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For The Love Of Rhubarb!

Rhubarb Sauce with Corn Bread
Crunchy Sugar Rhubarb Muffins
Rhubarb Jam
Grilled Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Current Chutney

I have great memories of the rhubarb that grew near my early childhood home on the backside of the garage. It was the sunniest part of the yard and thatís why it was located there, but it was hidden from the rest of the house and it always felt a little bit enchanting back there. The warnings about the leaves being poisonous made it a little bit forbidden as well and although I never used the leaves for food, I used to love to suck on the stalks. The leaves were relegated to doll blankets, elf hats, skirts, fairy boats and other useful items.

Rhubarb is one of the first vegetables (yes, it is a veggie) that I grew when I was a beginning gardener. Itís so forgiving that itís a snap to grow. It comes back faithfully every year, is relatively disease free, needs little dividing or attention and produces a wonderful harvest.

While rhubarb is relatively maintenance free, I have learned after many years, that there are a few things that will help your rhubarb thrive. The stalks are actually pulled out when harvested, not cut. I usually end up cutting the leaves off right then and leaving them as mulch around the base. If Iím feeling extra energetic they go in the compost pile. When you harvest, you want the longest and biggest stalks, but only take 1/3 of the plant at a time or you will decrease its vitality over time. Rhubarb does well with a heavy feeding of compost in the spring or fall and itís best to break off the seedpods before they go to seed.

Once harvested, it will last, covered, in the refrigerator for several days. It freezes well, and after Iíve had my fill of pie and the rest, I cut it into 1-inch pieces and freeze it immediately. I can then scoop out what I need over the course of the next few months.

Rhubarb Sauce

This one reminds me of my grandma. She used to serve it with corn bread and sausage on one of those simple, comfort food nights.

4 cups diced rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (to taste)
1/2 cup maple syrup (to taste)

In a medium stockpot, cook the rhubarb, sugar and cinnamon over medium heat for 15 minutes or until the rhubarb has broken down. Add the maple syrup to taste and serve.

Makes 2 cups

Cornbread

1 cup yellow or white stone-ground corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat the oven to 425į. Grease a cast iron skillet or 9 x 9-inch baking pan. Stir the corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the eggs into the well and stir lightly with wooden spoon; then add the buttermilk and milk. Stir quickly until almost combined. Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake until the top is golden brown and lightly cracked and the edges have pulled away from side of the pan, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for around 5-10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm. Alternately, cool in the pan and serve directly from the pan for a more rustic look.

Makes 4-6 servings

Crunchy Sugar Rhubarb Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup large grained sugar like Demerara (optional)

Preheat oven to 350į. Grease muffin pans or line with muffin papers. Sift together dry ingredients. Add oil, egg, and milk. Stir until just mixed. Gently fold in the rhubarb; then fill the muffin cups two-thirds full. Top with the Demerara sugar and bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins spring back when lightly pressed in the center. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans.

Makes 10-12 muffins

Rhubarb Jam

4 cups diced rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring often, until the mixture reads 220į on a candy thermometer.

Transfer to sterilized jars and seal. Refrigerate for up to 2 months or freeze for up to 6 months.

Makes 2 cups

Grilled Spiced Pork Tenderloin

2 pork tenderloins, trimmed (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Combine all of the spices and the oil and rub onto the outside of the tenderloins. Grill for 18 minutes or so, turning frequently, until an thermometer reads an internal temperature of 140į. Remove from heat and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Slice into 1/4-inch slices on a bias.

Serves 4

Rhubarb Current Chutney

This recipe pairs well with the Spiced Pork Tenderloin recipe. It is easily doubled or tripled and freezes well if you are lucky enough to have a large patch of rhubarb in your yard.

1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic, or 1 clove
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2-inch pieces or smaller (about 3/4 pounds)
1/3 cup currents

Add the first eight ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Add the rhubarb and the currents and cook over medium-high heat until the rhubarb and onions are soft. Serve warm or cold.

Makes 1 cup to serve 4-6

Submitted by:

Anne Mahle

Anne Mahle is a captain and chef and spends her summers cooking for guests on the Maine Windjammer, Schooner J. & E. Riggin, which she co-owns with her husband. To find out more about these sailing adventures visit http://www.MaineAdventureSails.com or their blog at http://MaineSailsBlog.com




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