Ingredient SpotLight

April has my garden growing and no springtime treat is more anticipated than rhubarb in my house. It's a great ingredient that brings a combination of tanginess and sweetness to my favorite baked goods, jams and sauces. This month, we're taking a closer look and I'm sharing some of my favorite recipes.

You can store cut rhubarb in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks wrapped in plastic. But an hour before you use your rhubarb, put rhubarb stalks in a container of cold water to hydrate them. When you are ready to work with your rhubarb stalks, trim both of the ends of the stalk. Pull off the fibrous strings by peeling down the stalk, but try not to remove the flavorful skin. Cut any stalks that are wider than one inch into halves or thirds. Slice them lengthwise and trim off any blemishes. A pound of cut rhubarb makes three to four cups of chopped rhubarb. To chop rhubarb, cut the width of the stalk into quarter-inch or half-inch pieces, depending on what your recipes requires.

Remember that home-grown rhubarb is stronger in flavor and brighter in color than hothouse varieties. If you harvest rhubarb late in the season, you might need to add more liquid to your recipe or reduce the thickener. Late stalks may not be as juicy. Rhubarb is acidic and, as such, you don't want to cook it in aluminum, copper, or iron pans that react. In reactive metal pans, rhubarb turns brownish and the pan discolors. Instead, cook rhubarb in coated pans or glass baking pans.

Rhubarb can be substituted for cranberries in recipes; both are tart. If you combine rhubarb with sweeter fruits, you won't need as much sugar to sweeten the final dish. Rhubarb also has a tendency to sweeten when it's cooked. It's best to add the sugar slowly. You can always add more, but you can't remove it.

Below are a couple recipes featuring rhubarb that my family loves. The bread makes a great quick breakfast and the cobbler gets made at least once a week during the height of rhubarb season.

Rhubarb Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups finely diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Stir the ingredients together in the order given. Pour the mixture into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

  • Yields: 2 loaves
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Rhubarb Cobbler

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 T. margarine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 cups rhubarb, chopped
  • 3 ounce package strawberry gelatin
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 stick margarine

Cut the 2 tablespoons of margarine into the flour until a crumbly meal forms. Add the egg, baking powder, salt and milk. Make a soft dough and press it into an 8x8 inch baking pan. Press the dough up the sides of the pan. Place the rhubarb evenly in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the strawberry gelatin (dry) over the rhubarb. In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and margarine to make a topping. Sprinkle over the gelatin and rhubarb. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes