One of the things my husband and I like to do throughout the year is make fruit infused alcohol/liqueurs. Living in the Pacific Northwest I like to try and select some interesting fruit. In the past I have made an oregon grape liqueur which was delicious and tasted almost like Port. This year I wanted to try a rhubarb vodka as well as a native red huckleberry vodka (they are currently flowering so I will have to wait a bit longer). There are so many options here beyond those I have mentioned. It is easy to find huckleberries, native raspberries, chokeberries, salmonberries, and many more.
I was keen to try the rhubarb vodka after reading a great book called Booze by John Wright. This is the 12th book in a series called the River Cottage Handbooks. John says that rhubarb is the best infusion that there is and this compelled me to try it given I grow rhubarb.
It is so easy to make, you need 280g rhubarb stalks, 150g sugar and 600ml vodka. John recommends using a mandolin to get really thin slices or 3 - 5 mm per slice. You add the rhubarb, sugar and leave for a couple of days, then you shake the jar once a day until the sugar dissolves. Decant the vodka into bottles after 3 months.
I am keen to hear other ideas/recipes for local fruit alcohol/liqueurs if you have any!
According to mynorthwest.com’s April 3rd post, two weeks after the first official day of spring, many Seattle residents have yet to enjoy a 60-degree day this year. It is now April 14th and I can say we are STILL waiting. Saying that we have some sun today and I say we are getting closer to that 60 degree mark! For me Spring means I can eat rhubarb, finally. This is always the first crop I eat in Spring and so I get pretty excited about it.
Rhubarb has been around for quite a long time and, according to the The Rhubarb Compendium website. The earliest records date back to 2700 BC in China where rhubarb was cultivated for medicinal purposes. Early records of rhubarb in America identify an unnamed Maine gardener as having obtained seed or root stock from Europe in the period between 1790-1800. He introduced it to growers in Massachusetts where its popularity spread and by 1822 it was sold in produce markets.
Rhubarb is not a picky plant and does thrive in most soil types. When I lived in the UK I had a HUGE rhubarb plant on my allotment but here in Seattle my rhubarb struggles a little as the soil is likely way too acid given we are surrounded by pine trees whose needles cover the ground. Still I am happy with the small but perfectly formed plants!
All this talk of rhubarb is making me hungry. Clearly one MUST make a rhubarb crumble with the young, tender delicious stalks as this really showcases the sweet and sour taste of this under-rated plant.
I like to rely on my dear friend (I wish) Nigella Lawson for a wonderful rhubarb crumble recipe from her How To Eat cookbook.
Here is an abridged version of the recipe:
What you need for the crumble:
What you need for the filling:
Why not add a couple of pinches of some spices like - ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg or ground cardamom to the filling or crumble?
Vanilla sugar is so delicious. All you need to do is add a split vanilla pod to a jar and add sugar to it. I would stick with a 1 liter jar as this will give the sugar a delicious vanilla taste without being too powerful. Make sure the jar has a lid so it is airtight!
Preheat oven to 190 C/375 F.
Toss all the filling ingredients together in a 1 liter pie dish. For the crumble, using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter and flour together until it resembles porridge oats (quick cooking oats). Stir in sugar and then sprinkle over the filling.
Bake for 25 - 35 minutes. ENJOY!
While the crumble is baking I love walking around the garden to see all the new buds, flowers and hidden springtime treats that you need to look close up to see! I love these little forget-me-not buds and hellebore flowers just keep me going at this time of year! I can see little leaf buds on my espalier apples trees too….Spring is really on its way!