Friday, June 3, 2011

Rhubarb Syrup & Tonic

TONIC [ton-ik]: ( definition)

1. a medicinal preparation intended to improve and strengthen the functioning of the body or increase the feeling of wellbeing
2. anything that enlivens or strengthens

I would say that anything this pink, this beautifully tart and sweet is surely a tonic for the mind and body. If nettle drink was my early spring tonic then this is most definitely my "waiting for summer" tonic.

The rhubarb plants were divided this last year and haven't been producing to their full potential yet. Knowing this, I don't want to over-harvest (limit production for future years) and yet I don't want to waste those ruby red, pencil-thin stalks of goodness that could be harvested.

After reading about various drinks that could be made with rhubarb syrup (and tasting one myself at a shi shi hotel downtown), I decided to make one that really captured the essence of the rhubarb- no lemon juice or vanilla to muddy the flavours- just rhubarb in a simple syrup. A few tablespoons of this elixir can be served in hot or cold still water, sparkling water or in a cocktail if you are an avid drink mixer. If you have a sweet tooth, I've seen recipes for trifle enlivened by rhubarb and the syrup would be amazing soaked into the sponge cake.

I imagine this as a beverage being served at a garden party- sun shining, fresh garden goodness on the table and a fizzy pink drink in hand. Perfect.
Rhubarb Syrup
Mix a few tablespoons of this syrup into hot or cold water. Sparkling water gives the best effect and enlivens the smell of the beverage. Or try it drizzled pound cake or strawberries and ice cream! Or maybe on pancakes or oatmeal? The possibilities are endless...

2 cups water
2 cups organic cane sugar
2 cups chopped rhubarb

1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, cover with lid and simmer 5-10 minutes or until rhubarb has completely softened.
2. Strain through a fine mesh sieve or a couple layers of cheesecloth to remove fiber. Lightly press on the fibers to release some of the juice but don't press hard enough to make them pass through the sieve (you don't want any thick gloop! You can use the leftover fiber in plain yogurt, oatmeal or eat it with a spoon now!)
3. Pour into a clean glass container and keep refrigerated until use.

Rhubarb Tonic or Soda

sparkling or fizzy water
rhubarb syrup
ice cubes

1. Fill glass with ice. Pour 3/4 full with sparkling water. Add syrup to taste, usually a few tablespoons is sufficient. Enjoy!