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Darrell's Rhubarb Sauce (with strawberries, if you like!)

This is one of those recipes that's so easy, I'll have to tell a story just to make it worth your while. If you've never made rhubarb sauce, you'll be amazed at its simplicity. If you have made it, then you probably don't need to even be here. We have lots of rhubarb and I like the sauce a lot so I make big batches. The amounts given below can be adjusted to suit the amount of rhubarb you have and the number of people in your house who will eat it. I will caution you that it should be eaten with a certain amount of restraint. If you've ever over-eaten rhubarb, you know what I mean.

I start out with a big bunch of rhubarb, trim it and wash it well. Chop it into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. When this is cooked down, the rhubarb gets all mushy but the strings don't break down. The length of your pieces will determine the length of the strings in the sauce. When you've got about 12 cups, put it in a large saucepan, add about 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to strong simmer and cook it until it's complete mush. Now it's ready to finish.

One method is just to add sugar. For this amount, 2 to 3 cups should be about enough. If you don't add enough sugar to rhubarb, it will strip the enamel off your teeth but the tartness is part of its charm so add enough that it tastes right to you. You might want to add it incrementally and taste it - it's much easier to add more than to take it out.

An alternate method is to add strawberries along with the sugar. This is the method I much prefer. Since the rhubarb is ready long before the strawberries, I use frozen berries. We put up strawberries mashed and with a little bit of sugar to preserve color as much as anything, then put them in quart bags and freeze them. The amount of rhubarb used in this recipe will accommodate a big, fat quart bag of berries. If your berry patch was under-productive last year, you can use strawberry jello. For this amount, a large box will do just fine. Stir the berries or jello in before you add the sugar because the sweetness of the fruit may throw off the amount of sugar you need. Strawberry season is coming up, and the rhubarb will last into early strawberry season, so you could buy fresh berries from a local producer. I don't recommend the shipped-in berries we get in stores here out of season - they won't add any flavor because there isn't much to start with.

This keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks or you can put it in containers and freeze it for a refreshing treat next winter. If you can afford the calories (or just don't care about them) a great serving suggestion is to dish out a bowl of sauce and pour a dollop of heavy cream in the middle. Take a spoonful of sauce from the edge of the pool of cream for a real taste treat.

Recipe summary:
12 cups rhubarb pieces
2 cups water
Cook to mush
Add sugar to taste, 2 - 3 cups.
Alternate: add crushed strawberries or strawberry jello.
Refrigerate and serve chilled.

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