Obligatory gardening yields sweet resultsIf you find all that rhubarb hard to ignore, here are three recipes to give you good reason not to.
By: Holly Henry, Lake County News Chronicle
Why I feel compelled to do something with a plant that has toxic leaves and bitter stalks is completely beyond me. But, each year, from the moment the rhubarb starts pushing through the spring ground, I contemplate its ambrosial fate. Letting it go to seed without producing something sweet from its disagreeable flavor would seem like a cowardly and lazy act. So, much like the inevitable over-abundant yield of zucchini, I feel obligated to make use of it until it is gone.
Challenge number one is this: I am not a cook. I was once at a Pampered Chef party (another undertaking borne of a sense of obligation) where my mother held up a can opener and declared “Oh look sweetie, there IS something here for you after all.” She was serious.
As penance for such comments, I enlist my mother (who once made a remarkable faux apple pie out of zucchini) in my endeavor to put my rhubarb to good use. This week we include three recipes we return to each spring.
Rhubarb Dream Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups white sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten
4-1/2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups of flour, confectioners' sugar and butter until it forms a dough, or at least the butter is in small crumbs. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.
2. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. While this bakes, whisk together the white sugar, salt, flour and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in rhubarb to coat. Spread evenly over the baked crust when it comes out of the oven.
3. Bake for another 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until rhubarb is tender. Cool and cut into squares to serve.
Frosted Rhubarb Cookies
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups diced fresh rhubarb
3/4 cup flaked coconut
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar. Beat in eggs. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture.
2. Stir in rhubarb and coconut. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies. Store in the refrigerator.
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chopped rhubarb
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the milk and cream; set aside. Combine the sugar and flour in a separate bowl. Pour the sugar mixture into the egg mixture, then stir until well combined. Fold in the rhubarb. Pour into a casserole dish, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
3. Bake in a preheated oven until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 to 60 minutes.
Sidebar: Looking for a way to keep rhubarb for later use? Here are some options:
Cut all of the leaf away from the Rhubarb petiole and the petioles will keep well in the refrigerator for two to three weeks in sealed plastic bags.
Choose firm, tender, well-colored stalks with good flavor and few fibers. Wash, trim and cut into lengths to fit the package. Heating Rhubarb in boiling water for one minute and cooling promptly in cold water helps retain color and flavor.
Dry Pack Method: Pack either raw or preheated Rhubarb tightly into containers without sugar. Seal and freeze.
An average of 10-1/2 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 7 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A lug weighs 28 pounds and yields 14 to 28 quarts--an average of 1-1/2 pounds per quart.
Select young, tender, well-colored stalks from the spring or late fall crop.
Trim off leaves. Wash stalks and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces. In a large saucepan add 1/2 cup sugar for each quart of fruit. Let stand until juice appears. Heat gently to boiling. Fill jars without delay, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process. Follow basic steps for boiling water bath canning.