3 September 2014

Making rhubarb cordial

As I am sure you are all aware, having followed Rhubarb & Ginger for a while, we very often have a complete glut of our very favourite fruit - rhubarb.  I dare say you even know all about Ruby and her daughter Rubytwo who reside in ground planters either side of our patio.

Well, over the course of the summer Ruby and Rubytwo have been busy growing like triffids and supplying us with the most beautifully textured and flavoured fruit.  However, as mentioned above, it does tend to come in enormous great instalments.  We give it away to neighbours and cook with it - of course.

Now in the last few months, hubby has become interested in making rhubarb cordial.  We get through a lot of cordial (or squash, as we know it here), mixing it with sparkling mineral water for a refreshing and "better for you than commercially produced fizzy drinks" kind of drink.  How better, then, to use a cultivar whose name is "Champagne" rhubarb!

Following some research, hubby established that there are two main methods that folk use for making rhubarb cordial.  The one is where the fruit is cooked - much in the way of jam production - and the juice is then separated.  The other is where the raw fruit is broken down by the use of a blender, the juice extracted and then cooked to separate out the impurities.  It seemed as though both tendered good results, so we resolved to give them both a go.

He started with the cooked variety, which certainly didn't offer much in the way of difficulty and definitely resulted in a very palatable, sweet and fruity - if a tad cloudy - cordial.

The second - raw, let's call it - variety however, really has taken the biscuit where results are concerned.  As such, this is our recommended version and hubby has kindly written up the recipe, which you'll find below.

Raw version on the left, cooked on the right - amazing difference!
The raw version has given a beautifully clear, pale pink elixir that is by a factor of some 50% stronger than the cooked version, much to our surprise.  The flavour is just incomparable, however.  There is certainly no missing the fact that it is rhubarb cordial!

We saved a little of the first, cooked, batch so as to be able to give a proper comparison.  My gosh but the difference is certainly apparent, even from just the look of the thing.  I thought that the first, cooked, batch was good - but this second version transcends good into sublime on both looks and flavour.

Hard to imagine that the paler of the two is the stronger in flavour!
So - if you're lucky enough to be parent to a rhubarb plant (or two!) or maybe you know someone with a rhubarb plant who always has too much rhubarb, why not have a go at making cordial.  You will need a little bit of specialist equipment - a collection of jam bags (cheesecloth is good) and a jam or jelly stand (which saves rigging up somewhere to hang the jam bag as the juice drains).  Both of these are available from Amazon - as that's where we got ours!

RHUBARB CORDIAL    (makes 1.5 litres)

Ingredients :

2 - 3 lbs
rhubarb stalks, washed very thoroughly
700g sugar
juice of 1 lemon, that has been passed through muslin to remove any solids.

Method :

1.  Take a liquidiser (or blender) with a 1 litre capacity jug and keep feeding it raw, washed rhubarb until the puree fills the jug to the 1 litre mark.

2.  Place a jam straining bag, or a piece of muslin in a sieve, over a large bowl and pour the puree into the bag or muslin.

3.  Cover the whole lot with a clean pillowcase or some other contrivance to keep the dust out and allow the puree to drain for at least 12 hours, in a cool place. 

4.  When fully drained, discard the rhubarb pulp or use it to make fruit leather or some such.  Pour the raw rhubarb juice into a large pan, add the sugar and bring the mixture to a slow rolling boil, skimming off any impurities.

5.  Boil for 3 - 4 minutes, by which time you should have finished skimming, which should leave a crystal clear pink syrup in the pan.

6.  Cool the syrup by placing the pan in a sink with enough cold water to come halfway up the outside of the pan.  Stir regularly until the correct temperature has been reached.

7.  When cooled enough, to about the temperature you'd have washing up water, add the lemon juice, stir well and decant into sterilised bottles.

As we've discovered, the resulting syrup is very sweet and very strong.  Dilute at about 10:1 and see how you get on!

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