This recipe for rhubarb syrup is one of the first cocktail syrups I make every year. The rich flavours and excesses of Christmas are a distant memory. Pancake Day was all too brief and I’m searching like an ant for some unashamed sugary sweetness.
Forced rhubarb comes into season very early in the year in England, usually around February. When the skies are a still a dirty dishcloth grey and the bright blue skies of spring seem a long way off, the bright pink stems of forced rhubarb on a market stall are a cheering sight.
Forced rhubarb is a must for this recipe. Old green stems will not produce the pretty pink colour you need for the syrup or the flavour and you will need considerably more sugar to sweeten them. Buy them fresh when they are in season. And go for stems that are bright pink and unblemished.
Prep time: 1 hour
- 4 sticks rhubarb chopped (about 400g)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- Place the chopped rhubarb and water in a heavy-bottomed pan, preferably non-stick. Place over medium heat and slowly bring to simmer.
- Leave out the sugar for now. You can add the sugar for an all-in method but this will just make it a bit sticky when you come to strain it.
- Gently simmer for about 20 mins until the rhubarb is very soft. But don’t over boil. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.
- Skim off any foam that appears. This won’t spoil the flavour of your syrup. But it will spoil the look of it.
- After 20 mins take the pan off the heat and leave to cool.
- Strain through a fine-mesh sieve by gently pressing with the back of a spoon until you have squeezed most of the liquid out. Keep the pulp. It will be delicious in a crumble or cake.
- Measure the liquid. You will need 1 cup of rhubarb liquid.
- Return to the clean pan and add the sugar. Heat slowly to dissolve the sugar. There is no need to boil.
- Once the sugar has dissolved the liquid should be a lovely glossy pink. Pour through a funnel into a sterilised jar or bottle.
- The resulting syrup has a delicate rhubarb flavour. Use in a Bellini or use to make a rhubarb drizzle cake or use to infuse your favourite gin with the essence of spring.