Rhubarb is one of my absolute favourite things to grow and eat. It is such a hardy plant that is ready before a lot of fruit and veg in the spring and it just keeps on giving. Its unique flavour is perfect to brighten up a dull day, or any day for that matter. Full of fibre, vitamins K and C , manganese and potassium, it’s just as good on paper as it is on the dinner table.
Our rhubarb is the first produce from our plot this year and the first time we’ve been able to harvest from our solitary rhubarb crown. This plant was a survivor from our predecessor’s tenancy (I go into more detail about the state of our plot when we took it on in this post about our allotment journey so far). It was smothered with bindweed and riddled with holes and generally not a happy plant. We cleared the ground around it, gave it some compost and plenty of water throughout the year to see if we could nurse it back to health.
This year the leaves have come back green, luscious and very healthy, so we couldn’t be happier! We didn’t split the crown last year because we weren’t sure whether it would survive the winter anyway and by the time I came home from overseas in January it was already starting to put out new growth. We’re harvesting as we go to make sure it doesn’t crowd itself and next year we’ll be able to split it into quite a few plants which will help to keep it healthy, grow even more rhubarb, and also allow us to start forcing crowns on a rotation basis for even earlier, pinker stems!
I first came across rhubarb cordial in IKEA – I know! Being a huge fan of anything that’s rhubarb related, I had to try it and it was absolutely delicious which of course wasn’t a huge surprise – I just hadn’t really ever thought beyond crumble or compote. I’ve not been able to find rhubarb cordial for sale in IKEA for ages (I think it must be seasonal), and with our abundance of homegrown rhubarb it made sense to make it myself. But here’s the thing, here’s where you can do the unthinkable and have your cake and eat it – you can make cordial AND reserve the rhubarb pulp to eat as a compote or as the base for a crumble. Mind blown? Yeah mine was too. I got the idea from a friend of mine who stirred jam into the fruit for her crumble instead of sugar. When I made this cordial and looked at the rhubarb I’d strained out I thought…IDEA. I reserved the pulp and added it to some chunks of apple that I just softened slightly in a pan with a teaspoonful of grated stem ginger and a tablespoon of apple brandy. I didn’t add any extra sugar, just popped the fruit into a baking dish, topped with a crumble mix before baking in the oven like normal.
Cordial couldn’t be easier to make. I mean it’s basically like making a really sugary tea, right? After dissolving the sugar in warm water, you heat the rhubarb with the sugar solution until it’s completely fallen apart and released enough of its tart, delicious flavour. It takes around 15 minutes or so over a low to medium heat and the smell is heavenly. Apart from the very outside of the sticks of rhubarb, the stems seemed quite green, certainly not as pink as forced rhubarb, so I was pleasantly surprised by the colour of the cordial as I strained out the fruit pulp. It’s so vibrant!
I love to drink rhubarb cordial with chilled soda water, or in a gin and tonic. It has been the perfect little early evening treat to take out into the garden to enjoy the warm sunshine we’ve been getting. It’s works beautifully in a glass of bubbles too!
Rhubarb Cordial Recipe
- 500g rhubarb
- 300g caster sugar
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon, or 2 tbsp bottled lemon juice
- 300ml water
- 1 tsp citric acid
- Heat the sugar and water in a pan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Add the lemon and rhubarb and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the rhubarb is completely soft and falling apart.
- Strain the liquid through a muslin-lined sieve into a clean jug and stir in the citric acid. Don’t discard the rhubarb pulp! Set it aside to use as a topping for yoghurt or to stir into chopped apple to make a crumble (see note in main post above).
- Pour into sterilised bottles. Keep in the fridge and use within a month (if it lasts that long).
- Serve diluted into 4 parts sparkling water to 1 part cordial, or see other uses in main post above.
I will definitely be making more cordial with our warrior of a rhubarb plant, and the fact that it pretty much makes a crumble as well! I’m going to try experimenting with rhubarb kombucha too, perhaps with a bit of ginger for an added kick. Have you ever made kombucha? Any tips? Also let me know in the comments if you try this cordial. Trust me, it’s so good!