I first tasted this delicious cordial at Sarah Raven's Grow Cook Eat day in aid of Horatio's Garden in March. Sarah has kindly given me permission to reproduce the recipe here on Veg Plotting. I'll be adding my own notes from the day and from making my own, though you can also view the original recipe on Sarah's website.
As you can see the result is a pearlescent cordial with just a hint of pink from the original rhubarb. The taste is subtle, yet you can easily discern the recipe's main ingredients. I've used about half the sugar given in the recipe and for me that hasn't spoiled the flavour when diluted. I'm also going to experiment with using the sweet cicely from my herb planter to reduce the sugar content still further.
It's also a timely recipe if you're getting a bit fed up of rhubarb by now, yet your patch is still producing copious quantities. I've made a batch of rhubarb and ginger jam as usual and this is another suitable glutbuster idea :)
- 2kg rhubarb stems (trimmed weight), roughly chopped (as you probably don't have the means to weigh your plunder up at the plot, this equates to a huge armful)
- 2 large oranges
- 8-10 whole star anise
- 1.2 kg granulated sugar (though method later says 600-800g)
- Citric acid or juice of 3 lemons (both optional)
- Put all the rhubarb into a large pan (a very large pan actually!) and add 1.5 litres cold water (you don't want to cover it completely with water as this dilutes the flavour of the cordial). Using a potato peeler take four or so strips of skin from each orange, add this to the pan with the juice of both oranges (zapped in the microwave first on full for 30 seconds to maximise the amount of juice obtained) and add the star anise.
- Bring the rhubarb up to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently until the rhubarb is soft (it may look like mush at this stage). Take off the heat and allow to cool for an hour (or overnight in my case).
- Pour the rhubarb and juice into a large jelly bag and allow the juice to drip through overnight (if you don't have a jelly bag, a large piece of muslin tied to the legs of an upside down stool makes a great improvised one).
- Now pour the collected juice into a pan (and compost the unwanted rhubarb solids) and on a low heat add the sugar (about 600-800g, but do taste as you go, so you get the sweetness you want, remember it will get diluted with water). Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- You can add 2 teaspoons of citric acid at this stage if you want to store this for several months, but this is not necessary if the cordial is going to be used straight away. The citric acid does give the cordial a good tart kick, or you can add the juice of 3 lemons for a sharper flavour (I've used neither and I'm still very pleased with the flavour. I'm not intending this cordial to stay around very long, so no citric acid for me)
- Allow the cordial to cool.
- Pour into sterilised bottles (I warm them in the oven at 100oC for a few minutes beforehand) and store in the fridge. Makes approximately 1.5 litres.
- Dilute to taste and add ice cubes and/or a mint leaf if so desired
- This cordial can be made from March to May depending on the rhubarb varieties you have available: Timperley Early in March, Stockbridge Arrow in April and Victoria for May. I grow Victoria, hence this recipe appearing on the blog this month :)
- Some finely chopped fresh ginger could be used instead of the star anise. NAH reckons cinnamon would also work well.
- Seasonal variations include elderflower in May/June, then red or white currants, followed by scented leaf pelargoniums, plum (or back to rhubarb again) in August and finally quince in the autumn. You might also like to try making my Easy Apple Juice in the autumn.
- Rhubarb is used as a marker by archaeologists to indicate habited areas
- Rhubarb can last 100 years - divide every 3 years in July/August and don't harvest for 3 years to allow the divided rhubarb to establish itself again
- It's a hungry crop, so feed well in late winter - in Yorkshire (where the rhubarb triangle is) they use shoddy (waste from the woollen industry) as a feed
- Keep picking rhubarb from spring to late summer, then allow the plant some recovery time for next year's crop
- NB citric acid can be hard to get hold of - try health food or brewing shops
For lots more seasonal recipes - not just for rhubarb - have a look at my Easy Recipe Finder. Oh, and the recipes are pretty easy too :)