The first time I tried rhubarb, I was 22 years old. How I managed to live so long without enjoying the earthy tang of that vibrant stalk, I have no idea. But now that I’ve been introduced to its beauty, I find every excuse to use it all season long.
Lately, frozen is my favorite form of consumption. And this rhubarb buttermilk sherbet hits all the right spots. It’s creamy, tangy, tart, and sweet, not to mention super simple to make.
Rhubarb and buttermilk are a natural pair. The bright, tart flavors of fresh rhubarb fade as it cooks, revealing its sweet earthy undertones. When combined with tangy buttermilk, the interplay of the subtle tart, the creamy tang, and the touch of sweet dance on the tongue in flavorful harmony.
Very similar in process to making sorbet, sherbet is differentiated by the addition of dairy. It’s lighter than ice cream, and faster to make – basically the perfect dessert.
Though the fruit in sorbet and sherbet is typically raw, rhubarb must be cooked in order to break down its fibrous stalks, and unlock the earthy flavor notes.
Macerating the raw stalks in sugar first accelerates this process, by drawing water out of the vegetable. Once cooked and cooled, the rhubarb just needs a quick buzz in the blender with buttermilk, and it’s ready to churn.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prepare your ice cream maker
Every machine works a bit differently. If yours requires a frozen bowl, make sure you freeze it 12-24 hours in advance! If using a rock salt maker, be sure you have the ice and salt necessary to churn.
To make this batch, I used the KitchenAid KICA0WH ice cream maker attachment, a frozen bowl designed for my KitchenAid stand mixer. To read more about this particular model, check out Foodal’s review here.
Step 2 – Wash and trim your rhubarb
If you’ve picked rhubarb straight from your garden, you will definitely want to be sure to wash and trim it. The leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, so make sure no small leaves or stems remain.
If you purchased your rhubarb at the market or grocery store, it has likely already been cleaned up for you. Nevertheless, it is good to check the ends and make sure you trim the tips if they have browned.
Step 3 – Chop, stir, and let sit
Chop the rhubarb into roughly one-inch pieces. Place in a medium-sized pot and stir together with the sugar. As this sits at room temperature, the sugar will draw water out of the vegetable.
This creates a nice rhubarb juice, and begins to break down the fibrous stalks.
Step 4 – Cook your rhubarb
Cook the rhubarb, sugar, and all of its juices on low heat. Stir regularly so that nothing burns on the bottom of the pot. In about 20 minutes, the chunks of rhubarb will start to break down into a smooth sauce.
Step 5 – Chill the rhubarb
Transfer the chopped fruit into a glass or metal bowl. Nest this in a larger bowl of ice and stir regularly. After an hour, the rhubarb should be chilled completely, and cool to the touch.
Step 6 – Blend
To make this batch, I used my Cuisinart 2-speed immersion blender. Check out Foodal’s review of this immersion blender, as well as several other models, here.
Step 7 – Perform the egg test
The egg test is the best way to determine whether you have enough sugar in your base. Without enough sugar, the sherbet will freeze solid and be difficult to scoop.
Because the exact amount of sugar in rhubarb differs with each stalk, it is helpful to have a way of testing your batch before freezing. With enough sugar, the egg will float at the top of the puree.
Place a clean, dry egg in your base. If it floats, you are good to go. If not, remove the egg and blend in additional sugar one tablespoon at a time, until the egg can stay afloat.
Step 8 – Churn
Churn your sherbet according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For my KitchenAid attachment, this meant turning the machine on, pouring in the base, and letting the mixer go for about half an hour.
Most ice cream makers will freeze the base up to soft-serve texture. It can be delicious straight from the bowl, but if you desire a firmer texture, you can also transfer to a lidded container and pop in the freezer for a few hours.
This tart treat is a fun new way to use rhubarb. Without the heavy cream or eggs of ice cream, sherbet is a light alternative that doesn’t sacrifice flavor.
Its eye-catching hue matches its vibrant taste, which is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
What other types of sherbets do you enjoy making? Let us know in the comments how this sherbet worked for you!
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Photos by Kendall Vanderslice, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall’s love of food has taken her around the world. From baking muffins on a ship in West Africa and milking cows with Tanzanian Maasai, to hunting down the finest apfelstrudel in Austria, she continually seeks to understand the global impact of food. Kendall holds a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has worked in the pastry departments of many of Boston’s top kitchens. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Kendall helps to run a small community supported bread bakery and writes about the intersection of food, faith, and culture on her personal blog, A Vanderslice of the Sweet Life.