roasted pork, or over homemade vanilla ice cream.

TO PRINT THIS RECIPE:  Copy the url; go to printfriendly; paste the url, edit & print!

Rhubarb Conserve 
from Sunset's, Canning, Freezing & Drying, Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, California ©1981

Makes 10 half-pints

This is an overnight recipe...

  • 2-1/2 lbs. fresh, organic rhubarb
  • 5-1/2 cups fine baker's sugar
  • 2 fresh medium-sized oranges
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 1-1/2 cups each plump seedless raisins & chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
The Night Before
Wash rhubarb; cut off leaf and root ends; dice to make 4 cups.
Place rhubarb in a 5-quart pot & stir in sugar until well blended.  The sugar mixture will be somewhat cloudy even after it is thoroughly stirred.  It will start to clear up the next day.  Cover & let stand at room temp overnight.

Canning Day

Getting Ready—Prepare The Jars
Before you start cooking the rhubarb, prepare 10 half-pint canning jars:  (If you've never done this, get a good canning book to instruct you on the basics:  Sunset's Canning, Freezing & Drying or Putting Food By)  

Get out clean canning jars, lids & ring bands.  (I always run my canning jars, lids & rings through the dishwasher before I sterilize them.)  Check jar rims; discard any jars with nicks or cracks.  Gently run your fingertip around the top of the jar to make sure that there are no small nicks.  Discard rusted or bent ring bands.  Use new lids.  I always add an extra jar or two in case my recipe goes over the expected amount.  If I just have a little bit left over, I refrigerate it in a working glass.    

Sterilize jars by immersing them in water (at least an inch above the jars) and boil them in a covered canning kettle with the lid just slightly tipped for 15 minutes.  Turn the heat down to simmering.  Keep them immersed in the canning kettle on simmer until ready to fill.  In a separate pot, cover lids & ring bands with hot water.  Bring to a boil; turn the heat down to simmer and let the lids & rings scald in hot water until ready to use.

  • 3 clean dish towels (one to put the hot jars onto when filling; one to hold hot jars with when screwing on the lids; one to set the hot jars on to cool)
  • jar lifter
  • kitchen tongs for grabbing lids & rings
  • wide-mouth funnel for jars
  • spoon rest for funnel & measuring cup
  • 1/2 c. metal measuring cup for scooping & filling jars
  • dinner knife
  • clean dishcloth for wiping rims
  • hot pad for lifting the canning kettle lid
  • pad & pencil for writing down times to remove jars from the kettle
  • clock for timing jars in the canning kettle
  • canning kettle  

Make The Conserve
The next day, thoroughly wash and clean the rinds of the oranges and the lemon.  Cut unpeeled oranges and lemon into thin slices; remove seeds & cut each slice into small, even pieces.
Fresh, seeded oranges & lemon with peels
Whole walnuts waiting to be chopped
Rhubarb, citrus, raisins & dates in the pot — Add walnuts
during last 5 minutes of cooking

Add the chopped citrus, dates & raisins to the rhubarb-sugar mixture & stir to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat & simmer uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.  5 minutes before removing from the heat, stir in chopped walnuts.

Ready-to-eat delicious conserve
Canning & Processing
Proceed according to your usual canning method, filling jars to within 1/8 inch of rims.  Gently run a dinner knife around the edges to eliminate bubbles.  Clean rims with a warm, wet washcloth before adding the lids and rings.  I always process conserves for 5 minutes in the kettle before I remove them from the kettle to cool.  This recipe does not call for it, but I do it, anyway.  This ensures an extra tight seal, and it gives the food a little more time to sterilize.

Monday—The Reading Corner: Alexander McCall Smith

(#2) Tears of the Giraffe

(#3) Morality for Beautiful Girls 

—by Alexander McCall Smith

The adventure continues!  These books get more & more interesting, and so does the author, Alexander McCall Smith.  First, check out Mr. McCall Smith's official website.  Be sure to listen to the catchy eclectic soundtrack by Jefferson Rabb & Greg O'Keeffe.  This joyful music totally fits with the style of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.  Uplifting, optimistic, and beautifully complex—like a leopard's spots.

Jump on over to the Multimedia section and check out the photo albums.  Look for the movie set pix and the two Speedy Motors apprentices.  Readers know that all they talk about is girls!

And, take a glance at the Botswana trip diary (also under Multimedia).  Ahhh, I want to have drinks by the pond and watch warthogs, lions, hippos, elephants, and crocs (see 13 July 2007)!

Mr. McCall Smith also talks about his inspiration for the star character, Precious Romotswe.  He explains how Mma Romotswe "walked onto the page."  Plus, you finally get to hear the correct pronunciation of her name.

I just finished the second and third books in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.  I'm currently working on (#4) The Kalahari Typing School For Men.  You can find links for all of the different series he's written by clicking the SERIES link in the top menu.    

I admit it...I couldn't resist starting a new series.  I can't wait to start the Corduroy Mansions series!  Yep, it's about a cute little dog who lives in a charming London neighborhood called, Pimlico.  ::: woof!  woof! ::: 


In addition to his university work as a medical law professor at the University of Edinburgh and his committee work in bioethics and human genetics research, Professor McCall Smith is also an animal advocate.  He is the patron for the Global Alliance for Rabies Control.  This important organization provides preventive vaccinations for dogs; implements educational programs in villages and settlements to prevent the transmission of rabies; and provides first exposure vaccine to individuals who have been bitten by rabid wild or domestic animals.

Of course, if you're interested in the HBO video series, the pilot airs next Monday, July 11, On Demand.  Or, you can buy individual episodes on iTunes.

Books or video...Curl up with your favorite cup of hot tea and enjoy these wonderful stories!