CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Rhubarb Sauce

It’s the beginning of June, and to a lot of people in the Northland, that means it’s the beginning of lake season.

But for the folks at University Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, it’s time for rhubarb. More specifically, the church’s annual Rhubarb Festival.

The church, located at 2122 University Ave., will be a beehive of activity from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, when rhubarb aficionados will gather for lunch and to sample and buy all sorts of desserts and baked goods.

I’m familiar with the festival, having been a contest judge back in 2005. Along with four or five other individuals, I was able to sample a bevy of cookies and other desserts, trying to settle on a winner.

I’ve always been a fan of rhubarb — also know as pie plant — ever since that first taste of Grandma Menard’s strawberry rhubarb jam. And, of course, there was Mom’s rhubarb sauce and rhubarb pies.

I have many other fond childhood memories of rhubarb, which is a member of the buckwheat family and a good source of vitamins A and C and potassium. One such is picking it from the patch of our Carmen Addition neighbors, the Stenbergs, and dabbing it in a bowl of sugar, perhaps after a baseball game at the vacant lot adjacent to Irishman Shanty, which owner Gladys O’Boyle happily shared with the neighborhood kids.

These days, I still love rhubarb, making several desserts, including a crisp that resembles a custard. And with a backyard patch — the greener variety not the red — that usually yields a bumper crop, those rhubarb desserts find their way to our dining room table regularly.

But my all-time favorite rhubarb concoction still is the sauce. The following recipe is one that I’ve used over the years. Tart yet sweet, the sauce, combined with a scoop or two of ice cream, makes me yearn for days of yore and a pick-up baseball game.

Rhubarb Sauce
4 cups rhubarb, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ to ¾ cup sugar
¼ to ½ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla, if using. Serve warm or cold over ice cream.
Yield: Serves 6.

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