the rhubarb thing

There are loads of really good rhubarb recipes out there – but you do need a) a copious quantity of rhubarb and b) the equipment to sterilise your preserving jars etc – as my cooker still isn’t piped in, I can’t even do that the old fashioned way…mustn’t grumble, but I can’t even make a crumble 😉
While the British are generally credited with being the first to turn rhubarb into pudding, it’s the rest of the world who have made imaginative pairings with other fruit.
Marks and Spencers, that bastion of British institutions, (a store most famous for quite posh food and supplying our ‘great’ nation with sensible knickers,) brought out a range of fizzy drinks last year based on the hard boiled sweets of our childhoods, with cute retro labels and lovely chunky glass bottles – the rhubarb and custard one was so delicious, I can’t begin to describe my potential addiction. Luckily, they cost £2 odd a bottle so that saved me from myself.
Anyway, I had 3 decent sticks of rhubarb and 2 small ones from the community garden down the road, not enough for anything major and I’ve been hankering after that drink – this is not a particularly healthy recipe, so it’s just as well to make it in small amounts.
I keep one pot of sugar with a vanilla pod in it – I don’t use it very often, but if you don’t split the pod when you’re making things, you can put the sugar and the pod into a syrup, then wipe the pod dry afterwards, and pop it back in the jar – lasts for ages, I think my current pod is about 3 years old and still working.

Ingredients – makes about 400ml, which you dilute 1:3 parts fizzy water
3-4 sticks of rhubarb, cut into 2-3 cm chunks
200g vanilla sugar + equal volume of water
1 vanilla pod – to be re-used
Few drops of beetroot juice for a nice lurid colour
A mean (one finger, one thumb) pinch of citric acid or to taste – but add by only tiny, tiny amounts – optional

Method
Put the rhubarb, sugar, water and vanilla pod into a pan, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring to the boil for 5 minutes (until the rhubarb is softened) and remove from the heat.
Leave to cool and infuse, remove vanilla pod and wipe off, then strain into a jug through a sieve. Lots of recipes suggest you either leave this to happen really slowly for a really clear cordial, or push the rhubarb against the sieve to extract as much juice as possible – I didn’t bother, because I was planning on using the rhubarb pulp in a smoothie.
Add enough beetroot juice (I used the liquid from a vacuum packed pack of beetroot) to turn it quite a shocking pink – you are going to dilute it, and adjust acid/sugar balance to your taste.

I froze most of mine so I didn’t drink it all at once and make myself sick.

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