We’re coming near the end of rhubarb (although I’ve been told you could easily harvest it into August most farmers don’t as people gain more options with the summer harvest coming into full effect). We’ve stewed it before (it also freezes well) but this year we’ve open to pickle it!
Before discussing how to eat/ use pickled rhubarb, allow me to share the logic of preserving large pieces (as opposed to smaller chunks). Picking larger pieces requires a bit of extra work (stuffing the jars is a bit more of an art) but there are a few benefits:
- You save time by not needing to cut a lot of rhubarb (a very minor savings).
- You can always cut smaller pieces later but if you start with smaller pieces you can never go back (it’s more versatile).
- The texture stays firmer (this is the main reason I do it). Larger pieces don’t break down as much as smaller ones during processing (chilling them before serving will make them even firmer, regardless of size).
Pickled rhubarb is sour (from the plant), sweet (from added sugar and, in this case, honey) and tangy (from the vinegar). We’ve added a small amount of heat/ earth by grounding it with pepper and some pickling spices we had lying around (I generally don’t have pre-packaged pickling spices but we had just enough to use in this recipe so we went through them). The recipe is easy to scale down and simple to make.
I plan to use this in three ways:
- whole/ chunked and served with beer and/or cheese
- Chopped into a relish as a condiment
- Chopped and used in stir fry as an acidic element.
When cutting rhubarb for jars take a lot of time on your first piece. I actually insert a stalk into a jar, make a visual mark and cut a single piece the size that I want. I put that piece back in the jar to see it’s what I wanted (measure twice, cut once) and then use it to guide me through the rest of the batch.
Ingredients (Makes about 6 half-pint jars)
- 3 pounds of rhubarb
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups white vinegar (5%)
- 1 cup white wine vinegar (6% or slightly more is best for this one)
- 3 cups demerara sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1 scant teaspoon black peppercorns per jar
- 1 teaspoon of honey per jar
- 1 generous teaspoon pickling spice (or substitute dry mustard seeds and a bay leaf) per jar
- Because the waterbath takes the longest to get going, I start to boil my water for it right away. If it boils before you’re ready you can turn the heat off and keep a lid on it). The only time I make an exception to this is when it’s boiling hot in the kitchen and then I only boil as needed.
- Add all of the ingredients except the honey, pickling spice, peppercorns and rhubarb into a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring periodically.
- Clean and chop the rhubarb. I cut them about an inch shorter than the jar.
- Prepare your jars (clean them and boil them for several minutes in boiling water while you ‘marinate’ new seals in very hot-boiling water that’s not on a direct heat source)
- Pack raw rhubarb tightly into the jars. Add the honey, peppercorns and pickling spice.
- Fill jars with liquid leaving 0.5-0.75 of headspace. Jiggle the jars to release air bubbles.
- Process by boiling in a water bath (the jars should be covered by at least 1-2 inches of water) for 10 minutes.
- Although you can eat these right away, the flavors will develop for weeks (I try to wait about 6 weeks for the majority of my pickles before consuming).
Who else is pickling rhubarb? What have you done anything differently with yours?