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Rhubarb: A Northern Climate Favorite Posted by on May 28, 2021 in Culture, Food

Photo: Rhubarb, C. Bowen


Is it a weed? Is it a delectable garden treat? One thing is for sure, rhubarb is a classic Swedish ingredient. It’s a plentiful perennial here in Minnesota, too. As a kid, I would head out to the garden with a bowl of sugar, hack off a stalk or two of this sweet and sour treat, dip it, crunch, and repeat! This week, we’ll honor rabarber and by making
rabarbersaft (rhubarb “juice”) from a Swedish recipe.

From Sweden to the Midwest

In the midwestern United States, rhubarb is a backyard staple. The long reddish-green stalks grow rapidly each spring, a few feet high once fully grown. Some folks consider this hearty perennial a pest, and I’ll admit, I often take this unique ingredient for granted, until a recent Swedish class reminded me of just how special rhubarb is.

One of my students lived in Sweden until the age of 7 and when her family relocated to Texas, she unknowingly said hej då to one of her favorite flavors, rabarber. Growing up, she searched for rhubarb on grocery store shelves hoping to recreate the rabarberpaj (rhubarb pie) receipt she was so fond of. When she finally found it at a Whole Foods store years later, it was priced at over $10 a pound, but she decided to buy a bundle regardless. The cashier had never seen this red-stalked wonder before. My student later realized the confused cashier charged for celery by mistake at only $0.91 per pound. Her years of waiting to be reunited with rhubarb had paid off – literally! 

The Nordic countries and the northern U.S. share a climate, so it’s no surprise that favorites like rhubarb grow well and grace tables in both places. In Minnesota, rhubarb is most commonly baked into a “crisp” or “crumble,” similar to a Swedish sweet paj. Oven-baked crumbles consist of a crunchy topping made from oats, sugar, butter, and maybe chopped nuts. But today, we’re going in a more svensk direction and making saft!

Rabarbersaft recept – Rhubarb saft recipe

This week, I finally answered the call of the rhubarb in my backyard (it’s been asking me to turn it into something delicious for days now)! Instead of a classic baked preparation, I decided to make saft. Saft translates to juice, but it’s more of a lemonade consistency. Typically saft is made by boiling an ingredient to capture its essence, rather than pressing it into a juice. Other popular Swedish flavors are blåbär (blueberry) and fläder (elderflower), you can buy saft concentrate in these flavors at IKEA. Saft is a sweet refreshing drink and mixes well with bubbly water or alcohol if you’re craving a cocktail. Below is Lena Söderström’s recipe from the website Mitt kök.

Ingredienser – Ingredients 

 yields about 2 liters of saft

  • 1 kg rabarberstjälkar                  about 9 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 1 1/2 l vatten                               6 ⅓ cups of water
  • 5 dl strösocker                           2 cups of white sugar 
  • 1 citron, färskpressad saft         the juice of 1 lemon (I used two!)

Så här gör du – Here’s how you do it!

  • Ansa rabarbern och skär den i bitar.
    Trim the rhubarb and cut into pieces 
  • Blanda rabarber och socker i en rostfri eller emaljerad kastrull och låt stå ca 30 minuter.
    Mix rhubarb and sugar in a rust-free or enameled pan and let stand for 30 minutes. 
  • Blanda i vattnet och citronsaften. Koka upp och koka rabarbern ca 15 minuter eller tills den är mjuk.
    Add the water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and cook the rhubarb for about 15 minutes and until it is soft.
  • Sila rabarbern genom finmaskig sil. Häll den klara rosa saften i väl rengjorda flaskor. Förslut och förvara svalt. Press the rhubarb through a fine sieve. Pour the clear pink liquid into well-cleaned bottles. Seal and store in a cool place.

That’s it! Lena’s tip is to save the rhubarb pulp to eat with yogurt or oatmeal. See the Swedish below:

Tips, ta gärna vara på fruktköttet som blir över i saftsilsduken och smaksätt det med lite socker och lite kardemumma eller vanilj. Gott att ha på frukostfilen eller havregrynsgröten!

 

Enjoy!

 

Photo: Rhubarb saft, C. Bowen

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.