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Rhubarb: A rite of spring

Growing up on the farm, going to the garden behind the house and picking rhubarb was a rite of spring.

My mom made sauces, cakes, pies and desserts from our rhubarb, and I enjoyed them all.

When my husband, Brian, moved from Grand Forks, N.D., to the farm where we live, near Larimore, N.D., my mom and dad planted rhubarb in our garden.

Each spring, soon after the snow melts, I go out to the garden to see whether the rhubarb is peaking out of the ground, yet.

Our rhubarb, which is on the south side of the farmstead and surrounded by trees that hold in the heat, usually is some of the earliest in the area.

Last year, when we had an unseasonably warm spring, our rhubarb was ready to pick in late April. This year, it was barely peeking out of the ground by mid-May.

Early spring or late spring, I enjoy cooking and eating rhubarb dishes.

Over the years, I have gathered several rhubarb cookbooks and like to try new recipes along with my old standbys.

Here are a few recipes I hope to try this rhubarb season:

Rhubarb Jelly-Roll Cake

• 6 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed

  • 2 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioner’s sugar

In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb, 2 cups sugar, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cook, uncovered, over medium heat until thickened. Cool completely.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until thick and light-colored. Beat in extract. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to the egg mixture.

Grease a 15-inch by 10-inch by 1-inch baking pan and line with waxed paper, grease and flour the paper. Spread batter into pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 5 minutes. Turn unto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners sugar. Peel off waxed paper. Roll up the cake in towel, jelly-roll style, starting with the short side. Cool.

Carefully unroll the cake. Spread the filling over the cake to within 1 inch of the edges. Roll up again. Store in the refrigerator. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Yield: 10-12 servings.

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sliced or fresh or frozen unsweetened strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 to 4 drops red food coloring, optional
  • Pound or angel food cake

In a saucepan, combine rhubarb, water, sugar, lemon peel and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cook uncovered over medium heat until rhubarb is soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let stand five minutes. Stir in strawberries, lemon juice and cinnamon. Add food coloring, if desired. Cool. Serve over cake. Yield: 3 cups

Creamy Rhubarb Crepes

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Additional butter
  • Sauce/Filling
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb, fresh or frozen, thawed
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • Confectioners’ sugar

In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, melted butter, sugar and salt. Beat in flour until smooth; let stand for 30 minutes. Melt 1/2 teaspoon butter in an 8-inch non-stick skillet. Pour 1/4 cup batter into the center of the skillet; lift and turn pan to cover bottom. Cook until lightly browned; turn and brown the other side. Remove to a wire rack; cover with paper towel. Repeat with remaining batter, adding butter to skillet as needed.

Meanwhile, for sauce, combine the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in a saucepan. Stir in rhubarb. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir 2 minutes or until slightly thickened and rhubarb is tender. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

For filling, in a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup of the rhubarb sauce until smooth and creamy. Place a rounded teaspoon on each crepe; fold in half and half again, forming a triangle. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with remaining sauce. Yield: 10 crepes

Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 3 cups chopped fresh frozen rhubarb, thawed
  • Topping
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add eggs; beat well. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream. Fold in rhubarb. Fill paper-lined or greased muffin cups three-fourths full.

For topping, combine the pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for five minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Yield: about 1 1/2 dozen.

Article written by Ann Bailey of the Forum News Service

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