Roasted Rhubarb Semantic

We enjoy word games. Puns, rhymes, limericks even spelling contests; we love them all. So this recipe represented a challenge for us. We had a lengthy debate about what the resulting fruit conglomeration should be labeled. Is it a conserve or compote? What is the difference between jam and preserves? Is it fruit butter? How about marmalade?

So here goes:
  • Conserves are made by cooking dried fruits and nut and have a very thick and chunky texture. Conserves work very well as a spread and as a condiment for meats and cheeses.
  • A compote is made with whole fruit cooked in water with sugar and spices. The syrup may be seasoned with vanilla, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon sticks or powder, cloves, ground almonds, grated coconut, candied fruit, or raisins.
  • Jam is a thick mixture of fruit, pectin, and sugar boiled gently until the fruit is soft. Recognizable pieces of fruit are still visible in the mixture. Jam can be spread easily and makes a good filling for cakes and donuts.
  • Fruit butter is a smooth and creamy spread that is created by slow-cooking fruit and sugar until it reaches the right consistency; these types of spreads are not always translucent and are often opaque. Fruit butters are best used as a spread and a filling. A jam that has been pureed to be ultra-smooth could qualify as a fruit butter.
  • Preserves are a cross between jelly and jam. Preserves have visible chunks of fruit surrounded by jelly, but are not as thick and opaque as jam.
  • Marmalade is a citrus spread made from the peel and pulp of the fruit. Marmalades are cooked for a long time and have no pectin, and are used as spreads and glazes.
So what is the answer? The sweet fruity goodness would not be considered a conserve because the rhubarb is fresh not dried. It is definitely not a jam or preserve because no pectin is used in cooking, and it is not marmalade because while rhubarb is very tart and acidic, it is a rhizome and does not come from a citrus tree. So the verdict is compote or fruit butter, and since the mixture is smoother than the definition of the word compote connotes, we are officially calling it:

Roasted Rhubarb Butter
  • 2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine rhubarb, brown sugar, zest and lemon juice in a medium baking dish or ovenproof skillet.

Roast until rhubarb is very tender and juices are syrupy, about 45 minutes. Check about halfway through cooking; if the top looks overly dry, stir the rhubarb mixture and return to the oven.

Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool. The juices will retreat and thicken as the mixture cools. At this point you have two options: place the butter in a jar(s) and refrigerate or you can puree it until completely smooth before moving to jar(s) and refrigerating.

This delicious condiment is amazingly versatile! You can serve it with toasted bread for breakfast or as a topping for cheesecake or ice cream. When mixed with some chilies, caramelized onions and ginger, it makes an amazing relish for roasted pork or chicken.