Ways to Use Rhubarb

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Rhubarb is usually considered a vegetable. But in 1947, a New York court in the United States ruled that since it was used in the U.S. as a fruit, it counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. (Tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits).

NOTE:  Only use the stalks. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous.


When rhubarb first comes into season it is small, tender and of a bright red color, and when stewed makes a very pretty dish. The red rhubarb should be cut into little pieces about two inches long. Very little water will be required as the fruit contains a great deal of water in itself. The amount of sugar added depends entirely upon taste. The stewed rhubarb should be sent to table unbroken, and floating in a bright red juice.

Peel rhubarb stalks, cut into inch lengths, put into a small stone crock with at least one part sugar to two parts fruit, but not one particle of water. To prevent burning, the crock may be set in a pan of boiling water. Bake until the pieces are clear, then flavor with lemon or it is good without. It is a prettier sauce and takes less sugar than when stewed, and can be used for a pie filling if the crust is made first. When done and while yet hot, beat up the whites of two eggs and whip into the sauce. It makes it very light and very nice.

For the crust: two cups of flour sifted with two teaspoons of baking powder and one-half teaspoon of salt. Rub in two tablespoons of butter. Beat one egg very light and add it to three-fourths of a cup of milk. Mix with the other ingredients and line the sides of a baking. Take one quart of chopped rhubarb sweetened with three cups of sugar, and fill the pudding dish with the rhubarb. Roll out the remaining crust, cover the top of dish and bake one-half hour.

Take one cup of rhubarb which has been peeled and chopped fine. Add one cup of sugar and the grated rind of a lemon. In a teacup, add one tablespoonful of cornstarch and moisten it  with the same amount of cold water. Fill up the cup with boiling water and add it to the rhubarb. Add the yolks of three eggs well beaten. Bake with an under crust. When cold, cover with a meringue made of the whites of the eggs and one-half cup of sugar. Place in the oven to become a delicate brown. Very fine.

Take a bundle of rhubarb, one pound of flour, six ounces of butter, lard, or dripping, half a pint of water, a pinch of salt, ditto of baking-powder, and eight ounces of moist sugar. First, cut up the rhubarb in pieces about an inch long, wash them in plenty of water, and drain them in a colander or sieve. Next, place the flour in a pan or on the table, make a hollow in the middle with your fist, place the salt and the baking-powder in it, pour in the water to dissolve them, then add the butter. Mix all together by working the ingredients with the fingers of both hands, until the whole has become a firm, smooth, compact kind of paste. You now put the cleaned rhubarb into a pie-dish, with the sugar and a gill of water. Roll out the paste to the exact size of the dish, and after wetting the edges of the dish all round, place the rolled-out paste upon it, and by pressing the thumb of the right hand all round the upper part of the edge, the paste will be effectually fastened on, so as to prevent the juice from running out at the sides. A small hole must be made at the top of the pie for ventilation, or otherwise the pie would burst. Bake the pie for an hour and a quarter.

Use perfectly fresh, crisp rhubarb, peel and cut in small pieces as for pies. Fill a Mason jar with the fruit and pour over it freshly drawn water. Screw on the top and by the next morning the water will have settled in the jar. Fill the jars full with fresh water, seal again and the fruit is ready for winter’s use. In making pies it takes less sugar than the fresh fruit. Or, boil the rhubarb a few moments, as for sauce, with or without sugar and put into jars while it is very hot just as other fruit is canned.

NOTE: A reader wondered if this recipe was safe since it says to just put a lid on the bottle.


It states: “Some vegetable foods have so much acid and so little nitrogenous substance that very few bacteria or yeasts attack them. Lemons, cranberries, and rhubarb belong to this class”.

Use equal parts of rhubarb and sugar. Heat the sugar with as little water as will keep it from burning, pour over the rhubarb and let stand several hours. Pour off and boil until it thickens, then add the fruit and boil gently for fifteen minutes. Put up in jelly glasses. Apples and oranges may be put up with rhubarb allowing two apples or three oranges to a pint of cut up rhubarb.

Soak over night two-thirds of a cupful of tapioca. In the morning drain, add one cupful of water and cook the tapioca until it is clear. Add a little more water if necessary. Then add a cup and a half of finely sliced rhubarb, a pinch of salt and a large half-cup of sugar. Bake in a moderate oven an hour. Serve warm or cold and eat with sugar if liked very sweet. Very nice.

Gather the rhubarb about the middle of May and wipe it with a wet cloth. With a mallet, bruise it in a large wooden tub or other convenient means. When reduced to a pulp, weigh it, and to every five pounds, add one gallon of cold spring water. Let these remain for three days, stirring three or four times a day. On the fourth day, press the pulp through a sieve, put the liquor into a tub, and to every gallon put three pounds of loaf sugar, the rind of one lemon and one-half ounce of isinglass*.  Stir in the sugar until it is quite dissolved. Let the liquor remain, and, in four, five, or six days, the fermentation will begin to subside, and a crust or head will be formed. This should be skimmed off or the liquor drawn from it, when the crust begins to crack or separate. Put the wine into a cask, and if after that, it ferments, rack it off into another cask, and in a fortnight stop it down. If the wine should have lost any of its original sweetness, add a little more loaf sugar, taking care that the cask is full. Bottle it off in February or March, and in the summer it should be fit to drink. It will improve greatly by keeping; and, should a very brilliant colour be desired, add a little currant-juice.

*isenglass – a kind of gelatin obtained from fish used in making jellies and clarifying ale

Free the rhubarb from leaves, cut it up in inch lengths, wash and drain it in a sieve or colander. Next, put the rhubarb into a sufficiently large pot or preserving-pan, with a little water—say a pint of water to ten pounds of rhubarb, and put this on the fire with the lid on, to boil until dissolved to a pulp. Stirring it occasionally and as soon as all the rhubarb is dissolved, add six pounds of moist sugar. Stir the whole continuously on the fire while boiling fast until reduced to a rather stiff paste or marmalade—this will require about half an hour’s boiling. The preserve or jam must then be immediately put into jars and when cold, is to be covered with stiff paper, and tied round with string. Keep the jam in a cold place for use.

Old cookbook recipes from the 1800s did not have exact cooking temperatures because there were no thermometers.  Cooks used a wood burning stove or cooked over an open hearth.  They learned through experience how hot to build their fire and how long to cook (bake).  

The book below has vintage cake recipes adapted to modern times.  

Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon, and Icebox Cakes for Today’s Sweet Tooth

~~ Do You Ever Use Rhubarb?  Please leave a comment. ~~

Posted in Desserts, Fruits.


  1. Old recipes are such fun! But that bottled rhubarb recipe, which doesn’t require anything but a lid to be stored for winter’s use, well, that’s a little concerning, isn’t it? But I’d surely like to try that rhubarb jam recipe. I’ve never had rhubarb jam!

    • Yes, the bottled rhubarb doesn’t seem like it would be safe to use since there’s no salt, sugar or vinegar as preservatives. But rhubarb is quite sour, so maybe there’s a lot of acid in it. The jam does sound good. I might try it and add some strawberries or raspberries, too.

    • My aunt made strawberry rhubarb pie when I was young, but like you, I never heard of cream rhubarb pie. Since we can now buy frozen rhubarb in grocery stores, I plan to give it a try.

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