Consider yourself warned: there’s going to be a whole lotta rhubarb going on here this spring.
Aside from it being one of the first things ready to be harvested from the garden in the spring, it’s also one of my absolute favorites. I’m a total sucker for that sweet-tart flavor combination. The scent of rhubarb immediately brings me back to memories of growing up, when mom would give me a handful of rhubarb chunks and a little bowl of sugar to dip them in as a treat. Yep, that’s right, raw rhubarb. That’s how I rolled (and still do, sometimes).
So then it shouldn’t be a stretch to believe that I have spent a good chunk of my free time since, oh, January thinking about all the rhubarb recipes I’d like to try this season. Among the ideas for jams, liqueur, and baked goods, the idea started brewing to try rhubarb fruit leather. After looking through a number of recipes, I had a rough idea of how to make fruit leather and an inspiration for flavors: rhubarb, honey, and cinnamon. In those dreary days of winter, I never dared to think that I would have made this and several other rhubarb recipes by mid April (keep in mind that it looked like this one year ago, and the rhubarb was just a few inches tall at the time).
I cooked up a steaming pot of delicious smelling rhubarb puree and added my honey and cinnamon, but there was just one little problem: it needed something more. The color was a little anemic and it needed more sweetness (it was very tart, even for the girl who likes to take a bite or two of raw rhubarb). Not wanting to add a ton of sugar to make it work, I decided to throw in a small bag of frozen strawberries left over from last summer. A little more time on the stove to cook them down (the color improved almost immediately) and another whirl of the immersion blender, and I was back in business with the perfect sweet-tart balance, and just the right amount of depth with the honey and cinnamon.
And they come out of the oven with an even richer flavor. You can definitely discern every ingredient, but all together, it’s simply amazing! My mind is now racing with all kinds of flavor combinations I want to try: strawberry and basil? raspberry and mint? cherry and vanilla? apple and cinnamon? I think I’ve found my new breakfast of champions for those mornings I need something to grab and go.
Rhubarb Fruit Leather with Strawberries, Honey, and Cinnamon
4 generous cups rhubarb, diced
1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen (unsweetened)
1/4 cup water
2 – 4 tablespoons honey
Cinnamon, to taste
Preheat oven to lowest setting, between 150 and 200 degrees, and lightly spray a baking sheet with regular cooking spray or line with parchment paper (you could also use a dehydrator, if you have one).
Add diced rhubarb, strawberries, and water to a heavy pot and cook until rhubarb is softened. Puree with an immersion blender (you should end up with approximately 2-3 cups of puree). Stir honey and cinnamon into rhubarb puree (taste for sweetness and adjust according to taste; the natural sweetness/tartness will vary).
Spread mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheet, and place in oven. If it is safe to do so, leave the oven door cracked slightly to allow the moisture to escape and keep air circulating in the oven. Allow to dry in the oven until surface is no longer sticky, between 2 and 4 hours, depending on oven temp and thickness. I recommend rotating the pan every 30 minutes or so to assist with even drying. Remove from oven and allow to continue to air dry overnight. Slice into strips (use a pizza cutter for a slick way to get the job done) and store wrapped in parchment paper.
Recipe adapted from “Berry Leather” in Put ‘Em Up!