Canning rhubarb is one of the best ways to preserve this short-season garden crop. Instead of taking up freezer space, this easy water bath canning recipe preserves rhubarb right on the pantry shelf.
My family absolutely loves rhubarb, and they can never seem to get enough of it in season. The problem is, no matter how much we eat…there’s always more. With just a few rhubarb plants, we harvest enough to feed the whole neighborhood!
I’ have literally dozens of rhubarb recipes ready to go each spring. We make multiple varieties of rhubarb pie, including my favorite, Amish rhubarb custard pie. When I’m done with pie, I move onto rhubarb upside-down cake, which is always stunning on a plate.
Still, there’s only so much rhubarb you can eat in season and I hate to see it go to waste.
Freezing rhubarb is one option, but our freezer space is always so limited. We buy a side of beef each year and put up literally dozens of types of berries from our garden. If I’m canning blueberries (and even canning beef) to save freezer space, then I’m going to can rhubarb too.
We never seem to have any trouble harvesting enough rhubarb for canning, and we bring it in by the wheelbarrow each spring. There’s plenty for all my favorite rhubarb canning recipes.
I make rhubarb syrup and rhubarb juice for summer drinks, rhubarb jam is my husband’s favorite and rhubarb jelly is for my kids. My parents love strawberry rhubarb jam, so there’s something for everyone.
The most versatile way to preserve rhubarb by far is just canning plain rhubarb in either pints or quarts. Once canned, it can be used anywhere you’d use fresh or frozen rhubarb.
With the right preparation, home-canned rhubarb stays remarkably firm and works wonderfully in recipes all year round.
Rhubarb Canning Yield
How much rhubarb do you need for a canning jar?
You’ll need about 3/4 of a pound of fresh rhubarb per pint jar, or about 1 1/2 pounds of rhubarb for a quart jar.
With a standard canner batch, that’s about 7 pounds for a 9-pint canner batch. In quarts, that’s 10 1/2 pounds for a 7-quart canner batch.
This rhubarb canning recipe adds 1/2 cup sugar per quart of diced rhubarb. A quart of diced rhubarb is about 2 pounds, so you’ll want to add roughly 1/4 cup of sugar per pound of prepared rhubarb. The actual volume depends on how finely you dice the stalks.
Sugar isn’t required for safe canning here, it’s just used to help get the rhubarb to release its juice. The exact amount is up to you, though I don’t recommend using less than 1/4 cup per pound unless you intend to add water or fruit juice to make sure there’s enough canning liquid.
Preparing Rhubarb For Canning
The flavor of rhubarb is delicate, and it’d easily become washed out if canned in water or syrup.
It’s best to can rhubarb in its own juices. Rather than juicing rhubarb, it’s actually best to macerate the rhubarb in sugar before canning. The sugar draws out the natural juices in the rhubarb and toughens up the cells of the plant at the same time.
That means you get fresh rhubarb juice, and firm rhubarb, all in the same jar without adding water.
Start by chopping rhubarb into chunks, about 1/2 inch to 1 inch long. Then toss the rhubarb in sugar.
You’ll need a half cup of sugar for each quart of rhubarb. That’s just enough to get the rhubarb to release its juice, but not enough to make the fruit crazy sweet. You may still need to add a bit more sugar when using it later, depending on your tastes.
For reference, that’s exactly the same amount of sugar you use when you’re canning strawberries. The recipe uses the same technique and macerates the strawberries to get them to release their juices as well.
(You can also can strawberries and rhubarb in the same jar. The canning times for strawberries are a bit less than the time for rhubarb, so use the rhubarb canning instructions. Just add 1/2 cup of sugar per cup of fruit and macerate them all together before proceeding.)
This maceration process shrinks the rhubarb considerably, but the result is a beautiful pink rhubarb syrup surrounding firm pieces of rhubarb that will hold together in canning jars.
You get all the flavor (and beautiful color) from each stalk, and you’re able to can rhubarb with just sugar (no added water or juice needed).
After about an hour or two, the rhubarb will have released its juice and it’s ready for canning. You shouldn’t see grains of sugar at this point, just bright rhubarb stalks floating in a sea of their own natural syrup.
How to Can Rhubarb
Once the rhubarb has been macerated in sugar for 1 to 2 hours, it’s time to prepare a water bath canner. If you’re not familiar with water bath canning, I’d suggest you read my beginner’s guide to water bath canning before you get started.
This is a hot pack recipe, so you’ll want to preheat your canner to about 180 degrees F (about 82 C). That’s barely simmering. Also, prepare your jars and lids.
Once the canner is ready, place the macerated rhubarb and its juice into a stockpot. Bring it up to a gentle boil.
As soon as the rhubarb and syrup begin to boil, ladle it into the prepared jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
Process the jars in a water bath canner for 15 minutes if below 1,000 feet in elevation. That’s the same for pints and quarts. For higher elevations, and pressure canning instructions, see the table below.
Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, and more vegetable canning recipes require pressure canning. This particular vegetable happens to be acidic enough for water bath canning, and it’s perfectly safe to process rhubarb in a water bath canner.
That said, some people just prefer to pressure can everything, for one reason or another. Be aware that pressure canning will cause the rhubarb to break up more since it’s exposed to higher heat.
I don’t recommend pressure canning rhubarb, but it does work just fine if that’s your preference.
Ways to Use Rhubarb
Need a few more ways to use rhubarb?
- Rhubarb Wine
- Rhubarb Mead (Honey Wine)
- Rhubarb Cordial (coming soon)
- Persian Rhubarb and Lamb (Khoresht Rivas)
Home-canned rhubarb is an easy way to preserve rhubarb right on the pantry shelf.
- Sugar * see notes
- Wash the rhubarb and remove any leaves and the base of the stalks.
- Chop rhubarb stalks into pieces, roughly 1/2 inch to 1 inch long.
- Measure the rhubarb. For every quart (4 cups), add 1/2 cup of sugar. Note that a quart of rhubarb weighs roughly 2 pounds, so you'll need 1/4 cup of sugar for every pound of prepared rhubarb.
- Allow the rhubarb to macerate in the sugar for 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When the rhubarb has released its juices and dissolved all the sugar, it's ready for the next step.
- Prepare a water bath canner for hot pack canning (preheated to about 180 degrees F). Prepare jars and rings.
- Place the macerated rhubarb into a stockpot and slowly bring it up to a gentle boil. As soon as it begins boiling, remove from heat and ladle into prepared jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
- Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes (below 1,000 feet in elevation) for both pints and quarts. See notes for higher elevations.
- Remove jars from the canner and allow them to cool completely on a towel on the counter. Check seals after 12-24 hours and store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator for immediate use.
Properly canned and sealed jars will keep on the pantry shelf for 12 to 18 months at peak quality.
It takes roughly 3/4 pound of fresh rhubarb per pint jar or 1 1/2 pounds per quart jar. A quart of diced rhubarb weighs roughly 2 pounds, so if you're measuring by weight instead of volume you'd use 1/4 cup of sugar per pound of prepared rhubarb for maceration.
The sugar here is not used for preservation, it's only used to cause the rhubarb to release its juice and firm up the texture so it holds together during canning. If you'd like to can rhubarb without sugar, it can be canned in water or fruit juice (apple, grape, cranberry, or rhubarb). You can also use honey or maple syrup instead.
Altitude Adjustments for Canning Rhubarb
For higher elevations, use the following canning times:
- 0 to 1,000 feet: 15 minutes (pints and quarts)
- 1,001 to 6,000 feet: 20 minutes (pints and quarts)
- Over 6,001 feet: 25 minutes (pints and quarts)
Spring Canning Recipes
Putting up more than rhubarb this season? Check out these canning recipes…