Sunday February 13th 2011, 1:10 pm

pink stems with lime leaves - early forced rhubarb

‘I prefer custard on mine’ …. I hear you reply!
Popping by the allotment, it is lovely to see the knobbly buds of rhubarb starting to push their way through. There is a rabbit nibbling problem at present, and like an arm wrestle between vegetable and animal, currently teetering in the rabbits favour, I’m confident that once the rhubarb gets a spurt on, the plants will win hands down and see off the fluffy predator.
The plot is fast beginning to resemble the national rhubarb collection, as I just can’t resist adding another variety when I come across one, conveniently forgetting that each crown will eventually take up a wacking great amount of space as it becomes established. Ho hum, who cares? All these varieties rarely mean much difference as regards taste, but for a rhubarb nerd it means you can admire the subtle variations of habit and leaf shape.
One variety I sought out especially, having grown it before on my London plot, is Livingstone, named after Red Ken. This variety is particularly useful as it has had the dormancy bred out of it, so gives a crop right through until the first frosts, unlike the others that you should stop picking in the summer months. You aren’t likely to find Livingstone for sale as it is produced under license so shouldn’t be propogated as the rights belong to the breeder, who I bought the original cultivar from, then years later tracked him down again and begged him to send me another crown (it is amazing how begging usually does the trick).
This is why there is no need to import rhubarb in the UK. We have the varieties available to harvest, virtually all year round. It always amazes me when I see rhubarb for sale in Tesco imported from New Zealand. My nearest independent greengrocers, usually sell Dutch rhubarb as the much lauded Yorkshire stuff is hard to source at the market or when found is too expensive for them. Now in my second year on the plot, I should be self sufficient in the stuff very soon, so such concerns will be for others to wrangle over.
It’s great that rhubarb is seeing a renaissance. I hadn’t eaten forced rhubarb until fairly recently, so I loved it before all the guff about not stewing it and that only the sweeter pink stems are worth having, bla-di-bla. The pinker it is the prettier it looks and you can juice it too, but for a diehard rhubarb fan brought up on stronger stuff, it is simply an hors d’oeuvres, leading the way to the main course.
Luckily, as one of my favourite flavours, when it comes to rhubarb, if you say ‘glut’ then I say ‘bring it on’. I may well become famous for my rhubarb ketchup, one day, but in the mean time here is a recipe for pink grapefuit, rhubarb and cardamom marmalade that I developed last year that usefully has a longer seasonal ‘window’ that the usual Seville orange sort and also just happens to taste great. The recipe doubles up fine if you want to make a bigger batch.

paring the peel from pink grapefruit


Makes approx 1.3Kg (3 lbs)

0.5Kg (1.1 lb) rhubarb
1kg (2.2lbs) sugar
juice of 1 lemon
seeds from 10-13 cardamom pods, crushed
3 pink grapefruits, approx 750g (1.65 lb )

Rinse the rhubarb stems and chop into 1cm (1/2 in) evenly sized pieces. Place them in a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice. Tie the cardamom seeds in a piece of muslin and push them inbetween the rhubarb, then cover with baking paper or clingfilm and leave for a few hours or overnight, so the juices begin to soak into the sugar.
Wash the grapefruit and remove the peel with a sharp knife or potato peeler, leaving as much of the pith on the fruit as possible. Finely cut the peel into shreds. Squeeze the fruits and collect the juice and tie the remaining pulp, pith and pips together in a muslin bundle. Place the shreds, juice and bundle in a pan, add 1.4ltr (2 1/2pt) water and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until the peel is cooked through and tender. Remove the muslin bundle and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze the juice from it back into the pan, then discard. Pour the peel through a sieve and collect and measure the liquid, adding more water if necessary to make it up to 1ltr (1 3/4 pts).
Prepare the jars and canner if you plan to hot water process the marmalade, otherwise, make sure your jars and lids are clean and place them in a warm oven to heat and sterilise. Place the cooked shreds, cooking liquid and the contents of the rhubarb bowl in a preserving pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil and cook on a high heat until setting point is reached, that is when a small blob of the syrup on a cold plate quickly forms a skin when you run your finger across the surface. Remove the cardamom bundle.
Fill the jars, leaving the appropriate amount of headroom for canning, and seal. Hot water process for 10 minutes, then remove from the canner, leave till cold and test that the lids are sealed. Label and store. Alternatively, without canning, place waxed paper discs on the surface of the marmalade and seal. This marmalade should store safely without canning, but hot water processing will make doubly sure that your jam will keep and store without a hitch.

pink grapefruit, rhubarb and cardamom marmalade

Our rhubarb is just poking through now too. I am always amazed at the stuff we import when we have plenty here like the day back in October when I couldn’t find an English apple anywhere and this in Somerset too! Daft. Thanks for the marmalade recipe – come in handy when there is a gap before the next Seville oranges are on sale.


Comment by Jane 02.13.11 @ 1:16 pm

Hurrah for rhubarb here too. we love the stuff!

Comment by Pipany 02.13.11 @ 1:30 pm

Lovely pictures of rhubarb! I was asked by an American friend why the rhubarb in the UK was green- I guess it’s down to the variety isn’t it? My mother inlaw grows rhubarb on her allotment- too much for me I shall look to you for inspiration!

Comment by Jayne 02.13.11 @ 3:16 pm

LOVE rhubarb, especially the forced kind…

Comment by msmarmitelover 02.14.11 @ 1:19 am

Delightful, as always! Rhubarb is something only seen in spring here, and even then you get it from the stores if you are lucky. That’s why I, another rhubarb nerd, keep on planting them as well. They are one of my favorite things, because as soon as the snow and ice melt off they are usually the first thing that starts to show growth. I really like the sound of that one that doesn’t go dormant!

Comment by Julia 02.14.11 @ 1:21 pm

Wow -that looks delicious. a word of caution from someone who has sooooo much rhubarb each spring. those suckers will feel like they multiply faster than rabbits!

Comment by tigress 02.15.11 @ 3:55 am

Colour me green with rhubarb envy! Absolutely love it but have not been able to grow it successfully. Could it be a case of wanting it too much? I generally have good luck with my gardening adventures but no joy in the rhubarb patch for me! Still, I shall continue to plant it…just in case this is the year for me!

Comment by uncanny kitchen 02.16.11 @ 2:06 am

Rhubarb in your post today, rhubarb in your header…why oh why is there no rhubarb in my garden? It has not even poked a nubbin up yet, and I’ve only the one plant alas. I adore rhubarb, and must look for another start to plant this year. It would be fantastic to have “too much”

Comment by alison 02.16.11 @ 4:52 pm

Just stumbled across your site and am loving it. I was given some rhubarb seeds as a Christmas present 2 years ago and from 12 seeds raised 12 plants! Gave some young plants away and a couple perished, but this year I’m picking my first rhubarb sticks from 4 healthy plants. I didn’t know you should stop picking rhubarb in the summer months. Mine are still going strong but I must give them a rest – thanks for the tip. However, before I stop picking I must just gather some for your pink grapefruit, rhubarb and marmelade recipe. I’m becoming rhubarb-greedy and this sounds delicious! Thanks for a great blog.

Comment by HELEN 08.10.11 @ 9:10 pm

[…] the combination of flavors, I can say that I simplified the recipe from the one I found on Laundry Etc. and made a batch of beautiful jam.  Look at it!  The color is stunning, a rosy pink just like the […]

Pingback by Pink grapefruit-rhubarb-cardamom jam. « cook.can.read 01.23.12 @ 1:42 am

[…] Pink Grapefruit, Rhubarb & Cardamom Marmalade, from Gloria at Laundry Etc. […]

Pingback by Winter Preserves I Wish I Could Make « Hitchhiking to Heaven 02.22.13 @ 8:25 pm