Monday, 18 August 2014

Summer Essentials #02 – Summer Bounty: Rehabilitating Rhubarb

You’ve all been bombarded a time or by my endless rants about the importance of preserving, the joys of jam making etcetera, etcetera. But one thing I feel like I haven’t quite focused on enough is the importance of enjoying the bounty of summer in the moment.

Succulent peaches, tangy cherries and fresh berries are often epitomized as the apex of summer produce they can be cooked, accentuating cakes, cobblers or crisps. They can provide colour to nearly anything or can simply grace the table plain (and really, that’s only if they manage to make it there!) These fruits have carved a niche in my earliest memories taking a vivid place in a way which only food can. I don’t only remember the juices of a perfectly sweet Ontario peach running down my chin when we visited my grandmother; I remember learning to forage for berries in the Saguenay where beautiful bushes provided ample rewards for a long winter of waiting.   

In addition to this though, there is a memory which might be a bit less conventional; eating raw rhubarb. As I’ve shared my recollections of rhubarb with people, I’ve been appalled to find that to most, rhubarb is only a component used in making a strawberry pie less cloying...or at least less boring. This leaves me flabbergasted as my first memory of rhubarb is most certainly sitting down alongside my mom with a stick of freshly picked rhubarb, peeling it and dunking the strange rhizome into granulated sugar before chomping on it with relish. Indeed some people eat it with salt instead! (granted, that one is perhaps a tad odd) Aside from eating it fresh from the ground, we would savor it as the chief component in an upside down cake served with a large dollop of ice cream (indeed this dessert, referred to as rhubarb pudding, familiarized me with the British concept of pudding, quite different from the flacid viscous puddings we refer to here!) With all this in mind, rhubarb’s purpose in livening up pies was only something I stumbled upon much later.

These are only a few of the uses for rhubarb, that some people complain that they have too much of they stuff leaves me totally stumped! Why yes, you might get sick of eating it raw, in pies or puddings but certainly you can’t have too much!? It is well suited to cakes and to muffins, it freezes well and perhaps most surprisingly it makes a good cocktail!

Indeed, if you’re tired of chomping on this root and your freezer is full to bursting what better to do than drink the stuff? To make rhubarb cordial is easy enough. Remove the leaves, clean, cut, cover in water and boil until soft. Add sugar to taste and let sit and strain when ready! Voila, c’est fait, it’s done, you now have a delightful summer cordial! Care to store it for awhile? Cook it down further with more sugar and make a syrup, less space in the fridge and a good additive to add kick to water...or vodka... or as a substitute to grenadine in any cocktail.

Play around with this one, drink, be merry, lift your a glass and live in the moment!

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