In need of rhubarb cooking advice
April 8, 2008 6:06 PM   Subscribe

How do I best cook rhubarb for a sauce?

I'm new to rhubarb and have become quite infatuated with its wonderful sourness. I bought it on a whim when I saw the beautiful stalks at the grocery store. I cooked it by adding a pint of strawberries to about a lb and a half of rhubarb and 1 1/2 cups of water and simmering for about an hour. I then sweetened it and served over vanilla ice cream. Mmmm! That was good! The problem: the pot got a horrible black crust all over the inside bottom. This was a non-stick pot and it was very tough to clean it without removing the non-stick coating as well. I tried again with a copper-bottomed steel pot and had the same result. What am I doing wrong? Also would welcome any rhubarb recipes you have to share.
posted by peacheater to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've never had to simmer it that long -- what I do is put the fruit and sugar and water in and a bit of cornstarch to help thicken it up (maybe use less water) -- and cook it on fairly low heat about half an hour. Sounds like you are cooking it too long and/or scorching the sugar onto the bottom of the pan, which as you've found out is a bitch to clean.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:14 PM on April 8, 2008

Best answer: Rhubarb is very acidic, and you need to use non-reactive cookware. Anodized aluminum should work.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:15 PM on April 8, 2008

... or stainless steel. I also agree that you may be cooking over too high a heat, or need to stir more often.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:18 PM on April 8, 2008

Best answer: I agree it's probably the strawberries, not the rhubarb, that is causing problems.

I steam rhubarb like asparagus. Keeps more color and flavor inside that way. Then add it to your strawberries at the end.
posted by rokusan at 7:03 PM on April 8, 2008

Best answer: I use a crockpot. Even if you don't want to "slowcook" it you can set it at high and be done in a few hours.

I just eyeball it: Sliced rhubarb, a scoop of sugar, and butter.
posted by sourwookie at 8:14 PM on April 8, 2008

And I may be a little weird: I don't use strawberries. I embrace the tartness and put it on strawberry ice cream.
posted by sourwookie at 8:16 PM on April 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies. I think I've been cooking on too high heat -- it seemed to boil a couple of times and I just tried my second batch and it has a weird burnt taste (not horrible, just noticeable) that I think may be due to that. I might also try to cook it without the strawberries.
Another small question if anyone's still here: Is the sugar essential to the cooking process? I've been trying to cut down on my sugar consumption so I've been sweetening with Splenda at the end.
posted by peacheater at 8:29 PM on April 8, 2008

Sugar causes more problems in cooking than almost anything else, in my experience. It burns easily, it ruins texture, etc. My rule is always that if I can get away without it (adding it later, as you say), I do.

There's a lot of sugar in the rhubarb and especially strawberries already anyway.
posted by rokusan at 9:51 PM on April 8, 2008

i use apple juice instead of water, brings out a different flavour and helps reduce the amount of sugar you need.
posted by dnc at 2:20 AM on April 9, 2008

Best answer: Yum! One of my favourite subjects...

The pink forced rhubarb you find in early spring needs less sugar because it has less acid. The later stuff will take an almost infinite amount and still taste sharp.

Try roasting it gently with a few tablespoons of unrefined caster sugar. The flavour will concentrate and you'll get some delicious caramel in the pan.

Crystallised stem ginger goes well with it, you only need a little. As does a shot of cassis.

Where I grew up, in the Rhubarb Triangle, custard is the traditional accompaniment. Now I've gone all posh and southern I like it best of all with pannacotta.
posted by col at 3:54 AM on April 9, 2008

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