Spring and summer are, to me, suffused with the tart, floral scent of rhubarb. I don’t just make pies and crisps and bars with it. I spread it on my toast, stir it into my yogurt, and drink it in pink sodas. All thanks to three ingredients, zero skill, and a little time. In other words, you, too, could live this beatific idyll, with almost no kitchen skills required. Let me show you how.


  • 4 C chopped rhubarb (1 stalk yields about 1 cup, chopped)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 C water
  • 1 t salt (optional)

Special equipment: a large pot with a lid, a strainer

Yield: 2 C Rhubarb Syrup, 2 C Rhubarb Compote

As you can tell, you can scale this up and down easily.

The rhubarb should cut be in about a 1/2″ chunks. Toss that, the water, and the sugar (and salt if you wish) into a big pot on the stove and give it a stir. My rhubarb wasn’t super ripe; if yours is, you’ll get a deeper pink color (and more flavor) from your syrup.

Put on the lid, turn up the heat, and set the timer for about 25 minutes. Let it boil along. Don’t worry when  the rhubarb begins to break down, shredding into little strings, like this:

That just means it’s getting there. You can test it by giving it a stir or gently pushing a piece of rhubarb against the side of the pot. If it smooshes like melted butter, it’s ready.

Set a strainer over a bowl and carefully pour the pot over it. I was a little haphazard and got a drop on my arm; it felt like a drop of LAVA straight from the mouth of Vesuvius.

Go ahead and mush your spatula into the goo; you want to get as much liquid out as you can without actually pushing the rhubarb through the strainer. You should end up with a decent-sized bowl of liquid and a strainer of mush.

Congratulations, you have made Rhubarb Compote! Like a bonafide domestic deity! Set that aside to cool and pour the liquid back into your pot. You’re going to take it to a medium boil and let it cook down to concentrate the flavor and thicken it.

Bring it to a boil again, this time without covering the pot. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to a medium simmer, like the one on the left, NOT a rolling boil, like the one on the right, which will send it foaming all over your stove. Once again, do as I say, not as I do….

If you’re fastidious, you can run a spatula along the sides every now and then to skim the foam off; it will make your finished syrup smoother. But it’s mostly aesthetic, so if you can’t be bothered, don’t sweat it.

Reduce it down to your taste– I simmered it for about 20 minutes. If you want to use it as a pancake-type syrup, you may want to thicken it up more. The timing kind of depends on your elevation and heat levels, so just check it every 5 minutes or so, giving it a stir. Hold up the spatula and draw your finger through the syrup on the back to check it– your finger should leave a line through when it is ready.

NOW you can do WHATEVER you want with it!! The compote can be spread like jam on toast or cookies or stirred into ice cream. Fill hand pies with it, or use it in place of the fruit in a crisp, bar, or coffeecake. You can even plop a spoonful into the middle of muffin batters before you bake them. My favorite way to eat it is also the easiest– stir it into Greek yogurt, add some granola, and start your day.

I mostly use the syrup for drinking– start with about a shot’s worth of syrup over ice, then fill your cup with soda water and adjust the syrup to taste. You can also upgrade your cocktails with this bright pink deliciousness; it can be used in place of simple syrup in everything from margaritas or mimosas to mojitos.  Try this out:

Rhubarb Gin Fizz

  • Ice
  • 1 shot gin
  • 1 shot Rhubarb Syrup
  • Soda Water

Pour the gin and rhubarb syrup over the ice; stir. Add soda to taste for the pinkest and most refreshing drink you’ll have all summer! Best enjoyed on the patio, in the sunlight, with your feet up. You deserve it.

Facebook Comments