April 26, 2011

All About Rhubarb {Naptime Simple Tips}

Rhubarb Squares

Rhubarb Hazelnut Oatmeal Squares

Saying I am a fan of rhubarb is putting it mildly. I simply love the stuff and bake or cook with it as often as possible. With rhubarb season on the horizon I thought I would offer up a few great rhubarb tips today and a terrific new rhubarb recipe tomorrow. Here are some helpful hints and tips about my favorite tart stalks:

Taste, Color & Texture: Rhubarb stalks come in a variety of colors from deep red, to pink to green. It is generally believed that the red thin stalks are the sweetest because they are young and the green stalks are more tart since they are more mature. However, the truth is, there are many variety of rhubarb plants and the color of their stalks is not necessarily related to the flavor. The best thing to do is sample a few colors from your local market and see what best suits your palate. Rhubarb can range from being incredibly tart to very sweet. The sweeter rhubarb is terrific for simple compotes and jams, while the more tart variety does well when paired with berries, or plenty of sugar, to balance out the taste.

Redish Green Stalks from My Parent's Garden

Buying Rhubarb: If I am not enjoying a fresh harvest of rhubarb from my parent’s garden, I buy rhubarb at the farmer’s market or the small specialty grocery store up the street. In stores it is commonly displayed in the chilled shelves of the produce section. By the time it reaches the market the leaves have usually been cut off. If you get rhubarb stalks with the leaves still on be sure to cut them off the minute you get home. The large leaves are toxic and should not be consumed!

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Big Crumb Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Storing Rhubarb: Store cut rhubarb in your refrigerator wrapped loosely in a plastic bag. The stalks should stay this way for several days. Make sure the ends are not peaking out of the bag, you don’t want them to dry out. If they seem to be drying out wrap them in a damp paper towel and use the stalks within a couple of days. If a stalk seems limp and will not stand up straight when you are holding it in your hand than it is beginning to rot. Either use it immediately or throw it in the compost heap.

Freezing Rhubarb: Rhubarb freezes really well and will last for several months before going bad. To freeze rhubarb wash and dry the stalks very carefully. Slice them into pieces 1-inch wide and freeze them on a cookie sheet in one even layer. Once they have frozen completely transfer them to a freezer bag and store them for as long as needed.

Cooking with Rhubarb: Unless a stalk is thicker than 2-inches in diameter it is rare that you have to peel it. To cook with rhubarb simple cut off the very tips of the stalks and proceed to slice them into pieces as wide or narrow as the recipe calls needs. It is really very simple to cook with rhubarb since very little, if any, preparation is needed!

Ruby Razz Crunch

Some of my Favorite Rhubarb Recipes:

Simple Rhubarb Almond Cake

Ruby Razz Crunch

Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb Hazelnut Oat Squares

Big Crumb Rhubarb Coffee Cake