Rhubarb is about optimism.
All winter long I wait. For things to start growing again. For colour to return to the little kitchen garden I can see from the window over the kitchen sink. I watch and I wait and I hope. And every spring the very first thing that changes in the garden is the arrival of the wrinkled, determined leaves of the rhubarb plants, stretching up out of the soil after a long winter's nap.
Despite the anticipation, it feels like it comes as a nice surprise. Like taking out last year's spring coat and finding a five-dollar bill in the pocket. Even though you left it there on purpose to bring a smile to the face of your future self.
Rhubarb was part of our Easter dessert this year, but the second cuttings went into this rhubarb shrub. A shrub - also known by the old-fashioned term 'drinking vinegar' - is a way of preserving fruit or flowers using vinegar and sugar. You can get really creative with different flavours for making cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks. Rhubarb is perfect for making shrub because of its distinctive flavour, seasonal appeal and vivid colour.
Get my recipe for rhubarb shrub below...
2 cups (500 mL) chopped rhubarb
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) red wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) granulated sugar
Add the rhubarb and vinegar to a medium saucepan. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and pour in the sugar. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, just until the sugar is dissolved (1 to 2 minutes). Remove from the heat. Strain the hot liquid through a fine mesh sieve (lined with cheesecloth if you have it for the clearest shrub), allowing the liquid to pour into a bowl or jar.
Store in the fridge in a clean, covered container for up to 2 months.
Tip: Try mixing your rhubarb shrub with 1 part gin or vodka and top up with tonic water, or mix with sparkling water for a non-alcoholic beverage. I love it with a sprig of fresh rosemary from the garden.
What are you making with rhubarb this spring?