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Getting Into A Little Rhubarb
Categories: Dairy, Herbs, Pork, Rhubarb

Food Fight

Everything I know about rhubarb fits into a tin or a diamond—from the sweet-tart pie filling that out-sours both Pippin and Granny Smith apples to the everyday scuffles that used to define baseball before money did.  (Did somebody say sour?)

So when my sister-in-law walked me through the early part of her garden clipping rhubarb for a Mother’s Day dessert, I wasn’t sure what to do with the big red celery-like stalks she gave me.  I knew there was a soup in there somewhere but I didn’t know how to find it.

My first instinct was to make a sweet-tart fruit soup, a rhubarb strawberry or rhubarb mint.  But I’m not really into the dessert soup thing and an amuse bouche wouldn’t get a lot of play at my house.

What I settled on was something more savory.  Drawing inspiration from the classic sweet and sour pairing of pork and apples, I sauteed the rhubarb with onions and combined it with well-seasoned pork that I browned separately.  But the pork wasn’t enough. When I added the stock, and put all the elements together, the rhubarb beat up on everything else in the pot.

There’s a reason why rhubarb is another word for a fight.

All my remaining efforts went into taming the rhubarb and giving the soup a mellower flavor. Sage, brown sugar, sour cream and green onions turned this dish into a really good soup—with a little nuance and a lot of punch.

Not to worry, though, the gloves are on.  Nobody’s going to get hurt.

Bonus Recipe:
As I was messing around with the leftover pork, I stumbled on what should have been an obvious alternative solution to my rhubarb soup quandary—heat.

I have always loved hot and sour soups.  From the Tom Yum soups of Thailand to the Chinese varieties you find in every restaurant, the juxtaposition (love that word) of lime or vinegar with the spicy heat of chilies is something I go for every time.

Rhubarb makes for a good sour.  For heat, my leftovers turned into pork asada.

Together they make for a great hot and sour soup, North American style.  It’s a little more time consuming but not all that labor intensive.  I cooked the pork with spices, salsa and onions over low heat for about six hours until the pork was falling apart.  Then I ripped it to shreds with a pair of forks.  To finish, I stirred some of it into the rhubarb soup I’d already made and the combination was terrific.

After all, in a real rhubarb, the gloves come off.

Rhubarb Soup
(serves 4-6)
1tablespoon butter
1 lb rhubarb, sliced thin
2 cups onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 lb pork, diced
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups stock
2 T sage
¼ cup brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup sour cream
1 bunch scallions, whites and greens, in 1” slices

  1. Heat butter in a large pot, then sauté onions and peppers until tender.
  2. Season the pork with equal amounts salt and pepper, then brown it over medium heat in the remaining butter.
  3. Add stock, sage, brown sugar and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  4. Fold sour cream and sliced scallions into the soup and heat through.
  5. Serve warm with savory muffins or a sweet quick bread (banana bread works well).

Pork Asada
(for hot and sour alternative)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
12 ounces pork, in large chunks
1 onion, sliced thin
1 cup salsa, mild to hot, you know your limits

  1. Mix spices together in a bowl and toss with pork until meat is thoroughly coated.
  2. Layer onions in the bottom of a medium sized pot, top with the pork and pour the salsa over that.
  3. Cover and cook over low heat for 6-8 hours.
  4. Pull the pork apart with two forks.
  5. Combine with above rhubarb soup recipe in place of  the milder pork or serve on crackers right out of the pot.  (My 8- and 10-year-olds could not get enough of this, heat and all.)

Image Credit: Another Amateurish Graphic created by the author from readily available internet imagery.

Hot and sour, sweet and sour, hot and sweet. It’s extreme cooking at its most dangerous and delicious.  What combinations are you sweet on?  Anything that makes you hot please keep to yourself.  Oh all right.  That’s cool too.  Please comment.  I’ll be reading and responding.

Leave a Comment to “Getting Into A Little Rhubarb”

  1. Kathy says:

    Rhubarb and pork – quite interesting. Having grown up on rhubarb, we savored sauce, pie, bars; anything sweet. Can’t say I’ll try it, but it does sound good.

    • pcandres says:

      I’m the same way. The rhubarb was just something that went in these sweet and tangy sauces and desserts. I wanted to try something new. If you like spicy foods, though, I strongly recommend the rhubarb and pork asada option. It’s pretty good. Thanks for the comment