Every summer growing up I couldn’t wait for them to ripen. When my mom would finally get me the green light, I ran through the vegetable garden, past potato plants, onions, tomatoes, beans and herbs to the very back. There it was, somewhat unruly, with large green hats, slowly moving in the wind, greeting me. The rhubarb patch.
I had been told not to take the largest stalks because they would be tougher to eat. That was a difficult thing, since at that age, one tend to want the biggest piece of everything. A medium sized red beauty caught my eye. I lightly pulled on it, twisting a bit until it came loose. I quickly ran back through the garden and into the kitchen. I handed my mom the rhubarb, who cut the big green hat off, reminding me not to eat it as she placed it upside down on my head. She then handed me a small bowl of sugar. It was time. Sitting on the front steps of our house, bare feet, sun hitting my face while dipping the rhubarb stalk in the sugar for each bite was magic. Pure summer indeed.
My mom used to make this amazing summery rhubarb concentrate. I haven’t had it for years and recently decided to make some. Just as I remember, the hint of rhubarb is beautifully sweet and subtle. Ideally it should be enjoyed outdoors, in your favourite spot in the garden while reading a good book and listening to the birds singing.
3 lb rhubarb
2.5 cups water
500 g sugar
Rinse the rhubarb and cut it in 1/2″ pieces. In a large sauce pan, bring the water to a boil and add the rhubarb and cloves. Cover and let simmer until rhubarb is cooked and falling apart, about 10 minutes.
Put a sieve over a large bowl and pour the rhubarb mixture into the sieve. Let sit and drain for 30 minutes.
Discard the solids and measure the juice. Pour back into the sauce pan and add the sugar (500g/litre juice). Bring back to a heavy boil. remove foam with a spoon and let cool. Store in sealed glass jars or bottles in the fridge for up to 7-10 days.
Simply pour about an inch of the juice in a glass. Top it up with chilled sparkling (or still) water and a couple of ice cubes.
If you want a more adult version, here are two simple recipes that will please your guests at your next summer get together.
1.5oz vodka or gin (both work really well)
1oz rhubarb concentrate
0.5oz lemon juice
Shake vigurously then pour into a chilled martini glass.
Add about 1oz of rhubarb concentrate into a champagne flute and top up with sparkling wine or champagne.