Words, recipes, and images by Artist Lisa Schramek Adams. View Lisa’s beautiful Artwork and blog here. She is currently working on a series of watercolors featuring gathered wild food.
Rainy Southeast Alaskan summer days give rhubarb the moisture and cool sun it needs to provide you with bundles of rhubarb stalks. You may have received rhubarb as a gift from someone or have multiple plants. What to do with all the ‘barb? Dessert recipes are the common answer, as the serious tartness of rhubarb typically requires some sugar for balance. We love rhubarb desserts, sauce for topping waffles, and incorporating it in savory dishes, much like lemon. In general, our family prefers low sugar recipes, so if you find my versions too tart, kick up the sugar a notch or combine with a sweeter fruit (like cherry or strawberry). Remember, individual rhubarb plants can vary in sweetness. Below, I’ve included a versatile recipe for everyday use and a complex dessert for special occasions.
* When harvesting rhubarb, grasp an outer stalk firmly at the base and tug. Discard the POSIONOUS leaves and rinse the stalk well. Stalks are best fresh, but can be kept in the fridge a few days or stored in the freezer for off-season use. A little rhubarb can go a long way, so consider your recipe before pulling stalks!
This rhubarb sauce is a simple base, so I encourage you to alter the recipe for your taste and purpose. I typically make it fresh, but you could also can a huge batch for a pantry supply. This is an easy way to begin including rhubarb in your meals.
Tart Rhubarb Sauce Recipe
- 2 cups rhubarb
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup honey or sugar to taste
Chop rhubarb into chunks and add water. Bring to a boil on the stovetop. Then reduce heat to a simmer until juices are released and fibers separate (about 20 minutes). Sweeten to taste. Serve hot or cold.
Drizzle on hot cereal, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, pork or chicken.
Incorporate sauce as is or strain to use liquid in other recipes like salad dressing or drinks.
*Rhubarb stalks vary in color from green to bright red. This can affect the color of the sauce, to boost the red color add a touch of cherry juice.
We had Rhubarb Custard pies at our wedding instead of cake and it my annual birthday dessert. This nostalgic family recipe requires attention to come together, but it is well worth it. I highly suggest making this in the morning or the day before you mean to eat it, because of the cooling time required. My version uses some honey in place of white sugar (like the original recipe) and is less sweet, because I like the milder flavor. Increase the sugar in both the rhubarb mix and custard if you like a sweeter taste.
Rhubarb Custard Pie with Meringue Recipe
Make a pie crust bottom. (Make sure to let dough rest at least an hour in fridge)
Mix 2 c. rhubarb, 1 Tbl honey, 3 Tbl sugar in a bowl, set aside to soak in.
- 1 ½ c. whole milk
- 3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue!)
- 2 Tbl softened butter
- ¾ cup honey
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
Roll out pie crust and pinch a high edge. Fill pie crust with sweetened rhubarb. Pour custard into crust.
Cook at 375° for 45-55 minutes
Note: Edges will be soft and center should jiggle, set aside.
Meanwhile, make meringue…
- 3 egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 6 tsp sugar
Beat 3 egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar until foamy. (The meringue in the images was hand whipped, do your arm a favor and pull out your electric mixer)
Add 1 Tbl sugar at a time until meringue is stiff and glossy, so peaks will stay formed.
Use a spatula to top cooked pie with scoops of meringue, spread meringue to cover whole pie and pull up some soft peaks.
Cook at 350° about 12 minutes. Meringue tops should be just golden. Protect crust edges with foil if needed. I lurk around the oven to make sure it doesn’t go too long- meringue finishes quickly!
Cool this pie completely before eating so all the layers can set. (at least 2 hours) I find it tastes best straight from the fridge. This recipe can be easily doubled and shared.
Optional Spices that play well with rhubarb:
- Apple-rhubarb: the pectin in apples increases the thickening qualities.
- Cherry-rhubarb: a sweeter rosy combination.
- Huckleberry-rhubarb: wild juicy combination (all local!).
- Lemon-rhubarb: complex tart for drinks, desserts, and meat glazes.
What will you create with your rhubarb this year?