by Shannon Scales
If you’ve ever been on Prince Edward Island at the end of May, you’ll know that once the May long weekend (Victoria Day) hits, the weather instantly shifts. This past Victoria Day weekend, I found myself stretched out under an apple tree about to bloom, sipping on Earl Grey iced tea, munching on a plethora of snacks and discussing the latest book club book with my dearest friends. It was divinely sunny. It was a burst of summer. It was downright idyllic.
Our gracious host had set out an impressive spread of eats. We had a charcuterie board of foraged treats like spruce tips, dandelion capers, edible flowers, as well as a gorgeous wheel of brie. There were bowls of chips and crackers and to round things out, a delicious homemade rhubarb chutney.
I had never had rhubarb chutney and as someone who has a bountiful supply of rhubarb in their backyard, I am always on the hunt for new ways of using this tart plant. It was so delicious and I found myself hitting up that bowl of ruby goodness many times. The recipe, she told me, came from Amanda Bulman’s new cookbook, Salt Beef Buckets, A Love Story. I was so excited! I had just purchased this beautiful recipe book and now had a jumping off point of recipes to try. As I mentioned, my rhubarb is thriving and in need of harvest. It is a great feeling knowing that I can enjoy this hearty plant in more delicious ways this season.
If you haven’t heard of Amanda’s latest book, I highly recommend it. Salt Beef Buckets truly is a love story for Newfoundland's deeply rooted culinary traditions. I found myself happily immersed in what is somehow both a brilliant recipe book and also a captivating journey through one of Canada's most striking provinces. This beautiful book spoke to me and has me eager to try new recipes made with locally grown veggies, fruits and herbs. It’s going to be a bountiful and delicious summer season!
About the author of Salt Beef Buckets:Originally from Prince Edward Island, Amanda Bulman is a chef, writer and comedian living in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. You can find Amanda’s book here . I love that this beautiful book was printed in Canada on recycled paper. Something that can make you feel extra good while supporting this local author! You may even recall reading one of her blogs in the past which you can find here.
What a wonderful and dreamy afternoon it was. We ate and chatted and basked in the glorious sunshine. I even took out my autoharp and played away for a spell, serenading my pals as well as the birds. Time seemed to slow and we all left feeling relaxed, happy and a little sun kissed.
I think those beautiful May days are there to awaken the sleeping summer soul. We’ve been hibernating, haven’t we? And those gorgeous sunny days that smell like summer wake you from your slumber like the smell of cooking breakfast can rouse you out of bed on a Sunday morning.
I picked my first harvest of Rhubarb this week for a batch of rhubarb syrup. My son, Sam, and I nibbled on these first shoots and puckered our lips at the tartness. “Trust me”, I said, “all they need are a little sweet, time and love”. I cut the stalks into small chunks and popped them into a pot with sugar and water. Brought to a boil, my kitchen was suddenly filled with the sweet and distinct scent of rhubarb pie.
It’s amazing how a smell can instantly transport you. My grandfather - Grampie, as we called him - was the pie maker in my grandparent’s home here on the island. Grammie did the majority of the baking but Grampie seemed to have the pie game cased and we all waited eagerly for his creations to come out of the oven. One smell of that cooking rhubarb and I was back in my grandparent’s kitchen. My heart tugged a little then at those golden memories of summer from my past. They are the reason I’m here, hailing from Nova Scotia originally, and they filled me with warmth and longing. I miss them both, dearly.
Snapped back to reality by an overflowing sugary mess (whoops!), I turned the temperature down to a simmer and let time and heat do their thing. It may not look like much at this point, but once you’ve strained out the rhubarb pulp, you are left with a glorious ruby coloured syrup ready to be added to your favourite iced teas.
What came to mind for me was Lady Baker’s Organic Island Strawberry green tea. The berry plants across the island are blooming now and it won’t be long before we’ve got gorgeous, plump fruit to harvest. I can’t wait for strawberry rhubarb pie! And that is the inspiration for our latest iced tea recipe. You’ll find the recipe for Lady Baker’s Strawberry Rhubarb Iced tea below.
Strawberry Rhubarb Iced Tea Recipe
For the tea:
Bring 4 cups of water to just less than boiling. Pour the water over 3 tbsp's of Island Strawberry green tea leaves. Brew for 10 minutes.
Add sweetener at this point if desired. Strain the tea over 4 cups of ice cubes in a pitcher. Refrigerate. Serve on ice.
For the rhubarb syrup:
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.
Set a fine-mesh strainer (or a coarse strainer lined with cheesecloth) over a large bowl. Pour the rhubarb through the strainer until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Press the solids a little with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup.
Carefully pour the syrup into a clean bottle. Cover or cork the bottle and refrigerate. It should keep for quite some time in the fridge.
When your Rhubarb syrup has cooled you are ready to get mixing! Pour your Island Strawberry iced tea into a glass over ice. Add a few tablespoons (I went with 3) of Rhubarb Syrup and give your iced tea a gentle mix with a spoon. With a slice of lemon or two popped in you are ready to sip away!