Rhubarb

One of the first things to pop up through the newly thawed spring ground is the perennial vegetable, rhubarb. I have to admit, the last year was the first time I had tried rhubarb. I saw it at the farmers market and decided to figure out later what to do with it. It turns out, rhubarb is a delightful addition to many jams!

One thing I quickly learned to love about rhubarb (sorry, friends, not a fan of the raw taste), was what a great “filler” rhubarb is for jams. Instead of using all strawberries or all blueberries, which can get costly, I used rhubarb to add some bulk and the perfect amount of tartness to the jams I made. I found a delicious strawberry rhubarb jam in this Ball Canning cookbook. The jam is a big hit in our household, so I will be making many batches this year.

The only thing I don’t like about rhubarb, other than the raw taste, is how early it’s ready compared to the fruits I wanted to use for jam. Fear not, my fresh preserving friends. I have a few solutions for this problem: use your freezer to help out. First, you can buy rhubarb in bulk and then freeze it until other fruits come in season. Or, if you plan well enough, you can buy enough fruit when it’s in season, freeze it, then have it on hand the next spring when rhubarb comes up. By some odd luck, this happened this year, which made me quite happy as I could start making some strawberry rhubarb jam while the temperatures were still mild.

If you’re wondering how to freeze rhubarb, wonder no more. It’s really as simple as rinsing, chopping and freezing. For the freezing part, put either some wax paper or a dish towel on a cookie sheet and spread the rhubarb into a thin layer. Make sure the pieces aren’t piled up, as they will freeze into a big ball. I like to use dish towels to save from wasting anything that will just go in the trash, especially because I put up a LOT of fruits and veggies every season. You can also use silicone baking mats like these for this as well, for another greener alternative to wax paper. Place the sheet in the freeze until frozen, then pop that frozen rhubarb in a Ziploc bag or another freezer safe container. (One caution though: the leaves are NOT edible. You will notice most places that sell rhubarb have already taken the leaves off for you. If you grow your own rhubarb or receive some from a kind friend, remove the leaves before chopping up the rhubarb.)

I’m still exploring the many uses of rhubarb, but I’ve come across some delicious looking recipes! Apparently you can make a drink with strawberries, rhubarb and gin. Yes, please! And others use rhubarb in pies, muffins and other desserts. As I try out more recipes, I will be sure to share them with you.

Do you have a favorite rhubarb recipe? Share in the comments below and I will add it to my list!

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…And So It Begins

Welcome to A Pickle and a Pumpkin, where I will take you through the seasons of fresh and local foods you can find here in West Michigan, and inspire others around the country to seek out, enjoy and hopefully preserve the amazing, seasonal, local foods in your area.

Here in West Michigan, winter snow tends to be measured by the foot, not the inch. This past winter found us with a few feet of the white stuff on the ground around Christmas time, which was great for a White Christmas, but was brutal for driving. During the cold, unforgiving winter season, my family enjoyed all the delicious goodness we worked hard all spring, summer and fall to “put up”: frozen strawberries, blueberries and cherries, canned and frozen green beans, frozen broccoli and celery, canned sauerkraut, canned tomatoes, homemade pizza and spaghetti sauce, flavorful jams and even home raised chickens. And our most abundant, home grown delights: Pickles and Pumpkin!

Check back frequently to A Pickle and a Pumpkin as I take you on a seasonal journey through local foods, teach you how and where to get the best deals on bulk produce, how to preserve all that local goodness, and how to use the food you’ve saved to feed your family all year long. I will share with you the essential kitchen tools for “putting up” food, and even introduce you to some of my favorite local farmers. Also, as I learn more about growing my own food, I will impart my gardening wisdom on you all as well.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me!

-Kristin

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants” -Michael Pollan