Do you happen to have an excessive amount of fresh rhubarb on your hands? Or how about a glut ‘ready to pick’ harvest that you are not quite ready to utilize yet? If so, learn how to freeze your rhubarb most effectively and seamlessly possible.
Not only does freezing rhubarb help you reduce waste and maintain freshness, but it allows you to leverage this wonderful vegetable to make delicious tart desserts and savory dishes now or a year from now.
Since rhubarb is often coupled with strawberries, you may be planning on freezing fresh strawberries as well. Be sure to consult this step-by-step guide and more in-depth information on how to freeze strawberries.
There is something quite exhilarating about picking perfect ‘ready to harvest’ rhubarb stalks from your garden and heading straight to the kitchen to whip up your favorite rhubarb recipes.
Rhubarb, also known as pieplant, is a truly delectable (and healthy) vegetable used in so many mouthwatering recipes.
This bright-colored green and red vegetable can easily be harvested from late spring into early summer.
But here’s the zinger; what if your bumper crop of rhubarb is ready to be harvested, but you are not ready to use it just yet?
Now, if you ever find yourself in this unique and wonderful situation, don’t deem your rhubarb harvest doomed just yet! There is a key solution to solve this dilemma, and it’s called freezing your rhubarb!
Despite its short season, rhubarb is actually a wonderful preservative, and freezing rhubarb is the easiest and most effective way to get the most of your bountiful harvest all year long.
If you are ready to learn how to freeze rhubarb and reduce waste, take a look at these step-by-step directions.
What you’ll need
- Rhubarb – as much as you’d like
- A sharp chef’s knife
- Freezer bags or freezer containers
- boiling water (optional for blanching)
How to freeze fresh rhubarb – from harvesting to freezing, to thawing
If you are new to the rhubarb harvesting game, you may have some questions about knowing when to pick your rhubarb.
Like asparagus, rhubarb is one of the first vegetables harvested, usually from mid-spring to early summer.
You can pick your stalks when they are about as thick as your finger and at least 8 inches long. Please make sure they are blemish-free. For reference, rhubarb tends to be the tastiest when it is closer to 12-18 inches long.
Make sure not to harvest your rhubarb in the first year of planting. As a young perennial plant, it still needs to develop a strong root system. Instead, wait for the second year and harvest just a few stalks over a 3-4-week period. By the third year, you can harvest as many mature stalks from your rhubarb plant as you’d like over a period of 8-10 weeks.
So now that you know when to harvest your rhubarb, here’s how to do it. First, grasp and twist the base of the rhubarb stalk with an upward movement. As a second option, you can use a sharp knife.
Although this tart vegetable is often used fresh, it freezes really well. The best time of the year to freeze rhubarb is when it is in peak season, either available at your farmer’s market, grocery stores or freshly picked. This will ensure the flavor and texture of the rhubarb is at their maximum.
If purchasing, look for crisp, brightly colored stalks. Limp and soft stalks are an indication that they are not fresh.
Let’s say you have your supply all harvested and ready to be frozen. The next step towards freezing rhubarb is getting it prepped and ready.
This includes cutting off the leaves and the bottom part of the stalks. Although the leaves are toxic to ingest, they are safe for your compost pile. [source]
Once done, thoroughly wash rhubarb stalks under cold running water.
Place on a clean tea lint-free tea towel and pat dry with paper towels or another clean tea towel.
Line up your stalks and with a very sharp knife, cut the stalks into ¾-1 inch pieces.
Blanching is a favored process that helps preserve the bright color of rhubarb and other vegetables before freezing. This is an entirely optional step, but one to think about implementing if you plan on freezing your rhubarb longer than three months.
To do this, bring a pot of water to a boil, and drop your cut raw rhubarb into it for one minute.
Once that minute is up, drain the boiling water immediately and run your rhubarb under cold water to stop it from cooking. After this, dry your rhubarb thoroughly before heading to the actual freezing phase.
The last step on this how-to freeze rhubarb guide is the freezing itself.
Arrange your rhubarb pieces, in a single layer, on a rimmed baking sheet or baking tray lined with parchment paper. Remember to use a baking sheet that fits in your freezer.
Place it in the freezer for about 2-3 hours.
Transfer the individual partially frozen rhubarb in resealable freezer bags. Use a straw or a sealer to remove the excess air, which reduces the formation of ice crystals and freezer burn.
Properly label your bags by indicating the date and place them in the freezer.
Congratulations! You successfully froze your rhubarb.
Now, depending on what you want to make with it, there are different methods of thawing it.
If you are cooking stewed rhubarb or making a rhubarb sauce, you can use the frozen pieces without thawing. However, keep in mind that you may have to reduce the amount of liquid used in the recipe to compensate for the high moisture content found in the frozen rhubarb.
For best results, thawing rhubarb is strongly recommended for delicious recipes like rhubarb cake, muffins, bread, crumbles, etc.
Now, there are several ways you can do this.
The most common being to place your frozen rhubarb in a sieve over a bowl to collect the excess liquid. You can leave it covered overnight in the fridge or on your kitchen counter, at room temperature, for a couple of hours.
You can also place the bag in a bowl of cold water to quickly thaw. Follow up by placing the contents of the bag in a sieve over a bowl to collect the excess moisture.
Fun Fact: One pound of harvested rhubarb equates to about three cups of chopped pieces, both raw and frozen. This same amount yields to about two cups when cooked.
The best procedure to store fresh rhubarb in the refrigerator is to wrap the stalks loosely in aluminum foil. This method maintains crisp stalks for up to 10 days.
Frozen rhubarb will keep in the freezer for up to one year. However, it is more likely to experience freezer burn the longer it stays in the freezer. If you have one, use a chest freezer as this will provide a higher quality when the time comes to defrost it.
In summary, freezing rhubarb is not as complex of a process as one may think. It all boils down to knowing when the perfect time to harvest is, the quick prepping process in-between, and using your rhubarb supply within the allocated one-year window to ensure its freshness.
And for anyone wondering if freezing rhubarb hinders the quality of nutrients, the answer is no. In fact, freezing your rhubarb holds in more nutrients than if you left your rhubarb out for a couple of days!
Overall, rhubarb freezes really well and is an excellent ingredient to make tasty dishes and desserts any time of the year.
Luckily, all you need is a simple step-by-step guide on how to freeze rhubarb like this one, some fresh rhubarb, and an old-fashioned freezer to make that happen.
Such a great way to enjoy summer produce throughout the year!
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How to Freeze Rhubarb
- 1 bunch rhubarb or as much as you want
- Trim the ends and discard any leaves attached to the plant as they are toxic.
- Place the rhubarb in a colander and rinse under cold running water.
- Remove excess moisture with a tea towel.
- Cut the rhubarb into ¾-1 inch pieces.
- Place cut rhubarb on a baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper.
- Place the baking sheet in your freezer for about 2-3 hours.
- Transfer the individual partially frozen rhubarb in resealable freezer bags.
- Use a straw or a sealer to remove as much air as possible. This, in turn, will reduce the formation of ice crystals.
- Properly label your bags by indicating the date and place your bag in the freezer.