Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tried and True - Rhubarb Sauce

You have to crawl before you walk.   So before you attempt a rhubarb custard pie, it is a good idea to know how to make good old basic Minnesota rhubarb sauce.   This simple but important knowledge has been passed down by generations of Grandmas.  And now I - a card carrying Minnesota Grandma - pass it on to you.

Before I get to the details of rhubarb sauce preparation, I would like to tell you the Featherstone rhubarb backstory.  So you will know where your CSA rhubarb came from.  I am the perfect person to tell you this story - since my husband, Frank Wright,  grew your rhubarb.  He is one of what is probably only a handful of professional Minnesota farmers.  Here is a video of him picking rhubarb.

I also happen to be one of the four famous Rhubarb Sisters.  What? You never heard of us?  How can that be?  Have you been living in a cave?  We've been singing about rhubarb going on four years now.   check us out here

Plus I live in Lanesboro, the rhubarb capital of Minnesota.  We have a special Rhubarb Festival the first Saturday of June every year.  I am not telling you all this to brag - because a Rhubarb Sister is nothing if not humble.  I tell you to establish my rhubarb cred.  I take my rhubarb seriously.  I know whereof I speak.

In a year or two, Featherstone Farm will be free from dependence on foreign rhubarb.  Featherstone is in the process of establishing their own perennial rhubarb crop in new fields.  So for now they found the best rhubarb guy around - Frank - and contracted with him to deliver about 1,200 pounds of rhubarb over the last two weeks.  Your  rhubarb was grown in the rich soil of our very large garden just a mile outside of Lanesboro, on the Root River.  About 15 miles from Featherstone.  The rhubarb in your CSA box was grown with love and care -- and lots of well composted horse manure.  Every stalk was hand harvested and field washed by either me or Frank.  (Mostly Frank)

Here are some pictures of this year's rhubarb harvest.  You need to pull the stalks from the bottom - no cutting.  (I think I need to work on my pulling form.)

 Frank is loading a bin of rhubarb on to the back of his pick up truck.  Love those arm muscles.

 Do you have a rhubarb plant somewhere at your house or apartment?  I hope so.  Because as wonderful as your CSA rhubarb is, in my opinion it is not enough.   If you don't have access to homegrown rhubarb, then check out your favorite farmers market.  And think about planting some for the future.  If you need a plant or two, let me know.  Maybe Frank could help you out.

In our house rhubarb sauce is a staple.  I freeze at least 10 quarts to get us through the winter.  We eat it plain for breakfast or as a simple supper dessert.  We spoon it over ice cream.  We plop in biscuit dough and bake it for rhubarb cobbler.  We add vinegar, onions, raisins and spices and make a chutney.  We put it in a blender with yogurt and ice cubes and maybe a few berries for a rhubarb smoothie.  We swirl it with whipped cream for rhubarb fool.  We steam some biscuit dough with the sauce for rhubarb grunt.  (A fruit grunt could also be called a slump.  Either way, it is steamed biscuit dough - it turns into dumplings -  with sweetened fruit sauce.  You could use apples or blueberries just as well as rhubarb.)

5 cups rhubarb (can be fresh or frozen), cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces
1 cup sugar
one or two 1/4 inch slices of fresh ginger (optional)
Mix rhubarb and sugar (and ginger if you are using it) in a non reactive saucepan and let sit about an hour.  Bring fruit slowly to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until rhubarb is soft but still retains some shape - about 10 minutes.  Taste - add a bit more sugar if desired.  Cool.  Store in refrigerator or freeze.
If you want to add strawberries or raspberries, do so about one or two minutes before you stop the cooking process.

Here is some rhubarb sauce to which a few handfuls of fresh strawberries was added in the final minute or two of cooking.  Doesn't it look good?  Sweet and tart at the same time.


  1. Yum!
    I just made some and couldn't really wait for it to cool. It tastes great warm with plain yogurt and some crunchy cereal.

  2. Peggy--
    Do you freeze it in jars or bags? Anything special to know about freezing it?
    Bonnie Prinsen

    p.s. Would love a plant or two if Frank can spare them!

  3. Bonnie and others who have expressed interest in plants - I will talk to Frank about when and where and let you know details. I am sure he can spare a few plants for the cause of rhubarb evangelism.

    Re freezing - I have been mostly using plastic freezer "tubs". Jars would work - but careful of temperatures. Sometimes my canning jars break if frozen. I think freezer bags would work but a little hard to work with b/c sauce is soupy.

  4. Great recipe! I'm currently pregnant, and there have been several weeks (and still now) where rhubarb is one thing I can eat that doesn't make me feel sick. It's my favorite "safe" food right now! Love your blog.

  5. I'm confused, what boils? Is there a liquid ingredient not mentioned?

  6. When the rhubarb and sugar get together, the rhubarb releases juices. As you bring it slowly to a boil, there will be plenty of liquid. Add a bit of water or juice if it is too dry for you. Watch the heat so you don't burn the sauce.