Rhubarb Isn’t Just for Pies

Rhubarb Jam

Rhubarb is nicknamed the “pie plant”, and a classic strawberry-rhubarb tart is worth enjoying every season. But rhubarb’s unique sour flavor also blends well in savory dishes—like black beans or sweet and sour tofu. Add in that it’s cheap to buy, easy to grow, and easy to prep, and it’s no wonder there are so many posts about rhubarb these days.

Read on for 3 of our favorite ways to enjoy rhubarb at Bread & Roses!

Rhubarb jam has been a staple at B&R for years and is usually our first canning session of the season. Ginger used to be my favorite spice to add, but last year my fellow collective member Kayo swapped in star anise, and now I have a new favorite. It basically tastes like candy.

6 rounded cups diced rhubarb
1½ C sugar
3 Tbs lemon juice (bottled or fresh squeezed)
3 star anise

Finished jam waiting to be canned.

Slice large stalks in half lengthwise, then chop into small pieces. Place diced rhubarb in a ceramic or glass mixing bowl. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and stir to mix. Cover and refrigerate overnight to macerate (or let stand at room temperature for an hour).

Strain the rhubarb. Pour the collected syrup into a shallow, wide pan (a larger surface area allows the water to evaporate more quickly). Add the star anise, and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling, skimming any foam, until syrup has reached jam consistency (221°F on a candy thermometer or use the plate or sheet test). Add in the diced rhubarb, and return to a boil. Simmer 5-10 minutes, skimming if necessary.

Yield: 3 half pints (To can, process half pints in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.)

Apparently I’m not the only one who thought rhubarb would make a great BBQ sauce, because I found dozens of recipes online! None of them were quite what I was looking for—I didn’t want any tomato in the recipe, so it could be more seasonal. Here’s what I came up with:


Thick and tangy rhubarb BBQ sauce!

2 Tbs canola or other light cooking oil
½ large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 medium rhubarb stalks (3½ C diced)
¾ C apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
¼ C sucanat (or brown sugar)
¼ C honey
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs molasses
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
water to cover
opt: 1-2 small ripe hot peppers, diced (serranos or a habanero work well)

Heat the canola oil in a sauce pot, and add the onion. Sautee 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and hot pepper (if using), and sautee another 2-3 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour, until rhubarb is very soft. Remove from heat to puree (easiest with an immersion blender, or allow to cool a little and transfer to a regular blender). Puree until smooth—or leave it chunky, whatever you prefer. Add more water if you want a thinner sauce, or return it to the pot and continue simmering to thicken (stir frequently to prevent burning).

Yield: about 3 cups (depending on how thick you make it)

The original pink lemonade

A couple years ago, I wondered if anyone ever canned rhubarb juice (we had soooo much rhubarb). Turns out, rhubarb can be a great substitute for lemon juice…it has a really strong flavor straight, but mixed with tap water or sparkling water, it makes a uniquely refreshing summer drink. It’s so overpowering undiluted that, ironically, it’s harder to discern the rhubarb flavor. I like to mix equal parts rhubarb juice to water, but experiment with different proportions to find what you like best. For a delicious early summer cocktail, try equal parts rhubarb juice and sparkling water, and add half a shot of gin to a 4-6 oz glass. A sprig of mint or fresh fennel works well for a flavorful garnish.

diced rhubarb
water to cover
opt: sugar or honey to taste

Place the rhubarb in a sauce pot. Add the water and sweetener, if using. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until the rhubarb is mushy. Pour through a fine sieve using a wooden spoon to press additional juice from the pulp. You’ll have a dazzingly beautiful pink juice and an unappetizing mass of yellowish pulp. Compost the pulp (pretty much flavorless at this point, though you could mix it into chili or something for texture). For a clearer juice, let it settle for 15-20 minutes and then slowly pour it into another container, discarding the sediment that has settled to the bottom.

For instructions on canning your rhubarb juice, visit Bernardin or check out this factsheet. It’s incredibly easy.

Want to learn how to preserve seasonal produce?
We’re thinking of hosting small batch canning sessions to share our know-how with fellow gardeners, foodies and revolutionaries. For a small fee, we’d lead a basic canning lesson featuring in-season produce of the moment. Participation would be limited to 6-8 people so everyone can help with the processing and take home a filled jar. Interested? Let us know and we’ll send you details when we have our schedule together.


2 Replies to “Rhubarb Isn’t Just for Pies”

  1. I would love to learn how to can (and anything else you would teach,) so please add me to your list.

    Also, if I made your jam recipe
    WITHOUT canning it, could I just keep it in the fridge?


    1. Thanks Judy! Yes, you can absolutely store it in the fridge. It just doesn’t keep as long. So, don’t make more than you’ll use within a month or so (or share a jar with someone else).

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