Rhubarb is one of those foods I’ve always been leery of. It kinda looks like celery, but people make pie out of it…huh? Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? Are you really supposed to eat it? Or is it just one of those foods that people “back in the day” happened upon, were hungry, and had to figure out a way to make it edible. To me, rhubarb is one of those weird ingredients my grandma used, mostly in pies or crisps. But is it really necessary these days? We have so much other incredible fruit available that rhubarb seems a bit…um, old school. Plus, it’s so tart and sour you have to add a butt-load of sugar just to make it palatable (yes, “butt-load” is a technical term in my kitchen).
Nonetheless, as suspicious as I am of these odd, pale green and blush pink stalks, my culinary curiosity gets the best of me. It’s in season and starting to pop up at farmers markets and through my CSA. So, what can I make with this stuff that ISN’T pie? When in doubt, add booze! I’ve made several flavored vodkas (cucumber, peach, hot pepper) and figured that was the perfect vehicle for this peculiar, in-your-face-flavored perennial…and it’s so darn simple, plus it makes a really cool gift! Here’s the gist: wash fruit or veggies, chop, add to jar, pour in vodka, let sit for a week, strain, get drunk…I mean, enjoy!
Oh, and for the record, rhubarb is a vegetable, but a New York judge in 1947 decided it was a fruit in the U.S. for regulations and duties. It’s been cultivated for thousands of years for medicinal purposes and only relatively recently (17th century) became more popular as a food item once sugar entered the culinary picture as a common ingredient. It also has laxative qualities, so uh, don’t eat too much unless you’re near restroom facilities…no’m sayin?
Homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Vodka
strawberries, hulled and sliced
Fill jars about half-way (or little more) with chopped fruit. Pour vodka in jars to within one inch of top. Screw on lids and shake. Store in a cool, dark place for 5 – 7 days, agitating jars once a day. Strain through a sieve, then strain again through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve. Store in the freezer.
Fill a mason jar with ice, add 1.5 ounces of the strawberry-ruhubarb vodka (one shot), a squeeze of lime juice, and a splash of simple syrup or agave nectar. Put the lid on and shake. Strain it into a glass with a couple ice cubes or lime cubes and top off with club soda. Stir, and drink. Cheers!