Our slow, cool spring produced a bumper crop of rhubarb for many folks. Although usually eaten as a “fruit,” rhubarb is a vegetable, botanically speaking.
An invaluable homestead plant in Maine, this tart- tasting member of the buckwheat family can reach up to 2 feet tall.
I’m a collector of rhubarb recipes, and we’ve been enjoying stewed rhubarb sauce, ruby rhubarb muffins and cakes, tasty crumbles, even a rhubarb goat cheesecake.
With such a bounty, it’s hard to keep up with the thick, celery-like stalks before the plant goes to seed. The last harvest of over 10 pounds reminded me that it was time to make a batch of rhubarb or “ruby” juice.
The recipe for Ruby Juice is from my archives, and was inspired by the late Russell Libby, former director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Russell was always seeking new ways for folks to enjoy freshly harvested Maine produce and rhubarb is a plentiful crop.
The process to make this tart and refreshing beverage is quite simple, but requires a large, non-reactive pot, like cast enamel or stainless steel. Chopped rhubarb is covered with water, simmered and cooked until soft, and then the pink juice is drained. Too tart to quaff without a sweetener, the juice is returned to the pot, and sweetened to taste. I like to use maple syrup, but honey and sugar work too.
Ruby Juice is delicious as a beverage for breakfast, or mixed with sparkling water for a festive aperitif. For a taste changer, combine ruby juice with apple juice or cranberry juice. An easy and delicious summer punch can be made from one quart of ruby juice, one quart apple juice and one quart frozen strawberries.
For those who enjoy stocking the pantry, this juice also may be canned in quart jars in a boiling water bath. I must confess that my favorite way to consume ruby juice is in a cocktail. Combined with your favorite libation, it makes a mean margarita or cosmopolitan. Add as slice of fresh lime and enjoy.
Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected].
5 lbs. rhubarb, washed and chopped
Water to cover
About 1 cup maple syrup, honey or sugar to taste
In a large, non-reactive pot, cover the rhubarb with water. Fill the pot no more than 3 inches from the top.
Simmer over medium heat until the rhubarb has cooked completely and softened. The juice should be a nice, pink color. Drain to yield the juice. The approximate volume will be about one gallon.
Return the juice to the pot and the stovetop. Sweeten to taste with maple syrup, honey or sugar, approximately one cup. If desired, simmer the juice with cinnamon sticks or whole cloves.
Heat the juice to 190 degrees F and cook for 5 minutes. Do not let boil. Ladle the juice into sterilized quart jars. To make a shelf-stable product, process the quarts for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Serving size is ½ cup or 4 ounces.
Nutritional analysis per serving (approximate, varies with sweetener): 35 calories, 1 gram protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fat, 3 mg. sodium, less than 1 gram fiber.