It’s rhubarb season and I’ve been making the family favorite, rhubarb custard pie, for the past month.
Some would argue that this pie is really the only appropriate use for rhubarb, but lately I’ve been introduced to a couple of other rhubarb recipes that significantly expand the list of rhubarb recipes: rhubarb shrub and rhubarb cobbler.
My friend Dena made a rhubarb shrub this spring. It’s delicious! She shared her recipe, one that she found at Bon Appetit.
“In terms of drinks, a shrub is a non-alcoholic syrup made of a combination of concentrated fruits, aromatics, sugar, and vinegar. This sweet, yet acidic mixer is traditionally enjoyed as a component of a mixed drink with soda water.” Dena adds it to tonic water for a special, non-alcoholic spring drink. We’re doing the same.
Dena’s Bon Appetit Rhubarb Shrub recipe could be easier:
Slice 4 medium stalks of rhubarb crosswise until you’ve got 2 cups of it. Mix together 1¼ cups sugar (preferably organic) and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Pick the leaves off a couple sprigs of mint and clap them firmly between your hands once (this is to release the essential oils). In a large jar or container with an airtight lid (I like glass best, plastic is a good alternative, but avoid metal), layer the rhubarb and mint evenly with the sugar mixture. Seal the jar and turn it upside down a couple of times. Now, let it sit on the counter for a few hours. (If it’s hot out, just an hour or so will do! The juices are drawn out of the rhubarb more quickly at higher temps.) You want to see a fair amount of liquid in the jar at this point. Put your jar into the fridge overnight.
Twenty-four hours after you first combined the sugar mixture with the fruit, add 1 cup red wine vinegar. (I love this kind of vinegar, which amplifies the beautiful color imparted by the rhubarb here, but if you don’t have it, try apple cider or white wine vinegar). After adding the vinegar, leave it at room temp for a few hours, then taste it to see if it needs more vinegar (up to ¼ cup more). Turn the jar upside down a couple times and put it back in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours. If you can, try to wait longer, up to two days more, so the flavors can develop further.
When it’s ready, strain out the solids and bottle it…It’ll keep nicely in the fridge for six to eight weeks, but much longer if you keep it tightly sealed and save it for later use (i.e. you’re not exposing it to air by opening the container often)
Dena added that she “free-styled: no mint, tried white wine vinegar, then a batch with apple cider vinegar. Forgot the first batch on the counter for 24 hours and abandoned the second batch in the fridge for a few days before straining. Came out fine both times, despite my indiscretions!”
I left out the mint as well, and I found that leaving the rhubarb/sugar/vinegar mixture in the fridge for several days allowed the organic sugar to dissolve completely and the rhubarb flavor to develop further. Two ounces of rhubarb shrub topped with tonic is a lovely spring drink.
A rhubarb shrub cocktail is a great way to begin a meal and Melissa Clark’s Roasted Rhubarb Cobbler is a great way to end one. As Clark writes in the introduction to her recipe: “In this buttery cobbler, slices of rhubarb are roasted with sugar before rounds of biscuit dough are added to the pan. This extra step allows the rhubarb juices to condense into a sweet-tart syrup and eliminates the need for a thickener like cornstarch or tapioca, which can muddy the flavors. The result is a bright-tasting, flaky cobbler that’s gently scented with vanilla and a little orange zest. Topped with a drizzle of heavy cream or a scoop of ice cream, it makes a rose-tinged dessert that’s both lighter and bolder than others of its kind.”
Roasted Rhubarb Cobbler
For the rhubarb filling:
- vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or use 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
- pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
¾ cup/150 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Pinch of kosher salt
For the biscuits:
¾ cups/96 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
3 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
⅓ cup/79 milliliters plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, plus more for serving, if you like
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
Ice cream, for serving (optional)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape the pulp out of the vanilla bean halves and add the pulp to a 1 1/2 quart gratin or baking dish or 9-by-9-inch pan along with the scraped-out pods. (Alternatively, add the paste or extract to the pan.) Add the rhubarb, sugar, zest and salt, and toss well. Let sit at room temperature to macerate while preparing the biscuit dough.
Make the biscuit dough: Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add cubed butter, then pulse until the mixture has formed lime bean-size pieces. Drizzle in 1/3 cup heavy cream and pulse until everything just clumps together, taking care not to overprocess. (To make the dough by hand, put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add cubed butter, then mix it in with your hands, pinching and squeezing with your fingers — or use a pastry blender — until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Drizzle in 1/3 cup heavy cream a little at a time, mixing until the dough comes together.)
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently pat it together until it’s a cohesive lump. Using a small ice cream scoop or a large spoon, form dough into 6 evenly sized balls. Slightly flatten dough balls into thick rounds. Cover rounds with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes (and up to 6 hours).
Put the rhubarb in the oven and roast, stirring halfway through, until the rhubarb has softened and the liquid has formed a syrup, about 30 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and use tongs to remove the vanilla bean pods.
Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees. Arrange biscuit rounds on top of the rhubarb, leaving space in between them. Brush biscuits with remaining tablespoon of heavy cream and sprinkle with Demerara sugar.
Bake cobbler until biscuits are golden brown, about 25 to 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with cream or ice cream, if you like.
I especially like the low sugar content of this recipe and the concentrated rhubarb flavor. The cobbler biscuits are very light and tender.
With all the rhubarb growing in the garden right now, I’m glad to have these recipes to use more of it. They won’t replace rhubarb custard pie as the premier use of rhubarb, but they come close.