Rhubarb is a vegetable people use like a fruit. It grows well in Alberta and a backyard plant or two is common. Its tart flavour pairs well with strawberries and apples in desserts, but it’s also a great ingredient in savoury dishes. A couple of years ago I found a rhubarb salsa recipe in a newsletter from The Organic Box – I can no longer find it online there, but I pull out the printed copy every summer when our backyard plant is ready to be harvested.
I’m canning most of this batch – watch for my follow up post on the canning process.
The ingredients are similar to a standard tomato salsa – onion, green pepper, jalapeno. The flavour of the rhubarb is enhanced with orange zest and ginger and the sourness is balanced with sugar. Some honey and lemon juice finishes it off – I’d normally use fresh citrus, but bottled lemon juice is preferable for canning.
Rhubarb being tough and stringy, the first step is to slice it all up. I doubled the recipe and ended up using about 12 stalks, but that included one almost as big as my wrist! I deviated slightly from the instructions and tossed the rhubarb in the pot, followed by the sugar, orange zest, and water. I brought everything to a boil, grated the ginger into the pot, and simmered for 5 minutes. The rhubarb doesn’t need to fully break down since the salsa will be a bit chunky.
The rhubarb has a chance to cool while I chop sweet onion, red onion, green pepper, and jalapeno. I used three jalapenos, removing most of the membrane and seeds. This is where all the heat is, so feel free to chop these up as well.
Make sure you only handle the skins of the peppers with your bare hands, though, as the capsaicin will stay on them for a long time, and touching your eyes (or other mucous membranes) really burns! I just put an empty produce bag on the hand I’m holding the pepper with.
I canned most of this batch, and we have most of a 1L jar left for eating now. It’s delicious right away, but it will taste better once the flavours have had a chance to meld overnight. It’ll last a week or two in the fridge – if we can wait that long. It’s so tasty we’ve been told we should sell it! Aside from the obvious tortilla chips, it pairs well with pork (as a marinade or topping), or top cream cheese with it and serve with crackers.
I also made a quick rhubarb-strawberry sauce for dessert, from a couple of tablespoons of fresh orange juice (from the one I zested earlier), 4 cups chopped rhubarb, about 1/3 cup sugar, and a bunch of strawberries I picked from my parents’ patch (is there anything better?). I bought everything to a boil, let it simmer long enough to stew, and served with vanilla frozen yogurt. Yum!
Tomorrow I’m going to try Dinner with Julie’s Rhubarb Barbeque Sauce.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons finely shredded orange peel (half an orange’s worth)
- 6 cups rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick (6-9 stalks)
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper (half a pepper)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion (half a small onion)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion (a little more than half a small onion)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (leave unseeded for more heat)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and orange peel. Bring the mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped rhubarb and reduce heat to minimum. Simmer gently until rhubarb is tender, about 10 minutes. After the first 5 minutes of simmering, stir in the ginger. Remove the rhubarb mixture from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. When cooled, add remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes 4 cups of salsa, depending on the juiciness of your rhubarb.