Rhubarb is one of the first perennial edibles to push its way up through the soggy spring soil around here. So each year the first sight of it is a welcome treat. At the moment, it's still pretty cold and rainy on the Maine coast, and fresh rhubarb is a ways off.
But, anxious for spring as I am, rhubarb has definitely been on my brain. Fortunately, I managed to find some from last year in the bottom of my chest freezer. Rhubarb freezes beautifully, and it doesn't require much prep, so I try to freeze some extra every year.
Whether you're preparing rhubarb for the freezer, or to use right away, the first and most important thing to do is discard the leaves; the leaves are poisonous. Then wash the stalks and cut them up whatever way you like – I usually chop the stalks into medium-sized chunks.
Your rhubarb is now ready to cook. Or, you can simply pop it as-is into a freezer-safe container and freeze it for later. Who knows when you might have a hankering for rhubarb, right?
This rhubarb conserve is a savory one – sweet, sour, spicy, and a little bit pungent, all at the same time. It's like a chutney, really, and I use it in the same way. It's great as an accompaniment to spicy Indian food, but it's equally good alongside not-so-spicy fare, such as roasted pork or chicken.
Without a doubt, though, my favorite way to enjoy it is with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on a hearty wheat cracker or slice of crusty baguette.
Enjoy . . . and Happy Spring!
Savory Rhubarb Conserve
Savory Rhubarb Conserve is a savory, low-sugar cooked conserve made with Pomona’s Pectin. Pomona's Pectin contains no sugar or preservatives and jells reliably with low amounts of any sweetener.
Yield: 4 to 5 cups
Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
Savory Rhubarb Conserve Ingredients
1¾ pounds trimmed rhubarb stalks
1 cup diced onion
½ cup golden raisins (or regular raisins, if you prefer)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tablespoon orange zest
2 Tablespoons finely minced ginger root
1 teaspoon whole mustard seed
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons calcium water
2½ cups sugar (divided)
2 teaspoons Pomona's pectin powder
Savory Rhubarb Conserve Directions
1. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and screw bands. Set screw bands aside until ready to use. Place jars in boiling water bath canner with a rack, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize (add 1 additional minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level), then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.
2. Rinse the rhubarb stalks. Slice the stalks lengthwise in to strips, then dice.
3. In a large sauce pan, combine diced rhubarb, diced onion, raisins, vinegar, orange juice, orange zest, minced ginger root, mustard seed, allspice, cardamom, cloves, coriander, turmeric, salt, and black pepper. Put a lid on the pan and bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Then reduce heat and simmer, still covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove the sauce pan from the heat. Transfer the mixture into a bowl or other heat-proof container, then measure out 4 cups of the mixture. (If you have any left over, you can use it for something else.) Pour the measured quantity of the mixture back into the sauce pan. Add the calcium water and stir to combine.
5. Measure 1 cup sugar into a bowl. Thoroughly mix pectin powder into sugar. Set aside.
6. Put the sauce pan on the stove and bring the rhubarb mixture up to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the sugar-pectin mixture, then stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, still over the highest heat, to dissolve the pectin.
7. Add remaining 1½ cups sugar once pectin is dissolved. Stir well and return to a boil. Once the conserve returns to a full boil, remove it from the heat.
8. Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with conserve, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands, tightening bands only to "fingertip tight" (until resistance is met, and then just the tiniest bit more).
9. Place jars in the hot water, on the rack inside the canner. (Make sure jars are upright, not touching each other or the sides of the canner, and are covered with at least 1-2 inches of water). Place the lid on the canner, return the canner to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)
10. Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then remove jars from canner.
11. Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. Then confirm that jars have sealed. Remove screw bands from sealed jars, rinse off outside of jars if necessary, label jars, and store for later use.
Recipe and photos by Allison Carroll Duffy