With its flavor drawn from rhubarb, orange, and vanilla, this syrup is reminiscent of a zingier Creamsicle. It can be used for crafting cocktails and mocktails, depending on whether or not you wish to imbibe alcohol. Take a glass, fill it halfway with this syrup, then top with seltzer water or a sparkling wine (such as Prosecco). This recipe yields about 1.5 cups of syrup.
What you’ll need
- cutting board
- a saucepan
- a wooden spoon for stirring
- measuring cups, both liquid and solid
- a bowl
- fine-mesh strainer
- grater, box or Microplane
- 2 cups rhubarb, cut into ½ inch slices
- 2 cups water
- zest and juice of 1 medium orange
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
How to make the syrup
- Place rhubarb, water, juice and zest, sugar, and vanilla bean and seeds into a saucepan.
- Stir well and bring mixture to a boil.
- Turn heat down to a simmer and let cook until liquid is reduced by half (approximately 20-30 minutes.) The rhubarb should break down when stirred with a wooden spoon.
- Remove from heat and give a good stir; some of the vanilla seeds may be on the side of the saucepan, so you want to stir them back into the mixture.
- Place strainer over a bowl. Strain mixture, pressing on the solids to extract flavor.
- Cool and refrigerate for a week or freeze for 6 months.
If you’re looking for a few bad puns, you’ve come to the right blog. We aim to satisfy the Recommended Daily Allowance of groans. That said, I certainly DON’T rue the day I met rhubarb! This hardy vegetable (and yes, it is a vegetable, though usually used like a fruit—the converse of the tomato, a fruit treated as a vegetable) is right at home in FlyoverLandia. Rhubarb loves cooler climates that blanket much of the Midwest and Plains. This plant is a perennial and actually requires a period of cooler temperatures (below 40°F/4.4°C) to spur growth.
Rhubarb certainly has an interesting history. Native to Asia, rhubarb was initially gathered for its medicinal properties; the Chinese used it this way for millennia. Roman and Arabic populations also sought out rhubarb as medicine. But leave it to the French to be credited with recognizing its gastronomic qualities.1 Thank you France!
Rhubarb certainly appears more popular here than it did when I lived on the East Coast. This time of year, fresh rhubarb makes appearances at myriad farmers markets; this is not surprising. But it also shows up in the produce departments of supermarkets. That said, the rhubarb you buy from a grower at the farmers market is likely to be fresher than that offered at your local supermarket.
In Flyover Land (or the rest of the United States), rhubarb’s most ubiquitous use may be pie, including the perennially popular Strawberry-Rhubarb pie, a delicious mingling of spring’s welcome flavors. Indeed, rhubarb was referred to as “pie plant”, a moniker befitting its most common use. Rhubarb has also been used for jams (it has a fair amount of pectin) and cakes (especially in some European countries). However, rhubarb need not be limited to the dessert course—it can find its way onto the main plate in the form of sauces or chutney. And you can use rhubarb to make a fantastic base for drinks! Watch my next post—I’ll be sharing a recipe for Rhubarb-Orange Drink Syrup! I’ll also be sharing a recipe for Norwegian-style rhubarb cake.
Another Flyover-Rhubarb connection: Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. The show includes “News from Lake Wobegon”, a fictional Minnesota (Flyover State!) town and one of the (again, fictional) “sponsors” of the show is none other than “Bebop-a-Reebop Rhubarb Pie”!