Posts Tagged ‘Rhubarb Recipes’

Upside Down Once More

Friday, June 11th, 2010

I know, I know, I just posted a recipe for rhubarb upside-down cake!
Let me explain.
After various peregrinations I am finally home in Hawley, Massachusetts, contemplating the gorgeous greenery everywhere and the abundant rhubarb in my yard.
(It’s even more abundant in the yard of my generous next-door neighbor Dennis!)
Seeing its lush (if poisonous) green leaves and strong red stalks has inspired me to try yet another upside-down cake.
You may recall that the previous recipe from Sue Haas featured marshmallows. This ingredient surprised some of the commenters, particularly the eloquent Flaneur.
Here I dispense with the marshmallows and combine Sue’s recipe with my own for pineapple upside-down cake.
It’s amazing how different two rhubarb cakes can be! Of course, I like them both. (I seldom dislike cake, for my sins.)
Sue’s Michigan upside-down cake is not too sweet and not too goopy; the marshmallows hold it together and give it a slight vanilla flavor.
This version is definitely sweeter and richer. On the other hand, it’s also a little more rhubarby. The marshmallows tend to tame the rhubarb in the other recipe. 

Which should you make? BOTH, of course………

Hawley Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
for the topping:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups rhubarb (1/2-inch chunks)
for the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
First make the topping (which goes on the bottom!).
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until it melts and bubbles—3 to 4 minutes.
Transfer the brown-sugar mixture into a 9-inch-square cake pan. Spread it through the bottom of the pan. Arrange the rhubarb pieces on top as artistically as you can. (Mine weren’t very artistic.)
For the cake cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla, and pour the batter over the rhubarb mixture.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center (but not too far down; don’t hit the rhubarb!) comes out clean, about 40 minutes. If the cake is brown but not done before this happens, decrease the oven temperature and continue baking.
Allow the cake to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife, and invert the cake onto a serving plate held over the skillet. Turn upside-down. Remove pan.
Serve alone or with whipped cream. Serves 9. 

I should think you could absolutely bake this pan in a 10-inch iron skillet (heating the butter and brown sugar in it first, and then piling on the other ingredients). I couldn’t find my skillet, however, so I used a square pan and can only report on those results.

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Rhubarb Catch Up

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Here’s an early recipe for July 4. (Enjoy it: this will probably be the only time you’ll get a recipe early from In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens!)
I’m not exactly a champion griller. In fact, as listeners to WFCR, our local public-radio station, learned a couple of years ago, I’ve been known to light an outdoor fire that almost turned into … well … an outdoor fire.
Condiments for grilled foods I can manage, however. And lately I’ve had a hankering to make some rhubarb ketchup (or catsup or however you want to spell it).
I’ve tried a couple of different formulas, and this is the best so far. It doesn’t taste like tomato ketchup. Why should it? It’s a lightly sweet, lightly spiced sauce that would be lovely with pork.
My spices came courtesy of Kalustyan, a wonderful spice company that has a retail outlet in New York City (yes, it will ship spices to you!). I particularly love Kalustyan’s aromatic cinnamon. And its mixture of pickling spices was just right for this recipe.
I can’t tell you yet how long this ketchup will last in the refrigerator since I made it less than a week ago. I don’t think I’d push it more than two weeks or so. So if you would like to try it as a condiment for Independence Day you should wait a little while to make it.
On the other hand, like me, you might want to make some now and some later. It really was tasty last night! I pan grilled chicken cutlets and served them with fresh peas with mint and maple-rhubarb coleslaw.
While you’re making your ketchup, do listen to my WFCR grilling broadcast. I’m not in great voice when I sing (and the less said the better about my piano playing), but my mother’s childhood memories are fun.
And Truffle’s cheerful bark more than makes up for my shortcomings! She really knows how to celebrate Independence Day.
Rhubarb Ketchup
3 cups rhubarb (in small pieces!)
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup apple cider plus 1/2 cup later
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon (generous) ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon pickling spices
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few turns of your pepper grinder
In a 2-quart nonreactive saucepan, toss together the rhubarb and brown sugar.
In a tiny nonreactive saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup cider and the vinegar. When they come to a boil remove them from the heat and stir in the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and pickling spices.
Let the two pans sit at room temperature for 2 hours. The rhubarb should juice up a little, and the spices should steep nicely in the liquid.
After the resting period add the spices and their liquid to the rhubarb. Toss the remaining cider into the pot that held the spices to pick up any remaining spices, and add it to the rhubarb as well. Stir in the salt and pepper.
Bring the rhubarb mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil the resulting sauce, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes. Turn off and let cool.
In a blender or food processor puree the cooled ketchup. Ladle it into a sterilized jar or two and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups ketchup.

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Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb!

Monday, June 15th, 2009

rhubarb stalksweb


It’s getting warm in New England so this will be my last rhubarb post for this year. Sigh………

For my grand finale I thought I’d explore the word “rhubarb” as well as the plant.


A friend recently asked me whether rhubarb didn’t have more than one meaning. I did a little research—and was he ever right! When you’ve said rhubarb, you’ve said a mouthful in more ways than one.


Other foods may enjoy one or two definitions beyond their edible ones. A peach is a pretty girl, and something peachy is just swell. We blow a raspberry to show disrespect. And spinach can mean “humbug” as part of the phrase “gammon and spinach” or all by itself, as in the immortal Irving Berlin lyric, “I say it’s spinach and the hell with it!”


Rhubarb, however, has so much personality that its figurative uses almost rival its culinary ones.

First of all, of course, rhubarb is a reddish, stringy plant that originated in
China. People either love or hate its strong, tart flavor. (I’m in the love camp, as you may have guessed!)

The genesis of the word “rhubarb” comes from its presence along the banks of the
Volga River in Siberia; it is a combination of “Rha” (the Greek word for the Volga) and the word “barbarum,” or barbarian. (Obviously those who named the plant were less than enthusiastic about it. I don’t find it at all barbaric.)


Beyond its meaning as food, rhubarb is a theatrical phrase used by centuries of actors in crowd scenes. In Shakespeare’s day and beyond, extras onstage would intone “rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb” to simulate muttering, particularly angry muttering. I like to think that the peasants coming after the monster with torches in the classic film Frankenstein were using the word, although I have no proof of this.


Perhaps because of its slightly harsh syllables rhubarb also connotes a fight, usually a spirited one. In the mid-20th century the word became attached to baseball. It was used most famously by colorful sportscaster Red Barber to describe an altercation on the field—between teams, between players and umpires, or between players and fans. Barber called Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, “the rhubarb patch.” Apparently, the Dodgers had a strong, tart flavor.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, rhubarb is sometimes used to mean “nonsense.” (Perhaps Irving Berlin should have written, “I say it’s RHUBARB and the hell with it!”)


The word also describes low-level aircraft strafing in time of war (at least it did during World War II). And it was used centuries ago as an adjective to mean bitter or tart. The OED also lists related words, including “rhubarber,” which refers to an actor milling around in a crowd scene.


If I haven’t provided enough meanings for the word for you, the Keene Sentinel provided several more in a 2000 article titled “The Hidden Life of Rhubarb.”


I asked its author, columnist John Fladd, where he got so many of his rhubarb uses, and he referred me to Eric Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Partridge must have been particularly inspired by rhubarb for he found many meanings for the word.


In the 19th century, Patridge wrote, the word was used vulgarly to refer to the genital region as in the expression (previously unfamiliar to me), “How’s your rhubarb coming up, Bill?”


It has also connoted a loan, a bill for payment, an advance on one’s wages and an area in the country (as a synonym for “the Sticks”). I guess I live in the Rhubarbs.


Finally, Fladd (citing Partridge) notes, “There is a Canadian phrase, ‘hitting the rhubarb,’ that means running one’s car off the road—‘You’d better not have another drink, Stanley, or you’ll hit the rhubarb.’”


Before I hit the rhubarb myself, I guess I should tuck a recipe into this post. It comes from my friend and editor at the West County Independent, Virginia Ray.


Ginny says, “I love the sweet/sourness of this crumble, which reminds me of picking rhubarb at my little farm in Pennsylvania, right from the garden, and transforming the bitterness to yummy-ness!”



Miss Ginny’s Rhubarb Crumble



2 pounds rhubarb (6 cups) cut into one-inch pieces

1/4 cup white or organic sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar




Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the rhubarb in a buttered Pyrex pie dish (a stainless or ceramic dish may be substituted, but don’t use aluminum as it will react with the rhubarb’s acidity).


Sprinkle on the white/organic sugar and cinnamon. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the butter and cut it in with knives or a pastry blender (your hands will do in a pinch). Add the brown sugar and mix again until crumbly.


Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the rhubarb, pressing down lightly. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serves 6 to 8. This crumble freezes well.

Rhubarb Soda Pop

Monday, June 8th, 2009
This drink looks particularly yummy in glasses blown by Bob Dane!

This drink looks particularly yummy in glasses blown by Bob Dane!


I know I’ve been digressing a bit lately—so here is a rhubarb post in which I go straight to the recipe (well, as straight as my brain ever goes).


The rhubarb flavor comes through loud and clear in this refreshing beverage. I tried the rhubarb base with a fizzy lemon-lime drink but found that I preferred it with plain soda water.




4 cups chopped rhubarb

enough water JUST to cover the rhubarb

1/2 cup sugar (or sugar to taste; see how you like it this way the first time you make it)

1 cinnamon stick

1 pinch salt

2 teaspoons lemon juice

soda water or seltzer as needed




In a large non-reactive saucepan combine the rhubarb, water, sugar, and cinnamon stick.


Cook the mixture, partially covered, over medium-low heat until the rhubarb is soft, stirring from time to time to keep the water from boiling much.


Turn off the heat and let the rhubarb mixture cool for a few minutes. Strain it through cheesecloth. Discard the rhubarb pulp (or use it to clean your pots!) and add the salt and lemon juice to the liquid. Chill it for at least 2 hours. Serve it diluted with the soda water or seltzer (I used about a 1 to 1 ratio.)


This much rhubarb makes about 24 ounces of rhubarb liquid or 48 ounces of soda pop at that ratio.

Mother Jan and Neighbor Ken raise their glasses to (and of) rhubarb.

Mother Jan and Neighbor Ken raise their glasses to (and of) rhubarb.

Baked Hawley

Thursday, June 4th, 2009
The Birthday Boy surveys his dessert.

The Birthday Boy surveys his dessert.

My friend Peter Beck recently asked me to make Baked Alaska for his birthday. I was thrilled.


Like Cherries Jubilee or Bananas Foster, Baked Alaska is a showy dessert associated with “fancy” 20th century restaurants.


I pictured myself whipping it up casually in a little hostess apron, looking like Barbara Stanwyck and throwing my dinner guests into paroxysms of joy.

By the time I was finished putting all the pieces together I was a little too messy (and a little too me) to resemble Miss Stanwyck. My guests were pretty joyful, however.


A Little History


For readers unfamiliar with Baked Alaska, here is a bit of history. Caveat lector: I found this information on the internet. Some of it comes from Dartmouth College, however, which ought to be a reputable source.

Cooks of many nationalities (including the Chinese, who probably invented ice cream, and the cook in Thomas Jefferson’s kitchen) experimented with insulating ice cream with pastry and then baking it.


It was apparently the American-born chemist Benjamin Thompson who originated the exact formula for Baked Alaska in 1804. Fiercely loyal to the British in the Revolutionary War (he spied for them!), Thompson spent the rest of his life in Europe. He was named a count of the Holy Roman Empire by the elector of Bavaria for his social reform work there. Thompson chose the title Count Rumford because of his fondness for the town of Concord, New Hampshire, originally known as Rumford.


Count Rumford is best known for creating the kitchen range (known as the Rumford Range), which revolutionized cooking by giving home and restaurant cooks an alternative to hard-to-control and wasteful open fires.


In 1804 while experimenting with the insulating power of egg whites he invented what we call Baked Alaska (he called it omelette surprise)–cake topped by ice cream and meringue browned in the oven.  The name Baked Alaska came later, many say from Chef Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York in honor of the 1867 purchase of the Alaska territory.


In his cookbook The Epicurean Ranhofer himself called the dish Alaska, Florida to celebrate its juxtaposition of hot and cold. It was first called Baked Alaska in print by my beloved Fannie Farmer.


A Touch of Rhubarb


With rhubarb on my mind these days I decided that Peter’s Baked Alaska would be no ordinary Alaska but a Baked Hawley, featuring one of my hometown’s most copious crops.


I called Gary Schafer and Barbara Fingold, who own Bart’s and Snow’s Ice Cream in Greenfield, Massachusetts. I figured if anyone could tell me how to make rhubarb ice cream it would be they. Their ice cream is always delicious and tastes homemade.


Barbara and Gary suggested that I wait until the very end of the freezing process to add the rhubarb so its liquid didn’t interfere with the consistency of my ice cream.


Of course, you don’t HAVE to use rhubarb ice cream. You don’t even have to use homemade ice cream. Many Baked Alaska recipes ensure super insulation of the ice cream by refreezing it, along with the cake below, for several hours before putting the meringue on top and baking the dish. If you want to try that method, you’ll be better off with commercial ice cream since homemade ice cream is best eaten fresh.


You may also vary this recipe. It can easily be made bigger or given a change of flavors. A brownie base with peppermint stick ice cream could be Baked Noel. Peach ice cream could be Baked Georgia. Apple Cake in autumn could be Baked Back to School (Baked Teacher just doesn’t sound friendly). And so on.


We all loved the rhubarb version, however—and I plan to make it (and the rhubarb ice cream it used) again.


I know this seems like a VERY long recipe. It’s not hard, however; it just has quite a few steps.




The Long But Not Hard Recipe




for the rhubarb ice cream:


2 cups finely chopped rhubarb

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (for rhubarb)

1 pinch salt (for rhubarb)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3/4 cup milk

2 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue!)

1/3 cup sugar (for custard)

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pinch salt (for custard)


for the cake:


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg, separated

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 pinch salt

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


for the meringue:


2 egg whites

1 pinch cream of tartar

1/4 cup sugar




It’s easiest to begin this recipe the day before you want to make the final product: the rhubarb and ice-cream custard will need time to cool. (So will the cake, although it will need to cool for less time so you may make it a couple of hours before you need it if you like.)


First, make the rhubarb puree. Combine the rhubarb, its sugar, its salt, and the lemon juice in a small non-reactive saucepan. Let them sit for a few hours until the rhubarb juices up.


When it has juiced up, stir the mixture and bring it to a boil. Simmer it, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb is soft, and most (but not all) of the liquid has boiled off. Set it aside to cool; then refrigerate it until you need to add it to the ice cream.


Next, make the ice-cream custard. In a small-to-medium saucepan, heat the milk until it steams but does not boil. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they thicken and turn a light yellow (about 4 minutes). As noted above, the egg whites should be kept—in the refrigerator—until the next day for the meringue.


Whisk a little of the hot milk into the sweet egg yolks; then whisk a little more. Repeat this process; then whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard begins to thicken but does not boil (about 2 to 3 minutes on my gas stove).


Strain the custard into a heatproof bowl. Cool it to room temperature; then refrigerate it until it is cool (several hours or preferably overnight). Just before making the ice cream, you will whisk in the cream, vanilla, and salt.


The next day (or later that same day) make the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour a small cake pan. (I used my 7-inch springform pan.)


Cream the butter, and beat in the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk, reserving the white. Stir in the baking powder and salt. Gently add the flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.


In a clean bowl with a clean beater, whip the egg white until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Fold it into the cake batter, and gently spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (Using my gas oven and my springform pan this took about 30 minutes, but it may vary.)


Let the cake rest for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Let it cool.


About 1/2 hour before you are ready to make the Baked Hawley, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and get out the custard. Add the cream, vanilla, and salt to the custard, and pour it into a 1-quart electric ice-cream maker. Start the ice-cream maker. Take the egg whites out of the refrigerator so they can come to room temperature.


When the ice cream is done, add the rhubarb puree. Let it mix in for a minute or two more. Try to make your ice cream as hard as you can but still removable from the ice-cream maker.


Rinse a wooden board on both sides with cold water, and shake it dry. Cut out a piece of brown paper (I used a grocery bag) large enough to hold the cake with a bit of extra room. Place it on the wooden board while you prepare the meringue.


Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they begin to stiffen. Slowly add the sugar, and continue beating until the whites form stiff peaks. Set aside for just a minute.


Quickly place most of the ice cream onto the top of the cake (you will have a little extra to eat just as ice cream). Leave at least an inch of cake around the top edge so that the ice cream doesn’t slide down to the sides. If your ice cream is stiff enough try to pile it up in the middle to make an igloo shape. (Mine was more of a pillbox hat!)


Using a spatula spread the meringue on top of and around the ice cream and cake, making sure no cake or ice cream is visible.


Quickly pop the wooden board into the oven, and leave it there just until the meringue browns lightly, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and serve the Baked Hawley at once.

Serves 4 to 6 rhubarb fans.