ANN BAILEY: 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 to the fa...

Ann Bailey

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 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 to the garden to see if the rhubarb is peaking out of the ground.

Our rhubarb 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 peaking 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 stand-bys.


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

Rhubarb Jelly-Roll Cake

6 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed

2¾ 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 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 bow, beat eggs on high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until thick and light-colored. Beat in extract. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. 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. Flip onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioner's sugar. Peel off waxed paper. Roll up the cake in towel, jelly-roll style, starting with the short side. Cool. Carefully unroll cake. Spread 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.

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


2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb, fresh or frozen, thawed


1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

confectioner's 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 nonstick 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 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, then fold in half again, forming a triangle. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Serve with remaining sauce. Yield: 10 crepes

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

2½ 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

Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

3 cups chopped fresh frozen rhubarb, thawed

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream


1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon cold butter

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Add egg; beat well. Combine 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 pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 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 1½ dozen.

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