Last week at the farmers market, I piled a big thick stack of beautiful rhubarb into my bag and on the drive home, thought about what to do with it. Pies, crumbles, crisps, jams … yes, but. But what? What else is there? I toyed with the idea of sorbet for about 3 seconds but there’s absolutely zero room in my freezer for the stupid ice cream machine canister these days. I’ll make a pie, sure, but not this week. I was still thinking about it as I trudged up the stairs. What to do. What to do. Then I saw the lime green cover of a recent cookbook acquisition on my coffee table and remembered a recipe that caught my eye – Rhubarb Syrup – and the drinks that followed. Perfect. We have a winner.
So this book. It’s a good one. Canal House Cooking Vol. 6 – The Grocery Store. I really love these Canal House books. I own and constantly buy new cookbooks all the time but yet, I eagerly await the email notifying me that the latest book is available. Remember my post mentioning The Piglet a few weeks ago? Well, Vol. 1 nearly won last year and now we’re up to Vol. 6. They’re thoughtful little tomes, well written with great recipes and lovely photography that really inspire me to cook. That they’re self-published by the authors themselves, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, is even better. If these names don’t ring bell, trust me, you’ve read their work. A LOT of it. Among other things, Christopher is one of the founders of Saveur and Melissa was the food editor. These ladies make some tasty food. And I just love the soft covers. They remind me of my notebooks where I jot important recipes. In a way, I suppose they are.
The syrup was really easy but made a large amount (4 cups) so I cut it in half but by all means, multiply up. The stuff is good and it doesn’t hurt to have some extra lying around. The original recipe used blood orange juice which would really pump up the color but those weren’t available so I used regular fresh orange juice and it was perfect.
Once the chopped rhubarb and sugar is simmered, it becomes almost a compote – the trick is to then strain out the juice and reduce that further with the OJ. But you’re left with that pulp and no real direction on what to do with it. Throw it out? Well, I suppose you could but WHY?? There’s such good flavor in that blob of stuff. Add it to smoothies for a tart kick in the butt or do what I did. Whip up a batch of Oatmeal Jam Bars, combining this rhubarb mush with a jar of strawberry jam. The result was fantastic. Tart, delicious and damn good.
Now the cocktails. Oh yum! I took the some ideas from the book and made up my own and I encourage you to do the same. I think it would work well with any of the classic cocktail formulas. I don’t really care for gin but for some reason, I can’t get the idea of a gin-based rhubarb cocktail out of my head. May have to pick up some more rhubarb this week.
Rhubarb Cooler – place a few Tablespoons of the Rhubarb Syrup into a tall glass and top with cold sparkling water, stir to combine, add some ice and enjoy. So refreshing.
Rhubarb Kir Royale – add a Tablespoon or two to a champagne flute and top with chilled champagne or prosecco. Or add chilled white wine for an anything-but-regular Kir. I made one with a slightly effervescent Riesling that was delightful.
Rhubarb Margarita – this one knocked my socks off, literally. Delicious but I had to sit down and compose my thoughts. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 3 Tablespoons Rhubarb Syrup, a Tablespoon or two of simple syrup*, a squirt of fresh lime juice and a jigger of tequila blanco (about 1 ½ ounces). Give it a good shake, pour into a sugar rimmed glass filled with ice cubes and garnish with a slice of lime.
(*Simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water simmered until the sugar dissolves then cooled. Great for avoiding that sugar sludge issue at the bottom of your iced tea if you take it sweet.)
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: TWO BOOZY THUMBS UP. It’s happy hour somewhere! When things suck, this definitely helps– of course it’s tasty but it’s just different enough to be really fun too. I felt like something of a fancy pants mixologist with this one – all I needed was a quirky hat, a vest and some intricate facial hair. But my way was much better because I sipped from the comfort of my own porch, barefoot, which definitely beats standing in line outside of one of those hoity toity “cocktail lounges” in my heels. Different crowd, of course, but watching the hotties move in next door was kind of fun.
RHUBARB SYRUP – tweeked from Canal House Cooking – Volume 6
Makes 2 cups
2 pounds fresh rhubarb, ends trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
- In a heavy saucepan, place the rhubarb and sugar and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes; the rhubarb should be pretty soft and broken down at this point.
- Add the orange juice and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Place the mixture in a fine meshed strainer set over a bowl and strain the juice from the pulp, pushing down on the pulp with a spatula to get every last bit. (Discard the pulp or save for another use. See above for ideas.)
- Rinse out the saucepan, return the juice to pan and bring to a slow boil over medium-low for about 10 minutes until reduced to a light syrup. (It should be about 2 cups at this point.)
- Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.