Spring is one of the most magical seasons for a cook. Farmers markets are opening throughout the city, rare seasonal produce start appearing in grocery stores like fiddlehead ferns, ramps, or my personal favorite, rhubarb. Spring is a quick flash in the pan especially in Chicago, so I want to preserve the season to enjoy all year round.
One preservation process that I’ve been playing with is dehydration. Once all of the water is evaporated from whatever you’re trying to preserve, you’re left with an intense and concentrated flavor profile. You can grind dehydrated products into a powder and use it as seasoning. Ever since I got my dehydrator, I’ve been playing with different items to see how they turn out. Rhubarb has been the most unexpectedly successful item I’ve dehydrated thus far. It intensifies the sourness and bright flavor of rhubarb, making it an incredible experience.
Once I started dehydrating, I found it really hard to stop. If you’d like to try your hand at dehydrating but don’t have an actual dehydrator, you can dry out your rhubarb in a very low temperature oven. The most important step is trying to make all of your pieces a similar thickness, this ensures everything is done at the same time. Use a peeler, a mandolin, or a steady hand and sharp knife to achieve even slices. Lay all of your rhubarb on a sheet tray in an even layer for oven dehydrating or follow your dehydrator’s instructions.
Once they are completely crisp and snap when you break them in half, they are all done and good to store in an air tight container almost indefinitely.
How do you use your dried rhubarb? Well, you're only limited by your imagination. I ate my dehydrated rhubarb sticks plain, used them as cocktail stirrers, ground the rhubarb into a powder for “natural sprinkles” for decorating cakes, scones and even more summer cocktails!
What’s your favorite way to utilize all that spring has to offer? If you’re interested in learning about how to cook seasonally, try The Chopping Block's Spring into Summer hands-on cooking class which transitions the two seasons. It's offered on Thursday, June 16 at Lincoln Square and Monday, June 20 at the Mart.