Food preferences change across the years. Some foods increase in popularity over time, while other foods that were once common are now seldom made. As I work on this blog, I often think about food fads and trends over the past hundred years. Occasionally 1921 cookbooks and magazines provide a window into even earlier times. For example, in 1921 a reader of American Cookery asked for a recipe that she remembered from her childhood.
Gingered Rhubarb apparently was a food that was eaten in the late 1800’s in Scotland, but by 1921 it apparently was not part of the repertoire of cooks on the U.S. side of the Atlantic. Why had it become less popular? Was it already considered an old-fashioned dessert a hundred-years ago?
The query also contains a serving suggestion. The individual requesting the recipes states that she remembers eating Gingered Rhubarb on rice desserts (which I took to mean rice pudding).
In any case, I was intrigued and decided to make Gingered Rhubarb. I also made Rice Pudding to serve with the Gingered Rhubarb. The recipe I found was for a Baked Rice Pudding (rather than the type of Rice Pudding that is made in a saucepan on top of the stove).
The verdict: Gingered Rhubarb is a tart sauce embedded with sweetened chunks of rhubarb. It goes nicely with Baked Rice Pudding (which is drier and less sticky than many modern Rice Puddings). That said, you need to enjoy rhubarb and its intense flavor to like this recipe. My husband and I both liked the Gingered Rhubarb with Baked Rice Pudding. However, our daughter did not think it was edible. My conclusion- this recipe features rhubarb with its unique tart taste. If you really like that taste, you’ll enjoy this recipe. However, if you are lukewarm to rhubarb, this recipe is not for you.
Here are the original recipe for Gingered Rhubarb:
I put the rhubarb mixture in a large glass casserole bowl and let it sit overnight on my kitchen counter. The next day, I put the mixture in a stainless steel pan and cooked. it I used ground ginger when making the recipe.
I was pleased with how well the rhubarb pieces retained their shape when I cooked the Gingered Rhubarb. I think that allowing the rhubarb and sugar mixture sit overnight before cooking may have helped the pieces retain their shape. The sugar drew liquid out of the rhubarb.
The 1 1/2 hour cooking time seemed long to me, but I think that it allowed the flavors to concentrate as some of the liquid boils off. The rhubarb turned brownish as it is cooked (similarly to how apples turn brownish when cooked for a long time to make apple butter).
This is a very large recipe. When I made the recipe, I halved it.
Here is the original recipe for Baked (Plain) Rice Pudding:
Cooks many years ago would have made both the Gingered Rhubarb and the Baked Rice Pudding using a wood or coal stove. Both of these recipes have a long cook time – but that probably wasn’t considered an issue when the stoves operated constantly, and foods could be cooked for several hours with little attention from the cook.
Here’s the recipes for Gingered Rhubarb updated for modern cooks:
3 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1/2 pieces (about 6 cups of pieces) -Do not peel.
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
In a crock or large glass casserole bowl combine the sugar and ground ginger. Add the rhubarb pieces and stir to coat the rhubarb with the sugar mixture. Cover, and let sit overnight at room temperature.
The next morning put the rhubarb mixture in a stainless steel pan and bring to a boil using medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Gently stir several times while it is cooking.
Remove from heat. May be serve hot or cold. If desired serve with rice pudding, ice cream, or other dessert.
Here’s the recipe for Rice Pudding updated for modern cooks:
Baked Rice Pudding
5 cups milk
1/2 cup rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
grated rind of 1/2 lemon
Preheat oven to 325° F. Wash the rice, and combine with all the other ingredients. Pour into a 2-quart buttered baking dish. Place in oven and bake for a total of three hours.
During the first hour, stir three times. Then reduce heat to 3oo° F. and continue baking. After another hour, stir again. Continue baking for an additional hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If desired, when the rice pudding is set, the Rice Pudding can be put under the broiler for a short time to lightly brown the top. May be served hot or cold. Refrigerate, if not served immediately.