Michigan Fresh: Using, Storing, and Preserving Rhubarb (HNI48)


October 9, 2014 - Author: Joyce McGarry


Recommended varieties 

Red Petioles, Canada Red, Cherry Red, Crimson Red, MacDonald, Ruby, Valentine, Green Petioloes, Victoria.

Storage and food safety

  • Trim and discard leaves. The stalks can be kept in the refrigerator, unwashed and wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to 3 weeks.
  • Wash hands before handling fresh produce.
  • For best quality and nutritional value do not preserve more than your family can consume in 12 months.

How to Preserve

Select young, tender, well-colored stalks. Trim off leaves. Wash stalks and cut into ½ to 1 inch pieces. In a large saucepan add ½ cup sugar, or a Splenda type sugar substitute, for each quart of rhubarb. Let stand until juice appears. Heat gently to boiling. Immediately, pack rhubarb mixture in hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe Jar rims. Adjust two piece lids and process in a boiling water bath.

Process pints or quarts 15 minutes if you live 1000 feet above sea level or below. If you live at an altitude of 1001-6000 feet above sea level process for 20 minutes.

After processing remove jars of rhubarb from the canner and place on a cooling rack or towel. Let jars sit undisturbed while they cool, from 12-24 hours. Then remove rings, wash jars, dry, label and store in a cool, dry place.


Choose firm, tender, well-colored stalks with good flavor and few fibers. Wash, trim and cut rhubarb into lengths to fit the package or cut it to the size and the amount that you need for recipes. You may freeze rhubarb raw or blanched. Heating rhubarb in boiling water for 1 minute and cooling promptly in cold water helps retain color and flavor. 

Dry pack – Pack either raw or blanched rhubarb tightly into containers without sugar. Leave headspace. (See chart #2.) Seal and freeze.

Syrup pack – Pack either raw or blanched rhubarb tightly into containers, and cover with cold 40 percent sugar syrup. (See chart #1.) Leave headspace. (See chart #2.) Seal and freeze.

Chart #1. Sugar syrups

Type of syrup Percent syrup Cups of sugar Cups of water Yield syrup in cups
Very light 10% 1/2 4 4 1/2 cups
Light 20% 1 4 4 3/4 cups
Medium 30% 1 3/4 4 5 cups
Heavy 40% 2 3/4 4 5 1/3 cup
Very heavy 50% 4 4 6 cups

To make syrup, dissolve sugar in lukewarm water, mixing until the solution is clear. Chill syrup before using. Use just enough cold syrup to cover the prepared rhubarb after it has been placed in the container.

Chart #2. Headspace to allow between packed food and closure.

  Container with wide top Container with wide top Container with narrow top Container with narrow top
Type of Pack Pint Quart Pint Quart
Liquid Pack 1/2 inch 1 inch 3/4 inch 1 1/2 inch
Dry Pack 1/2 inch 1/2 inch 1/2 inch 1/2 inch


Andress, Elizabeth and Judy A. Harrison. So Easy to Preserve. Bulletin 989, 6th edition. Cooperative Extension University of Georgia, 2014

More information

Prepared by: Joyce McGarry, MSU Extension educator


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