Nothing takes me back to my childhood in Michigan like the smell of rhubarb. That and of course screaming out various words used to describe a woman’s reproductive parts and then running from the law. In the summertime, when we had enough of the MI mosquitoes, we would drive out to visit family in the great state of Minnesota where the insect is the state bird. My grandmother, a staunch Swede, had an incredible garden which she protected from outside predators with various weapons. I can only imagine what she would think of this this mamby-pamby business we have in B-ville of saving every critter that invades your garden. If critter threatened your crop, critter must die. There was no discussion. But being a good Christian woman, she would always insist on a prayer before burial–after all, she was not a heathen and the dead (fill in the blank) was a creature of God.
Rhubarb, a hearty plant with poisonous leaves and a sour but an edible stalk, was always a standard in her garden. The critters, as well as a May frost, did not seem to bother the leafy, red stalked plant. She would make rhubarb crunch, rhubarb tea, rhubarb “dessert” or rhubarb salad. “Salad” or “dessert” were words usually used to describe a dish that contained Jello, mini marshmallows, flaked coconut, oleo and or whipped topping. As a child I learned to avoid any dish with the word “glorified” in the name as it would usually taste like throw-up (and, yes, I have tried my fair share of throw-up).
So if you have ever wondered what in the Sam Gustafson to do with the rhubarb you see for sale in farmer’s markets I present you with a few options. The recipes pictured are from the “1969 Messiah Ladies Guild Tasting Lunch Book,” my grandmother’s Lutheran Church. I have the books from 1968-1985. Each one contains at least one recipe containing rhubarb glorified and not so glorified.
FOR THE COCKTAIL:
- 1-2 liters of good lemonade
- 3-4 stalks of fresh rhubarb
- Sparkling white wine
If you have the time and are not a last minute Suzy like me, cut the rhubarb into 1/2″ chunks and let it steep in the water for a few days. If you are short on time or you simply cannot wait to make one of these babies and pour it down your gullet, try this:
- Cut the rhubarb up into 1/2″ chunks (about 4 cups)
- Pour boiling water over the chopped rhubarb enough to cover all of the pieces. Let sit for about 30 minutes.
- Take the rhubarb with the water and throw it into the blender. Blend well.
- Strain liquid through sieve and wring the pulp with your hands until you get most of the liquid out
- Pour the strained mixture into a pitcher and add lemonade until it is full. You can stop here for a refreshing non-alcoholic bevy.
- In a tall glass with ice, pour sparkling wine until the glass is half full. Top it off with rhubarb-lemonade and a torn or muddled basil leaf.
If too much white wine gives you a headache in the heat, try adding a shot of vodka and a touch of the sparkling wine.
If you are drinking in the heat or sun, be sure to drink plenty of water while consuming any type of boozy bevy or–trust me–you will feel glorified for about an hour and like Jello salad the next day.
So Baristaville what shall we call this refreshing, sweet and tart bevy?