Canning rhubarb is an easy way to preserve rhubarb right on your pantry shelf.
When we moved to our solar-powered homestead 10 years ago, one of the first things I planted was rhubarb. Two of our rhubarb plants moved with us, one that a good friend gifted me from her grandmother’s garden, and another that my husband bought me on our first date.
Yes, our first date was actually at the local farmers market in springtime, which is the perfect time to pick up new plants…ones that’ll be with you for a lifetime in this case!
Over time I added new plants, some rhubarb crowns divided by friends, and even some rhubarb grown from seed. At this point, we have a lot of rhubarb, and I literally harvest it by the wheelbarrow load in the spring.
When rhubarb is selling for around $6 to $8 a pound locally, that’s basically a fortune in rhubarb. We use it in literally dozens of rhubarb recipes, way more than just plain rhubarb pie (or fancy Amish Rhubarb Custard Pie). We make rhubarb drinks, and all manner of savory rhubarb recipes, including this traditional Persian Lamb and Rhubarb Stew that’s one of my favorites.
We give plenty away to friends, but you can really only use so much fresh rhubarb (whether you’re supplying a household or a whole neighborhood).
Freezing rhubarb is a good option, but it takes up a lot of freezer space. Worse yet, it’s vulnerable if the power goes out.
While I usually made rhubarb jam and jelly each year, I finally started looking for creative rhubarb canning recipes when my parents asked me to mail them some of our rhubarb. They live in the California desert, and rhubarb just can’t handle the heat. Fresh rhubarb wasn’t going to make the trip in a box, but all my rhubarb canning recipes ship wonderfully (well padded with bubble wrap).
This past spring I mailed them a case of rhubarb pie filling, and next year I’m planning on adding in half a dozen other types all from these rhubarb canning recipes.
Canning Plain Rhubarb
The simplest rhubarb canning recipe is just plain canned rhubarb. Since rhubarb is naturally acidic with a pH of 3.1 to 3.4, it’s perfectly fine for canning all on its own.
Adding sugar is optional, it’s not required for preservation, it’s mostly to help maintain texture and obviously cut the tart flavor of the rhubarb. You can always can it plain without sugar and add sugar later (or just eat it as is with a bit of pucker).
The instructions for canning rhubarb have you first macerate the chopped rhubarb in sugar to draw out its juices, and then it’s canned in those very same juices (without added water). You can also process rhubarb without sugar if you add boiling water to the jars in place of the rhubarb syrup.
Canning Rhubarb Pie Filling
Canning premade pie filling is a great way to save time on busy weeknights, all you have to do is pour the already thickened pie filling into a crust and bake.
You can’t just use any thickener, as flour and cornstarch are not approved for canning. Instead, you must use something called “clear gel” to thicken the pie filling, as it’s the only thickener approved for canning. The nice thing is that it can be heated and cooled many times without losing its thickening ability.
I know what you’re thinking…there’s no tested recipe for canning rhubarb pie filling! That’s not quite true actually.
While there are only specific instructions written for canning peach, apple, cherry, and blueberry pie filling, there are generic instructions for other fruits as well. The Washington State University Extension provides directions for canning a number of other fruits:
“You can prepare and can other fruit pie fillings besides the four listed… Those fruits that you can also prepare into fillings include:
- Apricots, Nectarines, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Rhubarb — use directions for Peach Pie Filling.
- Blackberry, Currant, Gooseberry, Huckleberry, Loganberry, Raspberry, Strawberry — use
directions for Blueberry Pie Filling.”
(Be aware that the result is very acidic, since you need to add so much lemon juice, and it might not be to everyone’s taste. I’d suggest canning rhubarb pie filling alone, then adding a pound of strawberries to the pie per quart of rhubarb filling when baking to cut the acidity.)
Plain rhubarb jam is my husband’s favorite rhubarb canning recipe, and it’s full of intense rhubarb flavor since there are no other fruits added to distract the taste.
My rhubarb jam recipe is perfect for canning, and I’ve included instructions for making it either with or without pectin. Without pectin, the flavor is concentrated much to my liking, but the yield is lower. For a bit milder spread with a higher yield, use the “with pectin” recipe.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (& Other Combinations)
My dad’s particularly fond of strawberry rhubarb, no matter what form it takes. He absolutely loves classic strawberry rhubarb pie, and asks for his birthday every year.
This strawberry rhubarb jam captures that flavor but without the pie, so it’s perfect for your morning toast.
You can also make other fruit combinations with rhubarb, and I’d suggest any of these:
- Blueberry Rhubarb Jam (Bluebarb Jam)
- Raspberry Rhubarb Jam
- Rhubarb Black Currant Jam
- Rhubarb Ginger Jam (Popular in England)
- Rhubarb and Gin Jam
While my husband and I are all about the thick chunky jams, my kids are all about silky smooth jellies.
Rhubarb jelly is easy to make and perfectly fine for canning. Adjust the sugar however you’d like by using a low sugar pectin type (like Pomona’s pectin or my favorite, sure jell low sugar). Be aware that you will need some kind of added pectin to make the jelly set.
Rhubarb Juice (and Syrup)
Making rhubarb juice for canning isn’t all that different from making rhubarb jelly. You basically make the exact same thing, cooking the rhubarb with a bit of water to extract the juice, and then strain.
If you don’t add the pectin, you’ve got rhubarb juice ready for canning. Add just a bit of sugar to sweeten, or a lot of sugar to make rhubarb syrup for cocktails or other summer drinks.
Rhubarb juice and syrup can be canned using the same canning instructions as rhubarb jelly (1/4 inch headspace and process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner, adjusting for altitude).
More or less like apple sauce, rhubarb sauce is just stewed rhubarb that’s been pureed into a smooth sauce. You’ll need a good bit of sugar to balance out its natural tart flavor.
I’d actually recommend just using rhubarb as a flavoring in other fruit sauces, like homemade apple sauce. We have early summer apples that ripen in July, and they’re the perfect complement to rhubarb in a sauce. (And it helps that they ripen in the same season too.)
You can also make rhubarb sauce with strawberries for a classic combination.
Making fruit butter is pretty simple, no matter the fruit. Most often, fruit butter is made with apples, and it’s known as apple butter.
Fruit butter is just a sauce that’s been cooked down to thicken it and concentrate the flavors, and that works wonderfully with rhubarb too.
Though the word “butter” is in the name, there’s no actual dairy in there. It’s given that name because of the smooth spreadable texture, and it’s popular on toast. Generally fruit butters are just fruit and sugar, plus a lot of patience.
Rhubarb BBQ Sauce
Rhubarb-based sauces were all the rage in the Victorian era, and one of their tried and true recipes survives in this Victorian Rhubarb BBQ sauce. The classic recipe comes from one of my favorite canning books, The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
BBQ sauce is supposed to be sweet and tangy anyway, and rhubarb goes surprisingly well with meat believe it or not.
Chutney is a tangy condiment with a sweet/sour flavor usually made with fruit, onions, and spices. Rhubarb works surprisingly well in chutney, and it can be used as a relish in the kitchen.
Not everyone has a use for chutney in their home cooking, so try a small batch to see if it fits well into your family’s tastes before you go crazy with chutney.
Finally, if you’re looking for something completely different….maybe try canning rhubarb salsa. It’s got a really unexpected flavor, in a good way.
Salsa is often quite acidic, with all the added lime juice or vinegar, so it actually goes quite well with rhubarb.
Looking for more canning recipes to keep your pantry stocked? I’ve got lists for all manner of home preserves…
- Apple Canning Recipes
- Cranberry Canning Recipes
- Zucchini Canning Recipes
- Pressure Canning Recipes
- Vegetable Canning Recipes
- Meat Canning Recipes