Rhubarb is a bitter-tasting vegetable that typically accompanies jams, delicious strawberry rhubarb pies, and various juices for a complementary flavor. While its nutrient-rich stalks make it the perfect addition of vitamins and minerals to most desserts, its short shelf life requires it to be stored to reap these health benefits. Because rhubarb only lasts about five days in the refrigerator, knowing how to freeze rhubarb makes a significant difference.
Not only does freezing rhubarb mean you can use it for months past its expiration date, but it also replaces most of the ways we use fresh rhubarb. Often straddling the line of vegetable and fruit, rhubarb has a tangy taste similar to green apples and is easily recognizable by its bright pink stalks, cut and sold similar to celery in the grocery stores.
While harvest time for rhubarb season lasts from mid-spring to early summer, this is not enough time for consumers wanting year-long access to the sweet and sour flavor that rhubarb can provide. So how can you freeze rhubarb for more prolonged use and year-round flavor?
What to Know Before Learning How to Freeze Rhubarb
Follow these five simple freezing steps below to get started. Unlike some vegetables and fruits, rhubarb does not lose much by way of texture and taste as others do.
While freezing may result in a moderate loss of flavor and softening of the stalks, this affects the rhubarb little more than it usually would when cooking. Most recipes call for the shoots to soften before adding anyway, where freezing the rhubarb along with syrup or sugar retains all the flavor necessary for a yummy rhubarb sauce or rhubarb jam.
What are the Benefits of Freezing Rhubarb?
Beyond the increased shelf life from fresh rhubarb, the benefits of freezing rhubarb revolve around the nutrients it provides. Rhubarb is an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants, which are essential in increasing digestive functions and promoting brain health.
Now you may be wondering, can you freeze rhubarb without losing the nutrients? Freezing rhubarb does not diminish the quality of nutrients in the rhubarb and often allows for the veggie to retain more than it would if left out after a couple of days.
Can I freeze Rhubarb I grew in my Backyard?
Of course! Freezing the rhubarb you grew yourself is one of the best ways to extend the life of your harvest. Not only are you able to spread out the fruits of your labor year-round, but you are also able to preserve your rhubarb at its freshest. There are some precautions to take, however, when preparing rhubarb plucked directly from your backyard garden.
While rhubarb stalks are jam-packed with nutrients and flavor, the leaves are poisonous. Remove all traces of the leaves before freezing, along with tough strings attached to most garden-variety rhubarb. These steps are usually done for you ahead of time when purchased from a grocery store or farmers market.
How Can You Freeze Rhubarb in 5 Simple Steps?
You can easily freeze rhubarb if you follow these essential steps listed below.
1. How to Prepare Rhubarb for Freezing
Prepare your rhubarb by cleaning it in cold water first. Swish the stalks around in the water to loosen any dirt, and brush your fingertips along the stems to thoroughly clean them. Once your stalks are adequately dried, trim off the ends of the rhubarb and cut them into one-inch pieces.
You can also cut the rhubarb into ½ inch pieces. It depends on how much rhubarb you plan on using and what you plan on using it for in the future. Once you have finished cleaning and cutting the rhubarb, you are ready to move onto the next step and blanch it.
2. Freezing Rhubarb Using the Dry Pack Method
Even if you want to use the wet pack method for your rhubarb, you want to start by completing the dry pack process first. This method includes blanching the rhubarb, which is the best way to retain its flavor. Start by placing the chopped rhubarb pieces into boiling water for one minute.
After cooking, quickly transfer them to a large bowl of ice water. Stir the rhubarb stalks in the ice water for approximately two minutes before setting them on a towel or baking sheet to dry. Unlike other vegetables, rhubarb can still be a little moist when placed in the freezer.
The dry pack method works best when storing pieces for pies or rhubarb crisp. This method increases the shelf life of rhubarb up to four months, where the wet pack method allows you to freeze it up to a year.
If you plan on using the dry pack method only, continue to step four. Otherwise, read step three from the wet pack method.
3. Freezing Rhubarb with Syrup
If you want to use the wet pack method, this requires adding sugar water to your chopped rhubarb stalks. To create sugar water, start by heating the water on the stove. You want to use three times as much water as you do sugar, paying close attention to how much rhubarb you are planning to freeze.
Use approximately one cup of sugar water for every quart of rhubarb. You can also substitute juices like apple juice or peach juice instead. Stir in the sugar as the water begins to heat.
Once the mixture is thoroughly blended, allow it to cool before adding to a large bowl of rhubarb. Combine the rhubarb and sugar water in a large bowl and allow them to set before distributing the portions into a bag or jar in the next step.
This process is similar to how you would preserve most fruits like oranges or peaches. For freezing peaches without sugar, along with other fruits and vegetables like rhubarb, using lemon juice also works.
If you want to preserve your rhubarb for tangy tarts, then this method will also work. However, sugar water is the best way to protect rhubarb for use in most desserts.
4. How to Store Rhubarb in the Freezer
To store rhubarb, you will need freezer bags or an airtight container. The wet pack method should prevent freezer burn, but using resealable plastic bags without excess air will also keep the vegetables fresh and tasty. When packaging your rhubarb in a Ziploc bag, lay pieces of rhubarb in a single layer and ensure you remove all air from the bag before storing.
For containers, leave one inch of headspace between the rhubarb and the top of the container. Label the jars and bags with the date and food they are holding, then place them toward the front of the freezer, so you don’t forget them.
5. How to Thaw Frozen Rhubarb
How to thaw frozen rhubarb is a little different than how to thaw bananas, for example. Most fruits and veggies can be thawed by placing them in the refrigerator overnight or allowing them to thaw at room temperature. Thawing frozen rhubarb, however, depends more on what you plan to use it for when cooking.
Dishes like stewed rhubarb benefit from you tossing the rhubarb directly into the pot, no thawing is necessary. The same goes for drinks or juices made with rhubarb. The only difference is there is no need to add more water since moisture occurs once the rhubarb thaws.
For other desserts, such as rhubarb crisps, cakes, and muffins, it’s best to allow the rhubarb to thaw in the fridge or the microwave beforehand. This will cut back on unnecessary moisture in the food and also give you a more accurate amount in terms of servings for ingredients.
Rhubarb Crumble: A Favorite Recipe with Frozen Rhubarb
Now that you have learned the best way to freeze rhubarb, you will want to set aside a few fresh rhubarb recipes to use later. Rhubarb brings out the sugary taste in most desserts, which is why you should try our favorite recipe with frozen rhubarb: the best rhubarb crumble. This delicious dessert takes less than one hour to make and serves up to 12 people.
To make rhubarb crumble, start by preheating the oven to 375°F. Mix the rhubarb, sugar, and three tablespoons of flour in a large mixing bowl, then stir until evenly mixed. Pour them into a baking pan and set aside until ready to combine other ingredients.
Next, add brown sugar, the ½ cup of oats, and the remaining flour into a separate large bowl. Stir them until adequately blended, then mix in the butter. Pour this new mixture over the rhubarb, then bake for approximately 40 minutes. This meal can be served hot or cold and is a tasty way to treat your family to a yummy new dessert.
Whether you get your rhubarb from the grocery store, the farmers market, or your own backyard, freezing is the perfect option to keep your bundle of stalks lasting longer. Freezing rhubarb means you get to enjoy your veggies for months instead of mere days, and all the delicious desserts that accompany them.
So now you know you can freeze rhubarb and still retain most of the nutrients and texture. If you enjoyed these quick and easy steps for freezing rhubarb, don’t forget to share how to freeze rhubarb with friends and family on Facebook and Pinterest.