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 that are even taller!
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:)
Rhubarb Juice Concentrate (+ Canning Instructions)
- 10 cups chopped rhubarb stalks
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- If canning, prepare jars, bands and lids for canning. Wash jars and bands in hot, soapy water and then sterilize in a hot water bath. Keep hot until ready to fill. (If you're not canning this recipe, then just make sure jars and lids are clean and ready to fill. They can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or two).
- Combine rhubarb and water in a large stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to medium-low. Simmer until rhubarb is dissolved (about 10-12 minutes).
- Using a potato masher or similar utensil, mash the rhubarb up in the water to extract as much juice as possible. Then strain in small batches through a mesh sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth over a saucepan. Continue mashing to squeeze out as much juice as possible.
- Once you've extracted all of the juice, discard the solids (great for the compost!) Then place the saucepan with the rhubarb juice back on the stove, add sugar and bring to a boil.
- Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly until all of the sugar is dissolved. Turn heat off and skim off as much foam as possible from the top.
- Fill hot, prepared jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Continue to remove foam from the top of each jar and adjust headspace as needed. Wipe rims, place lids on top and screw on bands to fingertip tight. Process in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid and let jars stand in the canner for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool completely before transferring to pantry for storage.
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You can also take your left over pulp and make some rhubarb bread. Follow your favorite banana bread recipe, substituting the rhubarb pulp for mashed bananas. Tastes great!
Thanks for the recipe!
I chopped my rhubarb this summer then froze it in 1 inch pieces. I just sent it through our old juicer and ended up with about a gallon of juice!
I’m using it in our wedding mixed into gin and tonics – which are already sweet enough. Is this amount of sugar for preserving or for taste?
If I followed the canning process of heating but didn’t add sugar, would the juice still last for a year+ / is there a ratio available somewhere of how much sugar is needed to preserve something?
I would like the juice to stay as tart as possible.
Thanks for your help!
The sugar is for taste and does not effect the safety of the finished product. You can use as much or as little as you want to achieve the taste you’re looking for.
If you do not use some sugar the color will fade to a muddy brown. Sugar preserves color, but so will lemon juice. You do not have to use the full amount. Mine a few years ago really got a weird color without sugar, since thin I have added a minimum amount plus 1 TBS of lemon juice per quart.
Instead of mashing your fruit or veg to juice, try a steamer juicer. A steam juicer is a low-tech way to extract juice from fruit or veggies. It is simply a stack of nesting pots that sit on your stove. … The top pot holds the fruit or vegetables in a colander so the steam can penetrate it. (Usually holds about 11 quarts) You just add the fruit (no need to peel or slice). The middle pot is the water and the bottom pot collects the juice. There is a siphon hose with a clamp that allows you to drain into a canning jar or pot. This saves a lot of work. I use the top cooked fruit for butters etc. Crabapples, I needed to use a Moulinex to remove the seeds from the pulp.
Thank you for the time saving tip!
I make rhubarb cordial each year and I like to dilute with some ginger ale. Tastes amazing.
I had a homestead years ago and made plenty of rhubarb juice concentrate canned for year round use.
I did NOT throw out into the compost or otherwise, the pulp of any of the fruits I made juices with.
I added sugar if needed and made fruit leather!
That is a great idea! But I am wondering – are you able to grind it up finer for a smoother leather or do you leave it a bit chunky? Rhubarb always seemed so fibrous to me that I am wondering about the texture of the leather.
Love this recipe, but I just have a few words of wisdom about rhubarb. Did you know that if you cut the flowering parts off as soon as they start that you will be able to harvest rhubarb until frost kills it? It may slow down a bit in the warmer weather but will be just as nice in the fall if you keep it picked back. If you let it flower & go to seed it will be done for the year. I learned this many years ago from my mother in law who was brought up on a farm.
So, It’s better if you skip adding the water and pour the sugar over the rhubarb, cook at a low heat until you start getting water build up in the pot (rhubarb makes it’s own water) then boil it for about ten minutes while stirring occasionally. That will make the rhubarb flavor really come out and it’ll balance out your too sweet problem.
Also, if you’re looking for a more clear liquid, you might think about not mashing it. Mashing makes the liquid cloudy. It’s really better to sit it in a colander, with cheesecloth (or use a fine grade sieve) and let it drain naturally for a while.
also, instead of adding the left overs to your compost you might try making rhubarb candy. Take your left over sludge, spread it on a cookie sheet and dry it on a low heat. It’s like a fruit roll up! It also makes great rhubarb butter (like apple butter) if you add seasonings and cook it in a slow cooker. 😉
Do you think you could use frozen rhubarb with this recipe?
Absolutely! It cooks down just the same:)
How long would this last at room temperature in properly sterilised jars/bottles? I have a glut and looking to make this to enjoy over several months!
This canning recipe, if followed properly, will be shelf stable for at least a year. However it would probably be good up to a couple years or perhaps even longer as long as proper canning procedure has been followed. Although it doesn’t tend to last anywhere near that long around here;)
This easy to make and tastes great
How much concentrate to water ratio for serving?
It just depends on what your personal preferences are. I like to mix mine with homemade sparkling water at about a 50/50 ratio. With regular water I would probably mix 3 parts juice to 1 part water or just 2:2 depending on your taste.
I’m interested in juicing my rhubarb, with my juicer. Then cooking the juice with the sugar. How many cups (approx.) would you get after the pulp would be all strained out?
As neither Anna or I have juiced rhubarb before, your guess is as good as ours regarding the amount of juice you could expect. I just use this recipe as written so my advise would be to stick to the recipe. However, you are certainly welcome to try using your juicer but we cannot guarantee the finished product would be the same as written. But – if you do use the juicer – will you let us know how it goes for you? I know we are now very curious about it. 🙂
Could you freeze this rather than canning it?
Yes! Absolutely. However, if freezing in Mason jars, be sure to leave some extra headspace at the top to prevent the glass from breaking when the liquid freezes and expands. To be on the safe side, I would recommend leaving about one to two inches of headspace at the top of your jar. If you’re using a straight jar, one to two inches from the top of the jar is just fine. If you’re using a Mason jar with shoulders (where the jar curves in at the top), I would leave at least one inch of headspace from the shoulder line. Also, if freezing, allow the hot liquid to cool completely before sealing the jar and popping it in the freezer to prevent breakages.
Or freeze in ice cubes and throw into your lemonade to help cool and flavor all at once!! I can’t wait!!!
Just curious have you ever tried to purée the rhubarb instead of mash it? First time making this and love my vita mix. 🙂
You could definitely purée it if you like, however the rhubarb breaks down and goes mushy very quickly when boiled in the hot water and then you strain out the liquid anyway, so I don’t know that there is much point to puréeing it if you still plan on cooking it on the stovetop. Also, puréeing it might actually make it harder to strain out all or the particles (not sure as I haven’t tried it), so that might make for an end product with more pulp in it. If you try it though let me know how it turns out!