Strawberries and rhubarb do make a great pie filling but they also pair wonderfully in these muffins, especially with the addition of your own homemade rhubarb conserve. Rhubarb conserve is jammy sweet with a concentrated tangy rhubarb flavor to it. When it’s in season I can’t get enough rhubarb and one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is in a conserve which can be added to the batter of baked goods like these muffins. I also spread the rhubarb conserve on my strawberry rhubarb muffins when they are warm right out of the oven. But, don’t stop there, spoon rhubarb conserve on toast, brioche, croissants, into tartlet shells or use as a sauce on vanilla ice cream with sliced strawberries. I picked up more rhubarb over the weekend and I’m making another batch of conserve this afternoon while I can still find the rhubarb stalks in my market.
Strawberry season is just starting here in the Bay Area with most of the sweet ripe berries coming up from Southern California, like the berries from San Diego I bought last week at the farmer’s market. Now is the time to combine strawberries and rhubarb in your baking while the strawberries can benefit from the sugar added to the rhubarb for sweetness.
Rhubarb season runs from January, for the hot house grown rhubarb, all the way into Summer months for the field grown rhubarb which we do grow in California. However, most of our rhubarb comes from Washington and Oregon where this cool weather loving crop thrives. The main reason we may not be able to find rhubarb in our markets is due to it’s dwindling popularity. There just isn’t that much rhubarb grown compared to earlier years when it was more popular with consumers. I read that San Leandro in Alameda County had a rhubarb belt that consisted of more than 1300 acres, but that was before 1940.
When I see the familiar red stocks of rhubarb in the market in early Spring, I think of rhubarb with strawberries and buy a big bag. Then I hope that the next time I go the market I find rhubarb again and plan on buying another bag before it disappears and I have to wait until next Spring.
Recipe adapted from Cooking from the Garden- best recipes of Kitchen Gardener.
- 3 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 4 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon baking spice, Penzeys brand
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- 1 & 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup Rhubarb Conserve (recipe follows)
- 3 cups chopped strawberries
- 1 tablespoon crystallized ginger chips
- For the Rhubarb Conserve
- 4 cups diced rhubarb
- 1 & 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 orange, juiced
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (optional but very good)
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Line 2 -12 cup muffin tins with paper liners.
- Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- In another bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, milk, vanilla and balsamic vinegar.
- Stir in the Rhubarb Conserve, chopped strawberries, ginger and wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, gently mixing until just combined.
- Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tins using an ice cream scoop.
- Bake for about 22-25 minutes, until the middle springs back when gently pressed-rotate the pans half way through baking.
- Cool on metal racks.
- To Make the Rhubarb Conserve
- Place the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan over a medium low heat.
- Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the rhubarb mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla paste, cool.
- The conserve can be kept in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.