Rhubarb rules the day in Susan's kitchen

Susan Manzke
Susan taking a bite of her starred creation.

When I was a kid, I would pick a stalk of rhubarb and eat it. Oh, not alone. That would make my mouth pucker. Dipping the end in granulated sugar always made it palatable—I don’t do that any longer. Even with the sugar, my mouth puckers.

I don’t remember if my mother made rhubarb pie or sauce. At least no recipes for rhubarb were saved from Mom. It wasn’t until I was married that I started cooking and baking with rhubarb.

A wedding shower gift from one of Bob’s neighbors started it all.

In 1973, Mrs. Hunniford gave me a cookbook. After all these years the cover is gone, but it looks like it had been issued as a fundraiser for the VFW auxiliary unit, but I can’t be positive. No print remains about its origin, only the collection of recipes. The current first page is number nine. Contributors’ names are under the recipes submitted by members of the unit.

As a new bride, I thumbed through all the cookbook had to offer. If I made something and liked it, I stuck a star on the page next to the recipe.

At one time there was a post for rhubarb jelly, but that page is gone. Instead, I worked to make a rhubarb sauce by memory.

First, I went over to my neighbor Dan’s home to collect rhubarb. For those who never picked rhubarb, you’ll find harvesting is very easy. All you have to do is reach down low on a stalk and pull up. Afterward, cut a little off the bottom. Cut the whole top leaf off. Don’t eat the leaf. It’s poisonous!

Here are two recipes to use with your rhubarb.

Rhubarb sauce going into pint jar.


20+ stalks of rhubarb, diced

½ c. water

2 c. sugar

1  3 oz pkg. Strawberry Jell-O

Wash and dice rhubarb stalks. Fill large pot with rhubarb, filling it until three-quarters full. Then add ½ cup water, two cups sugar, and a package of strawberry Jell-O. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

I found some frozen strawberries in the freezer and also added them to my sauce. No measurements. I worked by taste. I bottled the hot sauce. After the pints cooled, I set mine in the freezer. It’s great on toast and also on ice cream.

I wasn’t finished with the rhubarb I picked in my neighbor’s patch. My next recipe was on page 200 in my aged cookbook. In the past, even people who proclaim to hate rhubarb have loved this starred recipe.

Finished Rhubarb Crisp hot from the oven.


Recipe was submitted by Doris Sangmeister for the for the VFW Auxiliary Frankfort-Mokena Unit cookbook 


2 c. flour

1 cup oleo or butter

½ c. powdered sugar.

Sift flour and sugar. Cut in butter until the mixture clings together. Press into 13 by 9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.


3 c. sugar

¾ c. flour

1 tsp. salt

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

4 eggs

4 cups diced, fresh rhubarb

1  3 oz. pkg. Strawberry Jell-O (optional)

Sift together sugar, flour, salt, and baking powder (Note: I also added a package of strawberry Jell-O. It gives the mixture a nice pink color.)

Beat eggs until fluffy, add to sifted ingredients. Mix well. Add rhubarb. Pour on top of baked crust and bake for an additional 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cool well before eating. If it is too large a recipe, share some with a friend. I’m cutting up some for Dan and his brother.

I’ve found that the best recipes come from collections like this one. I have a few other cookbook collections here. The contributors always seemed to include favorite family recipes to share.

I’m hoping this cookbook from the 70s will hold up a few more years for me. There are a few starred recipes I may like to try again.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;