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Get Your Rhubarb On

It’s officially spring, and what better way to celebrate this season of renewal and replenishment than with some fruity experiments – after considering ramps, we decided to focus on another seasonal candidate: rhubarb.

Beside the fruit vs. vegetable debate (it is, technically, a vegetable, even though a 1947 court ruling in Buffalo, New York, proclaimed it a fruit), rhubarb is quite underrated, mostly baked in pies and crisps, its tart quirkiness often outshone by its mainstream nemesis, strawberries. Justice needs to be done, so grab a bunch of rhubarb stalks and get them bubbling.

Rhubarb wine is a good start, here’s a basic recipe:

3 pounds rhubarb stalks

3 pounds sugar

1 sachet wine yeast.

Chop the rhubarb stalks into small pieces, place in a large container, cover with sugar, stir and leave overnight until the sugar has dissolved. Strain off the syrup, cover the rhubarb with water to rinse off any remaining sugar, then add the liquid to the syrup and make it up to 1.2 gallons.

Add the wine yeast and transfer to a fermenting pot fitted with an air lock. Leave to ferment. Stop the fermentation when your hydrometer reads around 1.01, using two Campden tablets.

Leave the wine to clear, then pour it in sterilized bottles, and let it sit for at least 3 months – this is a springtime venture to be enjoyed in summertime.

The bold would go a step further, and distill the rhubarb wine into rhubarb brandy. Reported results vary, but it’s sure worth a try. One approach with satisfying flavors is to strip run the wine, then run it through the still a second time, topping the spirit from the strip with more wine.

A quicker fix is rhubarb liquor. Here’s an easy recipe:

4 cups rhubarb slices

3 cups sugar

3 cups vodka

Stir all ingredients in a container, cover and let steep at room temperature for 3 or 4 weeks, stirring occasionally. Strain, pressing the juice out of the rhubarb, then strain again and filter. Bottle the liquor and age for another month.

Of course, while you’re waiting for your concoctions to come to life, you can satisfy your rhubarb crave by muddling some chunks with brown sugar into a spirit of your choice. Might also add some strawberries.

Posted by Jason Stone on


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