RHUBARB // elspeth

My rhubarb is up. It's the only thing of any substance growing in our garden right now—I give it two weeks until it's ready for cutting, and I can't wait! This week on the Local Food Report, my mom and I talked rhubarb recipes, and I promised to share them all here. So here you have it—a rhubarb round up. 


I like stewed rhubarb for its simplicity. It’s easy to make, and offers full strength when it comes to taste. I often double this recipe, as it freezes well and makes good eating in the winter when fresh local fruits are few and far between. For a twist, try adding a few drops of vanilla extract or a bit of orange zest once the stewing is done.

1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar

Combine rhubarb, water, and sugar in a medium-size heavy-bottomed pot. (Do not use an aluminum pot; the rhubarb is acidic and will react with the metal.) Stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and continue cooking 10 minutes, or until all the rhubarb pieces break down. Serve warm or cold, mixed into plain yogurt or spooned over vanilla ice cream. 


I think of this as my godmother’s recipe, as almost every time I’ve had the dish it’s been from her oven, but my mom says it originates from Cooking Down East by Marjorie Standish (although we use half the sugar Marjorie does and still find it plenty sweet). It’s essentially a crisp—not the kind with oats, but the plain flour-and-sugar variety. It’s absolutely divine hot out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I also love it cold for breakfast the next day. 

4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a shallow 8” by 8” casserole dish (do not use an aluminum pan; the rhubarb is acidic and will react with the metal). In a large mixing bowl, toss together the rhubarb, granulated sugar, ginger, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Spoon this mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish. In the same mixing bowl, toss together the remaining flour, brown sugar, and butter, and work the butter into pea-size pieces using a pastry cutter. Sprinkle this topping evenly over the fruit mixture, and bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbling hot. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.


My mother passed this recipe on to me from her friend Sue, who says she found it years ago in an old issue of Gourmet magazine. It’s the sort of cake that works any time of day: as a coffee cake at breakfast, or a just-sweet-enough dessert come lunch or dinner. The recipe calls for serving it with whipped cream, but more often than not the cake is so good plain that I forget the cream.

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” by 13” casserole dish (do not use an aluminum pan; the rhubarb is acidic and will react with the metal). In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold these dry ingredients into the eggs and butter until just mixed, then stir the rhubarb and sour cream in. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Mix the granulated sugar and nutmeg together and sprinkle them on top of the batter. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan, and serve warm, if you like with whipped cream.


From Genie Wheelwright, a close family friend: "I just tasted my creation. I pronounce it DELICIOUS! I happen to love marmalade and also ginger, so this fit me perfectly."

8 cups rhubarb, diced
2 oranges
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped preserved ginger

Mix rhubarb and sugar. Let stand overnight. Cut rind from oranges and lemon into very thin 1-inch pieces, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes or until tender, drain, set aside.

Remove pith from oranges and lemon and chop the pulp; add to rhubarb. Bring to full rolling boil. Reduce heat and cook about 10 minutes, until jam stage is reached (102C to 104 C, 215F to 219F). Remove from heat, add ginger and rind. Stir 5 minutes, skim foam (I found there wasn't any by this time, so maybe skim it off before these 5 stirring minutes). Pour into sterile jars. Makes about 7 cups.


From Liz: This recipe is from a 1975 Joy of Cooking. Not such an old edition, really -- at least, not compared with my mom's 1934 Joy, which I also have! One note: you need three whole eggs total, so be sure to save the whites for the meringue when you use the yolks for the filling.

for the pie:
1 bottom pie crust for a 9-inch pan
4-5 cups diced rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons milk
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg 

for the meringue:
3 eggs whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Line a pie pan with a pie dough. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the the rhubarb in the pie shell. In a bowl, combine and beat together the sugar, egg yolks, flour, milk, and nutmeg. Spread this mixture over the rhubarb. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 20 minutes. When the pie has cooled, use the reserved egg whites to make a meringue by beating beating them with the cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Spread over top of the pie, then bake again at 325 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, until the peaks are golden. Cool and serve at room temperature or even chilled.


Apparently we make a lot of rhubarb pie around here. I've featured rhubarb pies from Elise KaufmanJim Rose, and Alex's grandmother, and Anna's adapted the rhubarb pie from the Joy of Cooking to make a Rhubarb Ginger Pie.

Great on Indian food! From Dishing up Maine by Brooke Dojny.


My mom first had a rhubarb gin fizz last spring, and she's been looking to recreate it ever since. Here's a version from Martha Stewart. And for a non-alcoholic version, try Anna's Rhubarb Lime Fizz!


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.