When I bought my new house, I noticed there were no screens on almost all of the windows. Not to worry, I thought, they’ll be in the basement or the shed. Oh, you know where this is headed, don’t you? Yup, you’re right. There were no screens to be found. Did I mention that I’m a fresh air freak? Oh yeah, I like my windows open.
A couple weeks ago I found a place that makes screens, and glory be, today a wonderful fellow came and installed them. As I write this post, I’m sitting beside my wide-open office window. There’s a breeze wafting in, and it’s carrying — no kidding — the scent of lilacs and birdsong. It’s a zippittydoodah moment over here.
I’m celebrating not just fresh air and another step toward making this charming century cottage my home, but also spring’s bounty. Today is all about the rhubarb. When I was growing up on the farm, there was a 20-foot long bed of rhubarb running alongside the garage. I have no idea what Mom did with all of it (I think a lot went unharvested), but I do remember my brother and I dipping stalks in a dish of sugar to offset the rhubarb’s mouth puckering powers. There may have been some dares involved.
A couple of years ago I made apple butter for the first time, and in researching that discovered there’s a whole range of fruit butters just waiting to be made. I filed that away for future reference, and then this week inspiration struck in the form of a post by Meghan Telpher for a rhubarb butter made with apple. That got me in recipe development mode, and I checked out this strawberry rhubarb butter on the blog Simple Bites, too. And then of course I made my own variation.
Do you remember the rhubarb compote I made three years ago? Oh, yes, I thought it was indelibly etched in your memory. That was the first time I tried the combination of rhubarb, orange and vanilla, so I converted that recipe into today’s rhubarb orange butter. Okay, I know there’s nothing particularly ‘spring’ about oranges, and they certainly aren’t local to where I live, but this combination is a heady elixir indeed. There’s almost a floral quality to the flavour, and there’s just the right balance of tanginess and subtle sweetness. The texture that results from long simmering makes this butter versatile for a variety of uses. And, oh, the aroma while it was cooking!
I’ve been enjoying this fruit butter spread on toast, topping a plain vanilla and almond milk chia seed pudding (just leave out the raspberries from this recipe), and straight off a spoon. And I have more ideas, people, lots more ideas!
So. Good. So. Spring. Rhubarb orange butter is the taste equivalent of a breath of fresh air.
Rhubarb Orange Butter
Don’t be fooled by the term ‘butter.’ This is not a dairy product; instead, ‘butter’ refers to the consistency resulting when a fruit puree is slow-cooked to significantly reduce the liquid. Not only does the method result in a buttery texture, but flavour and colour also intensify. I used Meghan Telpher’s method of pureeing the fruit prior to cooking it down, and was happy with the result, although there are few different ways to go about this.
Note, I was able to find a beautiful red-skinned rhubarb, which enhances the colour of the rhubarb butter.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 1-1/2 cups rhubarb orange butter
- 1 lb rhubarb (3 cups, chopped about 1/2″ thick)
- 1 orange, supremed (i.e., sectioned, with as much of the pith and membrane between sections removed as possible — you can find how-to guides out there on the internet)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, but I like the contrast of the dark flecks of vanilla bean)
- pinch of kosher salt
Place the orange segments (and any juice squeezed from the membranes) and the chopped rhubarb into a powerful blender and puree until smooth. Working with fruits isn’t an exact science in terms of measurements, but I ended up with about 3 cups of puree and it was surprisingly liquid.
Pour the puree into a heavy, medium saucepan. Stir in the honey, vanilla bean paste and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat to a simmer. I didn’t use the lowest setting on my stove; rather, had it slightly above a simmer to effect a gentle bubbling. (Just to be clear, don’t put a lid on the pot, as the idea is to evaporate the juices. I used a splatter screen just to be on the safe side, to avoid having a mess to clean up.)
Stir every 5 minutes or so, until the butter has reduced to the point where it’s thick, the bubbles are sticky looking and the colour has intensified. I cooked mine for 45 minutes. A couple of times when I let it go a little longer between stirs it felt a bit sticky on the bottom of the pan, but it didn’t burn. Still, it’s best to keep a careful eye on it as the sugars in the fruit and honey could easily burn. I stayed in the kitchen during this time to avoid forgetting to check on it.
The original puree reduced by half, to 1-1/2 cups. The butter was thick and still a bit juicy, but suitable for spreading on toast. The next time I make this I just may let it simmer a full hour and see what the difference is.
I decanted the final product evenly into two small mason jars that I had sterilized with boiling water. Because I’ll be using the rhubarb butter up in the next week or two I just stored them in the fridge, but for longer storage you can preserve it through canning. I read somewhere that you can also freeze fruit butters, although I haven’t tried that yet.