Rhubarb Juice Concentrate (With Canning Instructions)
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This rhubarb juice concentrate makes an excellent base for rhubarb soda, rhubarb lemonade and iced tea, rhubarb cocktails, rhubarb popsicles and more!
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We recently bought our first house: A charming 3-bedroom rancher on ¼-acre plot of land with more gardening space than we had on the one acre we’ve been renting for the past three years. And with that garden space we’re inheriting some pretty awesome perennial plants, including my spring favourite: Rhubarb.
We’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty awesome neighbours at our current house who have gifted us some of their rhubarb for the past couple of years, but we hit the jackpot with the new property with three huge established rhubarb plants -one so big that it’s about twice the height of my almost two-year-old daughter with massive flowering stalks shooting higher still!
We’ve yet to complete renovations and move in, but you can bet I’ve been taking advantage of the rhubarb situation.
I harvested an armful of gigantic stalks the other day and chopped them up into 10 cups worth of 1-inch thick pieces. While I could have made a pie or some other type of dessert, I want to save that for strawberry season. Since strawberries still have about a month to go before they ripen, I decided I wanted to make something that featured only rhubarb as the star.
I also decided that I wanted to preserve it in some way. I mulled over the possibilities: Rhubarb jam? Rhubarb preserved in syrup? Dried rhubarb?
Dried rhubarb did appeal to me, and I think I’ll give that a go with the next batch as I’m keen to fire up my super awesome dehydrator this season. But I decided I was in the mood for something a little, well, juicier.
Related: Rhubarbecue Sauce Canning Recipe
I started thinking about what kind of drinks I could make with rhubarb. Rhubarb-flavoured kombucha? Fermented rhubarb soda? I liked the idea of fermenting rhubarb into a probiotic drink in some way, but quite honestly I haven’t learned enough about fermenting to go there quite yet. (It is a goal of mine though, and I’m hoping to be able to ferment it by next year).
* Update: I have since learned a lot about fermenting and especially about Kombucha! Strawberry-rhubarb kombucha has fast become one of my favourite flavours so I will definitely link to the recipe here soon!
I decided to hit up my local library and take out a few books on preserving and soda and beverage brewing to get some inspiration. I ended up finding a recipe for a rhubarb juice concentrate (called “rhubarb nectar”) in one of the books I took out: The Canadian Living Complete Preserving Book. It was recommended as a base for rhubarb soda as you can mix it with soda water for a refreshing treat.
I’m addicted to using my Soda Stream in the summer, so I love having a tasty base to use for my homemade soda drinks. However if you don’t have a Soda Stream -which you should- you could use store-bought soda water too.
This recipe was super simple to make and didn’t require any fermenting. It also included a canning recipe, which was awesome as I wanted to put some up for later enjoyment when rhubarb season is over.
The recipe called for 10 cups of chopped rhubarb (perfect as that’s exactly what I had!), some sugar and citrus peels. I omitted the citrus peels as I didn’t want to spend any money buying them from the store, but you can absolutely add a few orange, lemon or lime peels into your batch if you like.
I followed the rest of the recipe as it was written, but have added a couple extra easy peasy steps here like mashing the cooked rhubarb with a potato masher and skimming off foam a couple times to ensure a better quality end product.
I will say that you don’t get a ton of rhubarb juice concentrate from this recipe. I ended up getting about 3 pints worth. However 10 cups of chopped rhubarb is about the most you’re going to fit in a large pot at one time, so you can either double the amount and cook the rhubarb down in two separate batches and then strain, cook and can up the juice all at once, or simply make small batches.
Either way, the end product is well worth making. I am enjoying some right now mixed with some soda water and a little fresh-squeezed lime and it is delish. You could also mix this with some lemonade or iced tea to make a flavoured summer drink, or use it as a base for margaritas, martinis or any number of other yummy cocktails. Or freeze it in popsicle moulds for a frozen summer treat. Or even use it as a base for a salad dressing mixed with oil and vinegar… Oh the possibilities!
You can also cut down on the amount of sugar you add in if you find it too sweet. I do personally find this rather sweet, but I was looking for a syrupy concentrate to use as a base for homemade sodas and other flavoured drinks, so it works for this purpose. Also, if added to lemonade, the sweetness of this rhubarb concentrate will offset the tartness of the lemonade. As rhubarb on its own is quite tart itself, I find you need a decent amount of sugar to make it palatable.
But feel free to reduce the amount of sugar if you like. There is a very similar recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving that called for 12 cups of rhubarb and only 1½ cups of sugar. So it can be done (and it won’t ruin your recipe).
So take advantage of rhubarb season and enjoy some rhubarb juice concentrate as a base for your spring and summer beverages… But don’t forget to put some up for winter too! It’s the perfect treat to enjoy at the end of a long winter when spring is just around the corner, but still seems just out of reach.
At least this year, here anyway, the rhubarb is up and spring is finally here to stay:)
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