Every year I wait with bated breath for the appearance of local rhubarb in the weekend markets. Some years, a minor glee shock occurs when I spy it at the vegetable chiller section of Rustan’s (like two Christmases ago) but refuse to buy when it has a price tag approaching PHP400 a kilo or more. More often than not, it is available from mid-December to mid-February, when the weather is at its coolest. Rhubarb is by no means a local green, but since the American missionaries used Baguio as a retreat from the lowland heat, they have grown rhubarb, blueberries and strawberries in the cool weather in the mountains. And if you have never had rhubarb, you are definitely missing a unique, tart flavor sensation.
My suki, Mary, at the FTI market, knows I go weak at the knees when she stocks rhubarb, and she just smiled today when I spied a large crate filled with rhubarb, and at only PHP150 a kilo, a fraction of the price at the other snazzy weekend markets or groceries. So I bought some 2-3 kilos as well several punnets of strawberries. I will almost inevitably make these strawberry rhubarb pies I have featured before that are an absolute house favorite, and I still had more than a kilo to work with otherwise.
I trimmed and cut up roughly 700-800 grams of rhubarb and added about 1.5 cups of granulated white sugar and let this steep for around 15 minutes. The rhubarb that reaches manila tends to be a tad dried out, so don’t expect the sugar to get all liquified, but it should get a little wet as it draws out liquid from the stalks of rhubarb.
I added some grated candied ginger for that certain hint of flavor other than the sharp rhubarb, but just make sure it is finely grated and distributed throughout your fruit. Put the pot over a medium-high heat and when it reaches a boil, turn the heat down and cook for just 4-5 minutes more until the rhubarb is partially mushy but some slices are still visibly whole. Turn the heat off. Do not overcook.
Let the compote cool for some 10-15 minutes and spoon it into some jars, letting it cool completely and sealing and storing in the fridge. This is not a jam, and it will last only a week or more in the fridge. It is perfect drizzled over good vanilla ice cream, in a pavlova, fool, or over butter cake with some heavy cream. I like rhubarb so much, this batch of compote gets to rest in some fantastic little glass jars I bought in the South of France a couple of years ago… :)