Monday, May 9, 2011

Fermented Rhubarb (savory)

Click here to watch Fermented Rhubarb Video

Here's a page out of my book, "Lactofermentation Through the Season". Just in time for the first Rhubarb stalks.

Fermented Rhubarb

Seasonally, rhubarb is one of the first vegetables that I ferment since it is one of the first to be available in late spring/early summer. Since it is perennial it is best to harvest some while leaving some to continue collecting sunshine, water and nutrients to build the root system. Because of this I will make it in small batches throughout the season as the plant puts out more stalks.

In most recipes rhubarb is cooked so the toughness gets softened. Lacto-fermentation is essentially a raw product so it’s important to use tender rhubarb stalks. Lacto-fermentation will soften the rhubarb to a degree but tough, stringy rhubarb may not ever become palatable. Best to use young stalks no more than 1 inch wide. And remember: Do not use Rhubarb leaves as they are toxic!!

Yield 1-2 quarts

Ingredients & Equipment

• 10 stalks young rhubarb no more than 1 inch wide
• Leaf layer: horseradish leaves, Swiss chard leaves or blackberry/raspberry leaves
• Do not use Rhubarb leaves as they are toxic!

For the brine
• 2 quarts filtered or spring water
• Pure salt, kosher, pickling or coarse sea salt, with no additives

• Large pot for boiling water
• 2 wide mouth quart canning jars
• 2 canning lids and rings
• 2-4 rocks
• Small pot for sterilizing the canning lids, rings and rocks
• Wooden pressing tool
• Wide mouth funnel (optional) for filling the jar
• Ladle


Making the Brine
• Bring the filtered water to a boil for 4 minutes.
• After it’s cooled a bit add 3 tablespoons of salt and stir to dissolve.
• Allow brine to cool to near room temperature (2-4 hours or overnight).

• In a small pot sterilize lids, rings and rocks by boiling them for 4 minutes.
• Let them cool for about 10 minutes and pour out the water to let them cool further.

Leaf Layer
• Wash leaves and reserve.

Assembling the Jars

Filling the Jars
• When the brine is almost cool chop rhubarb into bite size pieces.
• Start layering the rhubarb into the jar an inch or two high at a time, gently pressing it down with wooden pressing tool.
• Keep adding 1-2 inch layers of rhubarb, pressing down each layer until about 2-3 inches of space is left at the top.
• Press it down again.

Leaf Layer
• Add a layer of leaves on top of the top layer of rhubarb and press it in.

• Place a rock or rocks on top of the leaves.

Brine into Jars
• Ladle brine into the jar leaving about 1 inch of space from the top.
• Let sit uncovered for 10 minutes to allow air bubbles to escape.
• If the brine level drops below 1 inch from the top add some more brine.
• Wipe any brine off top of jar, put lid on jar, and screw on band.


• Allow to ferment on kitchen counter or shelf for 3 days at room temperature, 72 degrees.
• Gently move to the refrigerator.
• Taste after 2 weeks. It may be ready or it may need more time.
• Store in refrigerator. Taste gets better with time.
• Lasts 1-3 months in refrigerator.

The fermented rhubarb is very good using only rhubarb but for variation try adding spring scallions, spring celery leaves, early chard stems and/or tender horseradish stems for very interesting and sometimes very exciting flavor!