On Sunday we went to our local farmers market and Cheryl, who hadn’t been to it with me in about a month, was kind of amazed at the sight and state of things. We keep reminding ourselves the spring growing season comes earlier here in the DMV and with it more options. I mean my tomato plants are probably two or three times the size they’d be in our Chicago backyard at this time of year. About that rhubarb…
Right now there’s almost a glut of rhubarb. Everybody’s got some on their tables. Big stalks, small stalks, bins of them, tubs even. I feel the season should be starting to wind down but maybe it’s the different region vs. what I’m used to. Regardless, I’m loving what I’m seeing here in early-mid June.
What to do with all this rhubarb? Besides add to strawberries. I mean look, it gets paired with strawberries A LOT. Partially, I think, because they share the season and are kinda symbiotic. It’s a no-brainer, and they do play well together. Sweet with bitter and tart. It’s a pairing everyone knows ‘”What do you do with rhubarb? Put it with strawberries in a tart.” Yup and it’s good. Though I’d argue the strawberries usually benefit from a copious amount of sugar added to them so you end up with a lot of strawberry syrup but hey, that’s just me. Anyway, you don’t need strawberries to get the best out of rhubarb. A simple pickling with vinegar and sugar gives you the sweet-tart balance you want, without strawberries, and there’s so much more you can do with pickled rhubarb.
Pickled rhubarb is a wonderful spring-to-summer ingredient. Little crunchy texture flavor bombs bursting with sweet, acid, and tartness. Toss a few spoonfuls into any salad to punch it up. Make something sweet like a rhubarb clafoutis. Put some on top of your ice cream (pickled rhubarb and cream work just like strawberries and cream). Add it to a charcuterie board, cheese board, garnish something fried with it.
Oh and then there’s the pickle syrup. Add some to a vinaigrette or sauce. Makes and excellent addition to a sweet and sour sauce, I made a delicious nuoc cham (recipe added below) with it over the weekend to pair with pork ribs.
As you’ll see it’s very easy to make and is ready in a day or two. Seriously you should be picking up rhubarb every week at your local farmers market and making this. By the time rhubarb season ends you’ll be quite happy you did and ready to move on to the next seasonal thing.
Pickled Rhubarb – the following ‘brine’ is good for 3-4 C of diced rhubarb. 1 C of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 C (125 gr) of granulated sugar, 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme or basil leaves (both work nicely with rhubarb).
Put the vinegar into a mixing bowl and add the sugar. Whisk until the sugar dissolves.
Side Roam: That’s right, you don’t need to simmer anything. After reading the Noma fermentation book I don’t get the whole heat up the liquid to dissolve the sugar/salt. I mean I understand the why from chemistry class, easier to dissolve and make a supersaturated solution and all, and maybe if your canning, but I don’t think you ever get anywhere close to a supersaturated solution with pickling brines/solutions. It’s just an unnecessary step. Yes, it takes a little elbow grease to whisk in the sugar but it’s a lot less time than simmering everything and them waiting for the solution to cool back down enough to pour into the jar with the stuff you want to pickle. Whisk, pour, done.
Place the diced rhubarb and thyme into a quart jar or plastic container. Pour vinegar and sugar solution over the rhubarb. You can put a glass weight in to hold things down but it’s not necessary. Put the lid on and place in fridge. The pickled rhubarb will be ready in a couple days, will be good for a few weeks, but it likely won’t last that long as you’ll eat it up before then. Just keep buying the rhubarb until it runs out at the market!
Pickled Rhubarb ‘Nuoc Cham’ – juice from 3 limes, rhubarb pickling juice 1/2-1C, diced pickled rhubarb 1/4 C, cilantro, fish sauce – add by the Tbs to taste, rice vinegar – optional if you need more acid but probably not, sugar – optional add if you need to tone down the sour/acid.
I think the best way to make this is by tasting as you go. I looked up a bunch of recipes to make this and they were all over the place. So freehand it. You’ve had sauces like this with your spring rolls so you should know what it’s supposed to taste like. What you want here is a balance of the lime juice, the sweet tart pickle juice and the salty umami fish sauce. (I actually used some beef garum I made instead of fish sauce but that’s a tale for another day).
Take the lime juice and slowly mix in spoonfuls of the rhubarb pickle juice until you have the sour acid sweet balance you like. Then add a few dashes of the fish sauce. Taste. Too much sweet and sour, add a little more fish sauce. Too much funky fish? Add a little bit more rhubarb juice. If it needs more salt but you don’t want the funky fish then just add a little salt. Too much sour? Add a little sugar. Once you have your balance add in the diced rhubarb and cilantro. Seriously this is a great all around dipping sauce/dressing.