One of the first plants to make an appearance in my garden is always rhubarb, that old midwestern standby that used to be in everyone’s yard. I do have a patch, and yes, the starts came from my mom on the farm. Every year I make pies and cakes to remember the taste of home. This year I tried something new, a fool and a spritzer.
Rhubarb originated in China and was cultivated for medications as early as 2700BC. It was traded to the British along with tea. Used for fever and plague, it soon found its way into the apothecary gardens of western Europe.
The British have such wonderful names for their puddings. Syllabubs, fools, trifles, spotted dick, Eton mess and crumbles are just a few of them. Fools were noted as far back as 1598 as a dessert. They are still as popular and delicious as they were then.
The fruit sauce is easy to make ahead and can be folded with the cream or layered for an elegant dessert, snazzy enough for a dinner party, right before service. The sauce alone sparks up yogurt or pound cake, over ice cream, or is just good alone with a cookie or two. In the spring you can often find it lurking in my refrigerator. It’s medicine, after all…
Prep time: 30 minutes plus chilling time
1 pound rhubarb, cut up
1/2 cup sugar
4 cardamon seed pods, cracked and the inner seeds ground to a powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium pot combine the rhubarb, sugar, cardamon, cinnamon, and salt. Cook over medium low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the rhubarb is tender. Set aside to cool and chill in the refrigerator for an hour, or more. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
When you are ready to serve the fool, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla. Layer the rhubarb sauce and the cream.
Makes 3 cups syrup, enough for 12 spritzers
Prep time 1 hour
1 pound sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups rhubarb juice (made with a juicer)
Combine the sugar and water together over medium heat. Stir briefly to combine, but not after that until it comes to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and cook undisturbed until it reaches soft ball stage (234 degrees F.) Slowly pour the juice into the sugar syrup and stir to combine. Bring back to a rolling boil and cook 1 minutes. Take off the heat and skim any residue off the top. Cool and bottle. Will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two or frozen for a couple months.
For a spritzer, half fill a glass with ice. Add about 1/4 cup rhubarb syrup and top off with seltzer water. A few pieces of diced rhubarb adds a pleasant tart bite as you drink. Add tequila or gin for a refreshing cocktail.