Strawberry rhubarb romance

 

I love it when things come together unexpectedly.  Even though it seems obvious now, I had no idea strawberries and an absolutely sour stalk of a vegetable make for a match worth obsessing about. . .

Strawberries hardly need an introduction — they are the luscious berry of family picnics and summer holidays — they are the sweetest and most universally loved fruit imaginable.  I would even go so far as to call them the poetic symbol of spring.

Rhubarb on the other hand is relatively unknown. It is grown mostly in North America, the British Isles, Scandinavia and northern Europe. It goes beyond tart, is practically impossible to eat raw and cannot be brought to the table without somehow making its way to the stove first. It’s most redeeming quality seems to be its brightly colored outer stalks.

What makes these two work so well together and why didn’t I know about this earlier I wonder?  Suffice it to say that my upbringing in Italy didn’t familiarize me with this particular ingredient. Incompatible in their raw state, when heat comes into play, these rivaling  ingredients suddenly melt together to form the perfect pair.

I have made this conserve over and over again in the last few weeks. I am even finding every excuse to drizzle it over the ingredients to every meal, from whole grain toast in the morning to my green salad with goat’s cheese and pink pepper for supper. In fact as I write these words, I am trying to ignore the urge to take the jar out of the refrigerator for just one more spoonful . . .

Ingredients 

  • 500 grams fresh organic strawberries
  • 500 grams rhubarb stalks
  • the juice of one orange
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a pinch of sea salt flakes
  • 50-75 grams of raw cane sugar

Wash the rhubarb and cut it into bit-sized pieces of about one centimeter in width.  Put the rhubarb in a mixing bowl. Squeeze the juices of the fresh orange and lemon over it. Add the sea salt and raw can sugar to the bowl and toss the ingredients well. Let the rhubarb marinate about fifteen minutes. This softens the stalks, making the cooking process easier. Interestingly enough, the rhubarb’s quick bath in citrus and sugar delivers a brighter red conserve once cooked.

Meanwhile, rinse the strawberries in cold water and shake them dry.  Remove their green stems with a paring knife and cut the strawberries in half. Place the bowl of marinated rhubarb in a sauce pan with a heavy bottom and add the strawberries. Bring the ingredients to a vivid bubble, then turn down the heat to simmering point.

Cook the rhubarb-strawberry mixture 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the liquid has reduced to the consistency of a thick homemade tomato sauce, turn off the heat. Taste it for the right balance between tartness and sweetness. Add some extra sugar or orange juice if needed, and cook a while longer. Allow the conserve to cool completely.  It will thicken even more as it comes to room temperature.

Sterilize a glass jar and its lid by boiling it in water ten minutes. Remove the jar and allow it to cool before spooning in the rhubarb and strawberries. Stick a piece of orange peel in the jar for extra flavor, or infuse it with a small piece of pure vanilla bean. Put on the lid and pop the contents of this pretty little jar into the fridge. The conserve will keep for approximately two weeks. However the color and flavor is the freshest within the first week of its preparation.

Suggested combinations

Combine strawberry and rhubarb conserve with anything that benefits from the pairing of sweet with savory. Think salad with a mixture of salty Pecorino, crumbled goat’s cheese or even feta. Stir it through yoghurt of any kind, whether made from dairy or with a plant base like almonds or coconut.  Add it to granola or use it as a filling for a crostata. . .

Notes 

Add more or less sugar than the recipe mentions, depending on your personal preference.

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