Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Canning Rhubarb

I have three big clumps of rhubarb growing in my garden. They were there when we moved in. Since we moved in, I have harvested a little, and even got some in the freezer last year, but a lot ended up in the compost heap because it had become so old and overgrown by the time I got to harvesting it. This is not the frugal option!

This year I decided that I really want to preserve as much of my own garden produce as possible and the rhubarb is first! Although it takes time, and a small cost, preserving my own produce is the best way to stock up. After doing some research and some thinking I decided that canning the rhubarb would be the ideal way to preserve it. Canning doesn't take up any room in my freezer, which is only so big. I already own all of the canning equipment, and I was delighted to discover it wouldn't be much more work then to prepare it for the freezer. Because of the high acidity, canned rhubarb only requires a hot water bath to make it safe (not pressure canning, a whole other kettle of fish!)

I love rhubarb, but if you aren't sure about it, try reading this post about a reluctant rhubarb eater who recently discovered how yummy it can be!

In my quest for a canned rhubarb recipe, I started with my favourite food preservation book, Stocking Up. This book is great because they don't use any sugar in their recipes, even in the jams and jellies! As a side note, apple jelly made with honey is the most amazing thing I have ever tasted.

The canned rhubarb has only a little sweetener, and the recipe is very similar to many I found online, replacing the sugar with honey, and reducing the amount of sweetener.

Stocking Up Canned Rhubarb
Wash and trim the rhubarb. Discard all leaves - they are poisonous. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Add 1/4 cup of honey to each quart of rhubarb and let stand 3 to 4 hours to draw out the juice. Bring to boiling. Pack hot, with 1/2 inch head space. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes for pint or quart size jars.

This turned out well, but it is a little too tart for me to eat straight out of the jar. I will be able to use it in cooking or over something very sweet, like ice cream. I am looking forward to experimenting with this in my cooking. I am imagining it could replace applesauce in many baked goods, like applesauce bread. I am imagining combining it with a variety of fruit to make a lovely fruit crisp in the fall. I suspect with some other fruit (maybe strawberries?) it would make a great pie filling too! I will post recipes results as I try them.

I decided what I really want is a rhubarb sauce. Something just a little sweeter that the first canned rhubarb. Something that I could use over pancakes or plain yogurt, straight from the jar. Something like a tart and runny rhubarb jam.

I decided to try doubling the honey in the original Stocking Up recipe. I am very careful about mucking around with canning recipes. There are potential risks in canning, and you don't want to mess around. As I already know that most jams are safe to can, I decided that adding extra sweetener should not alter the food safety. In fact, as I understand it, the sugars add to the food safety, making it harder for bacteria to grow. More importantly, the acidity of the rhubarb is what makes hot water canning safe, and sugar alters the flavour, but not the acidity. Also, the other canning recipes I found used more sugar than I had used honey! (I can't find anything on the web or in a book to back me up. Does anyone have any information?)

Meredith's Simple Rhubarb Sauce
Wash and trim the rhubarb. Don't forget to discard the poisonous leaves. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

For each quart (4 cups or 1 liter) of rhubarb, add 1/2 cup of honey. Let it sit 3 to 4 hours, then bring it to a boil.

Fill clean, hot jars leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

If you have hard water, don't be afraid of the white powder all over your jars when they come out of the canner. When they are cool and sealed, you can wipe it off with a damp cloth.

The result is still tart, but sweet enough that I can eat it straight out of the jar. I am looking forward to trying it over pancakes. Yum! I think I could use it as a substitute for the first three ingredients in these rhubarb upside down muffins, although I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

Keep in mind that my recipe is not a "tested" recipe, but I can't see any reason why it shouldn't be as safe as any other home canned produce. I am going to store it in my cold cellar and enjoy it all winter. I should get another harvest of rhubarb, and I will make some more. Yum!

A note about quantities: I made three different batches, two of the Stocking Up canned rhubarb and one of my own rhubarb sauce. When I used 3 quarts of rhubarb, I got 4 pint jars of canned rhubarb. When I used 4 quarts of rhubarb, I got 5 and 1/2 pint jars of canned rhubarb. I used 4 quarts of rhubarb to make my sauce, and ended up with 8 half pint jars, or 4 pints total.

How much rhubarb makes up a quart? Well, I weighed several of my quarts, and got different weights each time. The average weight was 524 g or just over a pound.

For more ideas on what to do with fresh rhubarb, visit Tammy's Recipes.


  1. Wish I had some rhubarb, but its too hot here! But, I will pass this along to my sil who lives near the mountains of NC where it is cooler and she is able to grow some.

  2. Thank you!!
    I should try canning.
    Hope I can harvest enough rhubarb for canning before I use them al for baking;

  3. Haven't quite got enough yet to do some serious canning. Wish I had
    yours! Maybe next year though.
    You have laid out every step so well. Thankyou.

  4. We have hard water also, but if you pour about 1/4 cup of vinegar into the water you process your jars in before you boil them, they will come out clean with no white residue on them.

  5. Getting ready to try out your sauce. I am totally excited. Thanks for experimenting!

  6. Regarding the hard water deposits...just add about 1/4 c. of vinegar to the water bath, and wa-la: NO white powdery deposits! :o)

  7. Thank you for the rhubarb receipes! I can't wait to try them out. Thank you to the two others who commented on the hard water results. I will have to try this the next time I can. Hopefully soon.

  8. Here in Newfoundland I was just given some rhubarb from Mr. Roy Keepings garden. I will try your canning recipe this afternoon.

  9. I miss your blog!

  10. Just found your blog while researching the proper times for a water bath for canning my rhubarb. Very helpful. Thank you.

  11. Just found your blog and I wish you were keeping it up!

  12. Thank you for the canning rhubarb post, i've got a fridge full and i'm going to try it tonight! And try some rhubarb mango jam too

  13. This year the rhubarb hung on all summer, it can do that with enough water, mulch and compost. I found several recipes for canning stewed rhubarb without any sugar using a pressure canner and I would suppose a hot water bath would work fine. I did it because it tastes, and has the same consistency as when I freeze it but takes up no freezer space. Any sweetener you use is just extra calories, those like honey, with it's own flavor may be more or less attractive, (although I don't know how it would go with something as strong as molasses) but there is no additional nutrition with any of those compared to plain white refined sugar. I use Splenda, which has it's own taste, but it is just as nutritious as if it was made with honey, and low cal enough to be a regular part of my diet rather than an infrequent high calorie treat.

  14. Oooh yum, I'm looking for something to do with my rhubarb. Also a little canning tip; do not store your jars with the rings on. They rust and become near impossible to get off and the jar will break. I've been canning for years and only put rings on when I give them away. I've had jars tip over and fall gingerly from a self and they never came unsealed. I learned this from a lady who is a very seasoned canner:) Very nice blog you have and look forward to following.

  15. have been looking for a way to can rhubarb I cook and sell baked goods at a farmers market and use a lot of rhubarb but no room in freezer with all the berries and spinach etc. It sounds great. But how will it work in reciepes do you have any reciepes that you have used the canned rhubarb in it would be really, really interested if anyone has a reciepe using the canned reciepe you posted with the honey. please any one got one yet.

  16. I have the same book, Stocking Up - it's a favorite go-to preserving guide in our house!

  17. I just found this and I am so excited! My family and I are trying to cut out as much processed JUNK as possible so sugar is definitely on the list of foods to cut out. Have you ever added ground cinnamon to this? I'm wondering if it would make it that much more delicious!
    Since writing this blog have you had any issues with this recipe?

  18. I am always interested to know why preserving rhubarb in glass jars is known the States as 'canning'. Does it hark back to a time when preserving was actually done in can?

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