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.