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LH 40: Rhubarb Vanilla Syrup

Welcome to Episode #40 of the Living Homegrown Podcast!

This is a short little episode on the virtues of Rhubarb Vanilla Syrup. 

There are so many uses for this sweet deliciousness. Plus, you can use it fresh or can it or freeze it to enjoy year round. 

In this episode, you will learn:

  • A long list of uses for simple syrup
  • Step-by-step instructions for making Rhubarb Vanilla Syrup
  • The final answer on if rhubarb is a veggie or not
  • Why botulism is not an issue
  • How long it will last in the fridge
  • How to freeze it if you don’t want to can it

Why Make Rhubarb Vanilla Syrup?

All simple syrups are versatile, but Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup is especially delicious. I think it is the queen of simple syrups!

It can be used:

  • in cocktails
  • to sweeten ice tea and lemonade
  • to create “soda” (mix with sparkling water)
  • in desserts
  • as a glaze on cakes
  • as a glaze on chicken
  • as a drizzle over fruit, ice cream or yogurt
  • and more

Why Botulism Is Not An Issue:

Even though rhubarb is a vegetable, it is most commonly used in sweet recipes. And to complicate matters, the US government even classifies it as a “fruit” for tax purposes, {Silly, I know}.

But the bottom line is that rhubarb is NOT a fruit.

Botanically speaking, it is a vegetable through and through.

But since most veggies need to be pressure canned, you may be wondering why we can water bath can rhubarb?

Well the fact is that rhubarb is different from most veggies. Rhubarb is high acid – just like fruit.

It has a pH in same range as a fruit and it can be water bath canned…just like fruit. Of course, you need a lot of sugar to counter the tartness and I would recommend some lemon juice to brighten the flavor. But it is okay to water bath can this syrup recipe using rhubarb and it will be safe.


If You Grow Rhubarb…

One little side note that is VERY important.

Have you ever noticed that you never see rhubarb leaves attached to the stalks when you buy rhubarb? That is because the leaves are toxic.

Yep. Don’t eat them.

The leaves have very high levels of oxalic acid. But the levels are very low in the stalks. (Less than spinach) So unless you have a very high sensitivity to oxalic acid, the stalks of rhubarb are perfectly safe to eat.

But if you grow them yourself, don’t eat the leaves! Only eat the stock.


Want to See How The Syrup is Made?

The Rhubarb Vanilla Syrup Recipe:

You can read about how to make this syrup below and when you are ready to make it yourself, just print out this free PDF of the recipe.


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Rhubarb Vanilla Simple Syrup:

Makes four (1/2 pint) jars

  • 6 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • Cheesecloth
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 vanilla bean – split

1) In a medium-sized saucepan, combine rhubarb and water. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is broken down.

2) Strain through cheesecloth. For clear syrup, do not press the rhubarb. Instead let the mixture sit overnight to strain. Or if you do not mind a little cloudiness or if you are in a hurry, let the mixture sit for about 20-30 minutes. Then, press the rhubarb with a wooden spoon to release the juices. Discard the pulp.

3) Fill your water bath canner with water and heat it up. Add your clean jars to the bath to heat while you continue the recipe. Prepare your 2-piece canning lids in a pan of warm water.

4) Measure the strained liquid and more water if necessary to make 3 cups. If you have a bit more than 3 cups, use whatever amount you end up with. (It does not have to be exact)

5) Pour the 3 cups of liquid to a saucepan and add 3 cups of sugar.  Add lemon juice and cardamom. Take the split vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and split bean to the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer until sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Remove vanilla bean (and save it for something else).

6) At this point you can stop and use the simple syrup. Just store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Or you can continue with canning the syrup and it will last on the pantry shelf for up to a year.

7) Remove your hot jars from the water bath and fill with the hot syrup. Leave 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the rims and add your lids and rings. Process in the canner for 10 minutes. Turn off the canner and let it sit 5 minutes with the lid off. Then remove the jars and let them cool on a wooden board.


Remember when you are ready to make this, just click here to download a printable copy of the recipe.



Resources & Links Mentioned:

Canning Academy

Water Bath Canning 

Martini Recipe Using Sugar Syrup 

Vanilla Sugar Recipe



Click here for the full transcript for Episode #40


Thank you so much for listening!

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.