Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup - childhood memories and grown up cocktails.
After looking and hoping and waiting for the past month that I would see it in the market, it finally arrived….Rhubarb. I started getting a craving to make something with it after it began popping up on Instagram feeds and in magazines everywhere I looked. Weeks behind everyone else it seemed, I was starting to think that for some reason it wasn’t going to be around this year. All of my memories of rhubarb are from Oregon and Montana so I thought maybe it just isn’t available in this part of California…which would be a little odd since most things are…so why wasn’t it here! I just kept checking (and hoping) every time I was at a market that I would see it, and after the first few weeks of waiting, I even decided to order myself some seeds and plant my own rhubarb plant…vowing that I would never have this problem again in the future….haha. And now I never will because I will have my own plants and I know that they DO come to the market sooner or later.
Let’s start with the memories and end the cocktails….
At the home where I lived in Montana with my dad and siblings during part of my childhood there were four plants that left a lasting impression on me….and rhubarb is one of them. The backyard of our house was nothing to write home about…It wasn’t pruned or landscaped….it wasn’t even really all that pretty but it has a deep special overgrown and out of control place in my heart. The things that grew there are still among my favorites today and I know that they will always remain that way. There is something magical about a smell, taste, sight or sound that get’s imprinted into your soul as a child….nothing can really ever take it’s place. Even as your life grows and expands it keeps itself locked away deep down inside, just waiting for the right moment to come rushing back to you, carrying a special memory of a moment.
Tulips and Daffodils - In Montana the first flowers of spring were tulips and daffodils and the site was always a welcome one. After months of the gray, brown and white of winter and the smells (or lack there of) of a season when so much feels lifeless, the little green starts popping up from the earth were always exciting. On the side of our little old white house there was a patch of dirt that ran along the foundation and this is where the tulips and daffodils would sit and wait for winter to end. The colors and smells were a sign that we had made it through another season and that there were greener and sunnier days ahead…a feeling you can only truly understand if you have lived in a place with real winters. To this day the site of those first shoots coming up from the earth send a shot of excitement through my body and the smell sends me back to moments by that little patch of dirt when I would admire their color and fragrance.
Lilacs - These lovely petite lavender flowers falling in bunches like grapes just speak to my heart and the smell is one that powerfully stirs my memories and emotions. To both sides of the back door of our house and to the side of the garage grew lilac trees. I can so clearly hear the opening of the old screen door and feel my bare feet as I walk down the steps and look to one side or the other at these trees. I remember they were big and deep and I never wanted to go under them because I was worried about spiders. I can still feel the leaves and flowers in my hands and I remember loving that each of the trees was a different color….a light purple, a dark purple and a white one. The white was always my least favorite and it’s funny now how that stands out to me….I really don’t know why. Maybe I was tired of white after a winter of snow or maybe I didn’t like the white flowers against the old white house…or maybe I just loved the color of the purple…Either way and any color….lilacs have made their way into that magical place in my soul. I know for my dad the story was the same. There was something memorable about lilacs for him as well. I have such clear pictures of him in my head smelling lilacs and delighting in the fragrance. After he passed away last year I learned from my Aunt that they had them at their house as children too. Maybe those special childhood memories deep down inside of him are the reason why he loved them so much? They are the reason I love them so much…or maybe he is why I love them so much…either way…. I do.
Cherries - Story and recipe here :)
Rhubarb - Last but not least. Farthest from the house, by an ally, and under a pine tree grew a rhubarb plant and my reason for writing this post. I always loved and was fascinated by this odd plant with it’s red sour stalks and green non edible leaves…and by the fact that it came back every single year as if someone actually took care of it. It’s flavor was unlike anything else I had ever had and I loved the fact that it grew there under that tree… just special for me it seemed. Now, there are lots of amazing things that can be made with rhubarb if you are a baker or a maker (like the recipe below...wink wink), but if you are a kid with little means and or a parent that is going to bake something for you….you dip that pretty red sour stalk right in some sugar and have the most amazing sweet and sour treat a plant right out of the garden (or under and old pine tree) could bring! This was usually how I had it, and I have memories of eating it this way with one of my best friends from a plant at her house too (I wasn’t the only weird one). I haven’t had it that way since I was a kid, but I can still taste it and smell that oh so unique smell of the rhubarb. Today this seems like an incredibly unhealthy thing to do and I can’t believe that our parents let us have it this way….but I’m so glad they did. It is a great memory and one that I keep deep down inside.
And now after all of that reminiscing I am ready to make a drink….
The main addition to the cocktails and the first recipe below is a beautifully delicious strawberry rhubarb syrup. It is sweet and tart and the perfect addition to summertime. If cocktails aren’t your thing, it could be added to a homemade lemonade or Italian soda. It could also be a topping for ice cream, panna cotta, yogurt or even pancakes. Have fun with it and have a wonderful summer!
Strawberry Rhubarb syrup
1 lb Rhubarb diced
1/2 lb Strawberries hulled and quartered
3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup water
Place cut up rhubarb and strawberries in a medium saucepan, add sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook for 10 - 15 min, stirring occasionally and until slightly broken down and syrupy. Remove from the heat, add mint sprig. Let it sit for 1 to 2 min and then remove. Cover and let cool. Once cooled, run though a fine mesh strainer or good cheesecloth to collect all of the syrup. The leftover fruit can be discarded or used to your liking.
Yields approximately 1 1/2 cups
Strawberry rhubarb mimosa
Strawberry rhubarb syrup
Strawberry and min sprig for garnish
In a 7 or 8 oz champagne flute add 3 to 4 Tbsp of syrup (or to taste) and then top with prosecco. Garnish with strawberry and mint sprig. Sip and savor!
Strawberry rhubarb Gin fizz
2 oz Gin
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz strawberry rhubarb syrup
2-3 oz club soda
Lemon slice and mint sprig for garnish
In a cocktail shaker with ice, add the gin and lemon juice and shake. Fill a 10 - 12 oz glass 3/4 full with ice. Strain gin and lemon juice over ice, add syrup and club soda. Stir gently to mix in the syrup and garnish with lemon and mint. Relax and enjoy!