I’ve had this excess of frozen rhubarb in my freezer for a year now. The last two years my neighbor kept bringing me rhubarb from his garden. He isn’t there now and this year I didn’t get any more because he was in an accident in April and until last week was in a skilled nursing facility. He won’t be coming home, he lives with his daughter now. I’ll miss him. Still there was an entire shelf in my freezer packed with bags of frozen rhubarb that I never got around to using for anything.
The question was burning on my mind…what to do with so much frozen rhubarb? It was occupying too much space in my freezer. I decided to do something about it. Room in the freezer section of a refrigerator is a precious commodity when there are seven people in the family, four of whom are adults. It was a last minute decision made when my daughter took her baby in for his three week check up. I pulled two packages of rhubarb out of the freezer while she was at the doctor’s office then promptly forgot them. My daughter messaged me to let me know that she would be home in time to take her five year old to preschool. I made sure he looked nice for school and by the time she got here there was just enough time for him to climb into the van and head to school. Needless to say by that time the rhubarb was mostly thawed out. I went into the kitchen, probably for another cup of coffee, and seeing the puddle of moisture on the counter realized that I had this thawing vegetable and something had to be with it.
I decided to cook it without even looking at potential recipes, I didn’t even bother to look for instructions on cooking it, how hard could it be, a little water a little sugar boil it up, easy peasy, right? I pulled out my largest stainless steel pan that isn’t a stock pot and dumped some water in the pan, way too much apparently, with some sugar (so-o-o not enough sugar, but, it was what I had) and put the two full quart size zip-lock bags of cut rhubarb in the pan. The electric burner was set on high so it would heat up sooner and boil. I decided that I didn’t have enough sugar so thinking some fruit would help I added a good handful of raisins and a couple of small apples diced up. This concoction cooked until the apples were soft and the rhubarb was just pulp. Somewhere in there the temperature was reduced but not enough apparently since it required a quick rescue to keep it from boiling over. It was still pretty juicy, actually, way too runny in my opinion, so I took as much of the solid stuff out as I could. Rhubarb pulp holds a lot of water. I drained it a bit, putting the liquid back in the pan. Trying to get a thicker consistency I dumped two more quart size packages of fully frozen rhubarb into the runny sauce-like substance. It again filled the pan and I let it cook until the rhubarb was just a pulp. Still too runny. I really should have done some research before I jumped in and started cooking. But, we here in this house are graduates of the Slam-Dunk School of Cooking. There are several Slam-Dunk Schools of Life-skills, but those others are unrelated topics. The Slam-Dunk School of anything requires no planning and often a lot of impulsive, off the cuff ingenuity. In the culinary arts, some dishes are instantly successful and others may take some finagling to make edible. (It does help to be a recipe collector and cookbook reader.)
This experiment was headed for disaster. Finally, deciding that maybe I should be looking for ways to use this tart, runny, rhubarb goo, I began a Google search for recipes to get some ideas. I was thinking a bread of some sort. Use my goo creation instead of whatever liquid is used in a real recipe. Almost every recipe called for uncooked, chopped rhubarb. Too late, it was already cooked. My efforts were more like a sauce and that was mostly useful to put on things as a topping. Mine was way too tart for that sort of consumption. Now I’m thinking, “What am I to do with three to four quarts of very tart rhubarb sauce-like goo?” I began expanding my recipe search to the specialty breads like pumpkin bread for some ideas because this stuff was more runny than syrup and mouth puckeringly tart. Maybe I could replace the liquid and the pumpkin or zucchini or whatever garden produce the recipe calls for with my stove-top creation. Even that search yielded batters that contain less runny ingredients for moisture. Then, beyond all hope, a recipe to use left over rhubarb sauce caught my attention. A bread recipe no less. But, this pan full of liquid goo really did not have the right consistency for a true rhubarb sauce. Reading recipes for sauces I found that some call for the use of Jell-o, either strawberry or raspberry. Well, I didn’t have strawberry or raspberry. I did have a couple packages of cherry gelatin though. So I looked for a recipe with cherry and rhubarb just to see if the two flavors are ever used to compliment each other and I did find a cherry rhubarb pie recipe. Perfect!
I pulled out my cast iron dutch oven and put both batches of runny rhubarb goo in it and heated it back up to boiling. The gelatin packages were dumped into the boiling liquid, then stirred until all was dissolved. Finding the last bit of brown sugar in a package I tossed that in as well, for good measure. Once everything was dissolved the heat was turned off and the sauce allowed to cool for awhile. After taking a little taste and determining that it was actually pretty good and could be used on toast or pancakes or maybe even Chocolate-Cherry Bordeau ice cream, I rounded up canning jars. I’ve been saving jars from this, that, and the other along with their lids. I know, I know, you aren’t supposed to reuse the canning lids but I wash them and save them anyway, it’s the Slam-Dunk way of doing things. The concoction filled a quart jar, two pint jars and four 1/2 pint jars – well – a couple of those jars weren’t really standard canning jars and hold a tad more than the size in which I grouped them. I guess in all it made a little more than three quarts of sauce. Now I have to get the ingredients to make that bread. I’m low on flour, low on oil, and out of sugar. But, today is payday…
I’ll let you know how the bread recipe works when I get around to baking it. You know I won’t follow the recipe…
P.S. One of these days I’ll get back to my routine of Friday book reviews, I promise. – GP