Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rhubarb, Round 1: Sauce

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to go the simple route and turn my fresh rhubarb into sauce.   Honestly, I think this might be what rhubarb aspires to be:  the flavor of the fruit is bright and pronounced, but slightly sweetened to remove its tart, biting edge.  I do love me some rhubarb cake and muffins and torte, but this sauce is hard to beat.

What can you use rhubarb sauce for, you might be asking?  You can spoon it over ice cream, like a sundae topping, for a sweet/tart treat.  You can spoon it over pound cake and add a dollop of whipped cream.  You can add it to a trifle, in place of lemon curd.  Or you can go the healthy route and spoon it over some vanilla Greek yogurt, then top it off with granola, for a heavenly breakfast.

This recipe for rhubarb sauce is the same recipe you’d use for rhubarb jam–just cook it longer and do the plate test (as you did if you tried out my recipe for strawberry jam) before you take it off the heat.  Many recipes call for adding a box of strawberry Jell-o to the rhubarb mixture after you’ve taken it off the heat, and while that will help to ensure that it sets up, I think the fake strawberry flavor of Jell-o is an insult to the beautiful flavor of rhubarb, which deserves its own moment in the sun.  In my humble opinion, any rhubarb jam that doesn’t thicken up simply becomes rhubarb sauce–which is more versatile than jam anyway.

If you do make jam instead of sauce, remember to store it in the refrigerator or freezer unless you heat-process your jars for shelf storage.

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Rhubarb Sauce

Ingredients:

4 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 cups sugar
Juice of one small lemon
1/2 cup water

Directions:

In a deep, non-reactive saucepan, toss the rhubarb with the sugar. Allow this mixture to sit at room temperature for about an hour, until the sugar begins to draw the liquid out of the fruit and dissolve slightly.

Place the pan on a burner over medium heat; add the lemon juice and water to the pan. Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely and the liquid is clear.

Continue to cook over medium heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Stir the boiling mixture for about 10 minutes, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. (The amount of time this will take depends on the water content of the rhubarb, so it might be more or less than 10 minutes. Remember, too, that the sauce with thicken more as it cools.)

Transfer the rhubarb sauce to jars and allow it to cool to room temperature. Store rhubarb sauce in the refrigerator. Freeze any sauce you won't eat within a few days, making sure to leave half an inch of space at the top of any jars that are headed for the freezer.

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