Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rhubarb Sauce

aerial rhubarb

Rhubarb crops up every spring, and everywhere, in Red Lake, one of the only vegetables tough enough to actually flourish in a northern climate on its own, what with our long winters and paltry soil. It grows wild almost anywhere, making its appearance on nearly every Red Lake resident's property, whether they want it there or not. It still has its designated patch along the side of my parents' house, and has been there as long as I can remember.

A seasonal vegetable, which I have never once seen in a supermarket, it's always been firmly rooted in those fading days of spring and the early weeks of summer, when days began to lengthen and I could start running through sprinklers on the front lawn. In the kitchen, it always figured most prominently in the form of jelly. As a child, the sight of large mason jars, holding sacs of cheesecloth filled with pureed rhubarb, slowly draining its juice, was both familiar to me and yet odd, a part of some strange science experiment my mother conducted annually. The sacs of cheesecloth, stuffed with rhubarb and stained a dark pink, looked a bit like...well, a bit like harvested organs. Suffice to say, I was always a little put off by them. Yet I delighted in taste testing the batch of jelly (but then, I loved eating just about anything sweet), happily spooning the still-warm sugary goo into my mouth.

This sauce, well tarter and more intensely flavourful, accented with the bitterness of orange and the warmth of cinnamon, I would as happily spoon into my mouth.

Rhubarb Sauce
2 cups Chopped Rhubarb
1 cup Chopped Dates
Peel of 1 Orange
1 tsp Cinnamon (or 1 Cinnamon stick)
1/3 cup Raisins (optional)
2 cups Water

rhubarb stalks orange, undressed

1. Wash and chop up your rhubarb stalks and add to a medium sized pot. Add the chopped dates and orange peel (keep it in large chunks so it's easier to fish out at the end of cooking). If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add the raisins (or another 1/4 - 1/3 cup of dates). (I, personally, would omit them next time, as I'd like to make it a little less sweet to highlight the tart flavour of the rhubarb.)

2. Stir in the cinnamon or cinnamon stick with the water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once the mixture is bubbling, lower the heat just a little and simmer, stirring frequently, until it reaches your desired consistency, anywhere from 25 - 45 minutes. The thicker it gets, the sweeter the sauce.

3. When your sauce has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat and pick out the orange peel and cinnamon stick. If you want a smoother sauce, let it cool for at least 10 minutes before pureeing it in a blender or food processor. If you want a more rustic, textured sauce, feel free to leave it as is.

4. Serve, cold or warm, with ice cream, cake, your morning yogurt, or any other pairing that appeals to you. Enjoy!

ready to pour

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