Pop Goes the Rhubarb

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Pop Goes the Rhubarb

We’re rather lucky here in Newfoundland.  We don’t get all of the same holidays as some of the other provinces, but in the summer, we get extra — especially if you live in St. John’s, where the first Wednesday in August is a municipal holiday.  Anyway, this year in particular we have lucked in.  Last Monday was our Discovery Day holiday, celebrating the arrival of Europeans on our rocky coast.  Today is the bank holiday for Canada Day, which was yesterday (or Memorial Day, as it is also known here).  And then next Monday is Orangemen’s Day.  So we get three long weekends and three four-day weeks in a row.  You really can’t beat that.

So why not celebrate this summer bounty with a refreshing beverage?

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

When my mother was here (and we were in Portland) she bought me some fresh rhubarb and was going to process it and make something out of it but she ran out of time.  It was starting to look a little woebegone after she left so I figured I should bite the bullet and git ‘er done. And yes, rhubarb can be woebegone. I swear.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

This is a simple syrup made from rhubarb that you can add to any fizzy drink for a sweet and tart kick.  And by simple I mean it’s really freaking easy.

Start with some fresh rhubarb.  Wash it and dice it up.  You’ll need about 1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb for this one.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

Grab a small saucepan and toss in 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water.  I added in a teaspoon of vanilla as well.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

Bring that to a boil, stirring constantly.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

Chuck in the rhubarb and stir to coat before removing from the heat.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

Cover the rhubarb and leave it to steep (like a tea!) for an hour.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

Strain the steeped rhubarb over a cup or bowl.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

I kept the steamed rhubarb for snacking.  Neither the Pie nor Gren were impressed with it, but that just means more for me.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

Add 2 teaspoons lemon juice to the syrup and stir.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

You can keep the syrup in the fridge for about a week, if you cover it.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

Use about an ounce of the syrup in a small glass with ice, and add soda water or gingerale for a fruity fizz.  This makes about six drinks if you use small glasses, about three if you use big ones.

Pop Goes the Rhubarb

The Un-Cola

The Un-Cola

I saw this recipe on Freshly Pressed this past summer and was inspired by Krista and Jess to make this recipe from the New York Times (thanks ladies!).

My brother Ando has always been a fan of carbonated beverages.  Specifically the cola variety.  The more caffeine the better (he used to be a bit of a night owl).  Sodas aren’t that great for the teeth, of course,  as they contain a lot of sugar.  The colas especially so.  Ando’s tip for strong dentition: drink sodas only in conjunction with food, and use a straw.  When I saw this recipe, I thought he’d like it.  It’s made of all natural ingredients and contains significantly less sugar than your average can of Coke (which has 39g of sugar in it, the same as 10 sugar cubes).

The Un-Cola

These sorts of natural syrups are a sign that we are trying to return to simpler times, and the creators of this recipe, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, are doing just that (so you can go visit them Ando and tell me how the recipes compare — it’s just over the bridge after all).

So this is his DIY Christmas gift from his little sister (SURPRISE!), which, together with all the other presents for the Manhattan Crew, I am trying to get completed and mailed out before the end of the month — how’s that for organization?

The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but does require a certain attention to detail.  I also had to do some serious sleuthing around St. John’s to find all the appropriate ingredients, though if that means puttering around Food for Thought and Fat Nanny’s for an hour or two then I really don’t mind.

The Un-Cola

You’ll need to grate the zest from 2 medium oranges, 1 large lime, and 1 large lemon.  I doubled my batch so that the Pie and I would have some to try, and then made up an extra set of dry ingredients so that Ando can cook himself up a refill.  Each batch makes about 3 cups syrup.

The Un-Cola

So I grated a lot of citrus.  I’m going to save it and make a fabulous beverage soon.

The Un-Cola

For the extra dry ingredients, I used a zester, which gets the peel without the bitter pith.

The Un-Cola

Then I heated my oven to 150°F and spread the peel on a baking sheet to dry.

The Un-Cola

It probably cooked for about an hour while I was doing all that other stuff.

The Un-Cola

Take some whole nutmeg and a fine rasp and grate yourself about 1/8 teaspoon of that stuff.  Mmm, smells so good.

The Un-Cola

Crush one section of one star anise pod with a spoon.

The Un-Cola

Cut a vanilla pod so you have a 1 1/2″ section (that’s almost 4cm for you metric folk).  Use a knife to split that section in half lengthwise.

The Un-Cola

You’ll also need 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon citric acid.  You can get citric acid at stores that sell canning supplies, or try specialty or health food stores.

In a heavy pot over medium heat, bring all those ingredients to a simmer in 2 cups water.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

The Un-Cola

In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar.

The Un-Cola

Plop a colander or strainer on top of that and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth.

The Un-Cola

Pour the contents of the hot pot over the cheesecloth and gather the ends of the cloth together so that all the solids are in a nice little package.  Use a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid from the package against the side of the pot.

The Un-Cola

Stir the syrup occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a container and keep it in the refrigerator.

The Un-Cola

In order for this to last the trip over the sea and land and a river to Manhattan (from one island to another) I decided to can it.  You can see my tips on canning with a stove top canner here.

The Un-Cola

To drink, pour 1 part syrup over ice and mix with 4 parts seltzer or soda water.  It tastes FANTASTIC.  Not like a commercial soda, but one where you can taste all the flavours that went into it.  AMAZING.

The Un-Cola

And here is the little container with the dried peel and all the other dried ingredients (minus the sugar) that Ando will need to make his own batch.

The Un-Cola