Want to learn how to start canning rhubarb? Don’t you worry! I got you covered!
It’s May which means it’s Rheum Rhabarbarum season in The Netherlands. This beautifully coloured stem vegetable is a native to China and taken to Europe by Marco Polo. Rhubarb grows best in cool climates, has been on the Northern European menu since the 18th century and is related to sorrel. It pairs well with all of the blossoms in bloom right now. Think elderflower, lindenflower or purple rosemary blossom. Or how about pairing it with angelica, basil, tarragon, rose, blueberry, plum, beetroot, walnut, hazelnut, cherry or raspberry?
I have been making rhubarb compote and rhubarb syrup for years now and as a family enjoy it in and on breakfast muffins, apple pie, sourdough pancakes and plain yoghurt. One of our favourites is a breakfast of homemade oat granola with hand clotted cream and a good amount of rhubarb compote and rhubarb honey syrup.
My resolution this year was to learn more about conserving food: preserving the abundance that’s available in spring, summer and autumn for months when food is naturally more scarce, wintertime. It is a way for me to connect to the year cycle, the earth and the location where I live. It allows me to get to learn traditional ways to make do with the produce that’s available in my region.
My wish is to want to eat locally and regeneratively, also when there’s not much growing.
You can preserve food by placing it in the fridge, which keeps it well for a few days. You can preserve food by freezing it, which keeps it for a few weeks or months. But both of these need electricity. By using traditional methods such as canning and (lacto) fermenting we can preserve seasonal foods all winter long (and way longer!) without needing any type of electrical device and taking up 0% fridge space!
So I started my canning journey with a food I already have some experience cooking with. I started canning rhubarb. I make my usual compote but instead of simply refridgerating one jar and freezing the other two, I now practice canning the ones I don’t immediately need. I t’s all about thinking ahead, like people used to do before refridgeration, and preserve the surplus. This surplus stock will fill the pantry and will be used when the dark and cold of winter arrives.
Today I share with you my compote recipe. You may start by simply refridgerating and freezing them like I did at first. Enjoy the flavours of this moment and the richness it brings. In case you’re feeling a little more adventurous I’ve also added the canning rhubarb steps so you may start to familiarize yourself with the ancient art of food preservation. A tasty and smart tradition indeed!
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RECIPE: RHUBARB COMPOTE
500 grams rhubarb stalks, no leaves
100-150 grams local honey
water to cover
3 weck jars (+- 300 ml each) with rubber bands, lids and rvs clips
Couple of clean towels
Canning tongs (optional)
Canning rack (optional)
Large spoon and/or funnel
Cooking rhubarb to make compote:
Wash the weck jars with hot soapy water. Dry them off, place them in a preheated oven at 150 degrees Celcius and sterilize. Take them out when you’re ready to pack with rhubarb compote. Cut the rhubarb stalks in even sized pieces. I usually do 3 cm pieces. Put them in a large pot. Cover with water. Make sure the rhubarb is only just about submerged. Add honey. Leave the lid off. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Let simmer until almost all of the water has evaporated and there’s only a 2-3 cm layer left. Turn heat off. Take jars and lids out of the oven (using a clean towel of canning tongs) and place unto clean dishtowel. Pack the boiling hot rhubarb into ready jars. Try to ensure that each scoop / jar has a roughly equivalent amount of solids and juice. Leave 1 ½ to 2 cm of space between rim of the jar and rhubarb. Wipe the rim, place ring, place lid, add clips. Make sure the ring is placed in such a way that it closes the jar airtight. You can now place the jars in the freezer or fridge. Or you could can them to be able to enjoy them many months later.
Fill a large pot with water so the water reaches a few centimeters below the rim of the jar. You want the water to cover three quarters to four fifth of the jar. Warm the water to boiling. Turn the heat down so it’s a fraction below boiling. Place a towel (or a special rack) at the bottom of the pot, this prevents the jars from dancing. Place the closed (still warm from sterilizing and hot filling!) jars in the pot. Leave them in at this temperature for 10 minutes. Turn heat off and leave them there for 5 minutes more. Take them out using a canning tong or towel. Place them onto a dry towel and let cool for12- 24 hours before moving them. Check seals, take rvs clips off and store them in your pantry.
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