Rhubarb, Robins, and the Regular Season

Rhubarb StalksRhubarb season is here! And about time, since all the ‘barb cut and frozen last year is gone. Chuck is planting some this year, and it should be ready to harvest in about two years; until then, I am dependent on the kindness of strangers to provide me with the scarlet stalks.

RhubarbPictured is a strawberry-rhubarb tart I made last week; the appearance of Florida berries and rhubarb, not robins, is the first true sign of spring. (Too bad, Mr. Robin.) I’m not going to give you the pie recipe, though, because you’ll either (a) sniff that you don’t eat sugar any more; (b) whimper about past pie crust failures; or (c) confide that your kids “don’t care for pie”, in which case I strongly advise you to get a new set of children.

Soda Syrups
No, instead, I’m going to start you off with a simple, simple recipe that will start you on to learning to love rhubarb. Flavored syrups easy and have all sorts of uses in the kitchen – just the kind of recipe you want in the pantry. Use it to make your own soda by mixing with club soda; it’s great in lemonade, too. Because it’s a simple syrup, you can make all kinds of cocktails out of it. How about mixing it with into hard cider? You could call it a Red Robin, if you don’t feel silly naming your alcoholic drinks. Or ordering them, for that matter.

(Oh! And “rhubarb”, in the argot of baseball, is slang for a fight on the field. And since Opening Day of the regular season is a springtime event, too. Watching a ball game, eatin’ pie, and drinkin’ soda – there’s no end to the wonder that is rhubarb!)

Rhubarb Syrup
(about 12 ounces)

1 pound rhubarb, cut into ½” pieces
½ Cup sugar
½ Cup water

In a saucepan, bring rhubarb, sugar, and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Pour the contents of the pot into a fine-meshed strained over a bowl or large measuring cup. Let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes. Gently press on the solids to extract all the juice.

Bottle it and save it in the fridge for several weeks.

The Gift of Boilo

I like to eschew over-the-counter head-cold remedies. They seem to be all side effect/no main effect. And since we’ve heard that it’s a bad idea to mix drugs and alcohol, the availability of Nyquil has always been puzzling. Stuff’s about 25% alcohol but its cult members genuflect before it. I tried it once at the urging of a friend and had a mind-blowing out-of-body experience that’s still providing interesting flashbacks lo, these many years later. Well, at least I forgot about the sniffles.

Why not skip the drugs and just stick with the alcohol? The hot toddy has a long history as a cold remedy. Which brings me to “boilo”, a traditional Christmas holiday drink from the eastern Pennsylvania coal region. (The “Champagne of the Pennsylvania coal region, to be exact.) It’s a highly spiced, citrusy, honey-sweetened whiskey concoction that’s heated and imbibed as hot as humanly possible. I forgot all about it until Chuck was advised to avoid all cold remedies that contained epinephrine. I thought a hot toddy might provide a little relief and remembered the boilo. Read more