No canning needed for this pickled rhubarb recipe. These quick fridge pickles pack a punch and are spicy, tart and sweet.
In my quest to conquer liking rhubarb without eating it in a dessert I discovered I really like it as an ingredient.
While so many people complain that rhubarb has a tart taste that must be masked with sugar I disagree.
Earlier this week I shared a rhubarb syrup recipe to make the German rhubarb soda called rhabarberschorle….which is also great with alcohol.
So I’ve been deep into rhubarb exploration.
But this spicy pickled rhubarb recipe is my favourite.
And I’ve already given some to my aunt, who quickly asked if I had more. So I’m not the only one who loves this quick pickle recipe.
Table of Contents
Why I Love Refrigerator Pickles
- You can pickle pretty much everything, as evidenced by the We Can Pickle That video above from Portlandia.
- It is great way to achieve zero waste. If fruit or vegetables begin to spoil you can freeze or refrigerate it. But pickling turns it into something ready to use.
- Fridge pickles are ridiculously easy. You heat liquid and spices for fives minutes or until sugar dissolves and can pour it over the produce and throw it in the fridge where it stays good for months.
- Pickling preserves produce in a different way. It maintains crunchy texture and brightness of raw flavour like these pickled blueberries
You can pickle absolutely anything from watermelon rind to these underripe pickled green strawberries.
In Toronto restaurants have been serving pickled green strawberries like they are an expensive exotic product. But you can make them at home.
How to Use Pickled Rhubarb
Pickled rhubarb isn’t one of those condiments that seem like a great idea but then the side of your fridge is full of jars that you’ve only used once.
You can eat them straight from the jar because you love spicy, sweet, tangy, crunchy food. But there are many more pickled rhubarb uses, such as:
- A side for smoked fish
- On a charcuterie or cheese board
- Diced into chicken salad sandwiches
- Salad topping
- Top bread or crackers with cream cheese, quark or creme fraiche and pickled rhubarb
- Substitute liquid for vinegar and sugar in your favourite salad dressing.
- Stir liquid into cocktails, brunch mimosas or sangria
Pickled Rhubarb Ingredients
So the good news is that fridge pickles can be quite easy.
The most important thing is to keep harmful bacteria away. The way to do that is with clean jars and lids.
should always use the same amount of water as vinegar, which keeps the liquid acidic enough to combat bacteria and the texture crisp.
Use kosher, sea or pickling salt rather than normal table salt.
I don’t know a single situation where iodized table salt is best.
It’s not good for this pickled rhubarb recipe as it contains caking agents such as iodine. This can cloud a brine and it also can inhibit the growth of good bacteria.
Sea salt at bulk food stores is cheap. Just use that as your everyday salt instead of iodized.
I would have loved to have made this with a dried chipotle chile or ancho chile, but I was stuck with what the bulk food store had – regular dried chiles.
But it still worked out well! After a week I tried the pickled rhubarb and it wasn’t spicy enough so I added more dried chili flakes.
This recipe reflects this addition as I think you want the rhubarb to have a touch of spiciness.
Dub, I know…but there are a few things I learn and thought about before I made these rhubarb pickles.
What kind of rhubarb: Did you know there was more than one kind of rhubarb? I did not. But I discovered that the bright pink or red rhubarb isn’t the sweetest.
Colour is not an indicator of how tart or sweet rhubarb will be. In fact, Victorian rhubarb which is more green, tends to be sweeter.
So don’t stress about colour.
Cut: I absolutely love how rhubarb looks in mason jars when it is simply full stalks cut as large pieces.
And for many people they may like the flexibility of having a stalk in tact to cut so they can choose how they want to cut it as they go.
That’s not me.
I want to take something out of the jar and not have to worry about what kind of cut I want.
And I love the idea of using a mandoline slicer to create beautiful long ribbons for salads.
But I don’t know a single professional chef or home cook who hasn’t has a nasty cut on their hand, so bad that they considered going to the hospital, because they used a mandoline.
Apparently this mandoline is the safest because your fingers go nowhere near the blade.
So I cut mine in 1/2 inch pieces, on a bias (diagonal slant). It looks just a bit nicer and ready to serve, and you can always dice smaller for salads and sandwiches.
Should You Peel Rhubarb?
There is so much debate on whether you need to peel rhubarb. Some people say it depends on what kind of rhubarb it is.\
Here are my thoughts based on limited experience.
For most of the rhubarb recipes where I was making syrups, cooking or or blending it would not have mattered.
But for this rhubarb recipe my stalks were a bit stringy, like when celery is too stringy.
I mistakenly thought the pickling would soften the stringiness. And it did a bit, but it was still stringy.
So if you have lots of strings when you start to chop it there’s no harm in taking a peeler to the outside.
You can use any vinegar and while many people use champagne vinegarI chose red wine vinegar.
Not only for its colour but also I knew the flavour would be great with rhubarb.
I wasn’t sure how long the bottle of red wine vinegar had been in the cupboard. So I bought another and when I compared the smell of the two there was a huge difference.
I immediately threw out the old one and marked the month and year on the back of the new one.
Although vinegar lasts, maybe you don’t want to keep it if its older than a year.
Aromatics and Spices
This is where you can play. I went with what was in my house along with what I had learned from pickling strawberries and blueberries.
- orange zest
- ginger (only ever use fresh, never bottled)
- mustard seeds
- black pepper
- fresh thyme from my container garden.
- 1 lb rhubarb, about 4 cups chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup (200 g) Turbinado Sugar
- zest of 1/2 small orange
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1½ tsp (5 g) sea salt
- 1 tsp fresh ginger
- sprig fresh thyme
- 3 dried chile peppers
- 2 tablespoons chili flakes
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- Place rhubarb in jar, or jars depending on big your jar is.
- In a non-reactive pot (stainless steel or tin; avoid cast iron, aluminum and copper), combine water and red wine vinegar.
- Place over medium heat and add in remaining ingredients - except the rhubarb.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low to simmer for 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved.
- Once cool, remove bay leaves, thyme, ginger and strips of orange zest. Pour over the rhubarb, making sure the rhubarb fully covered with liquid.
- Put lid on jars and put in fridge for a minimum of 1 day. With dried chili in jar it will get spicier over time. If it's not spicy enough add more chili flakes