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A little dish of tart, lightly sweetened rhubarb with a bit of whipped cream on top makes any spring day celebratory. Photo by Rebecca Johnson.
A little dish of tart, lightly sweetened rhubarb with a bit of whipped cream on top makes any spring day celebratory. Photo by Rebecca Johnson.

Celebrating with Rhubarb

May 17, 2012

Today is May 17, and as usual, I am completely offended. On March 17, everyone pretends to be Irish. For Cinco de Mayo, folks don sombreros and down margaritas. But when Norway’s national holiday, Syttende Mai, rolls around on May 17…nothing. No dinner deals, no special drinks, no wild debauchery. What gives? Where's the Scandinavian love?

It lives in places like Vivian, with its annual Syttende Mai parade and rare springtime lutefisk supper, and at Nordland Fest in Sioux Falls. But that's not enough. I will not rest until bars across the state offer Syttende Mai drink specials.

There's just one problem. I have yet to come up with a suitable Norwegian cocktail to capture the public's attention. Should it contain cream? Probably. Or how about equal parts aquavit and lutefisk cooking water with a butter ball garnish? Hmm... Maybe rhubarb margaritas?

Scandinavians do have an affinity for rhubarb, you know. Its fresh and springy taste goes well with sugar and cream. So until I can come up with a good Syttende Mai drink, let's celebrate with something safe – a simple rhubarb pudding with plenty of whipped cream on top.

Rabarbagrot (Rhubarb Pudding)


1 1/2 lbs. rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar

Heat 1 1/2 cups water and 3/4 cup sugar to boiling, stirring occasionally. Add fruit. Simmer uncovered until rhubarb is tender, about 10 minutes. Mix 1/4 cup water and cornstarch; stir into rhubarb mixture. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute over medium heat while continuing to stir. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Pour into serving bowl or individual dessert bowls.

When ready to serve, beat whipping cream with 2 tablespoons sugar in chilled bowl until stiff. Spoon onto rhubarb pudding and serve.


06:14 am - Thu, May 17 2012
Signe Schumacher said:
Amen Laura! As a Scandinavian married to a German, it's hard to see kuchen getting all the glory as the state dessert when it really should be lefse!
06:35 am - Thu, May 17 2012
Laura said:
Thanks Signe! A gentleman from Kennebec called up to tell us about the supper in Vivian, and nearly had me crying because his wife was making lefse for the feast that day. Nothing beats fresh homemade lefse!

12:51 pm - Sun, June 3 2012
Julie Scheel said:
Hear, Hear for the Scandanavians Everywhere! Rhubarb it is! Thanks for sticking up for those of us forgotten elements, especially the Danes! Luckily, we have many Norwegian friends with whom we would share a glass (or dish) of cheer. Ken would add only ice cream!
09:06 pm - Mon, June 4 2012
anonymous said:
Oh Julie--I had forgotten about warm rhubarb sauce over ice cream! Almost as good as Grandma Rachel's Rhubarb Torte! However, a rhubarb margarita or slush would just hit the spot in the hot weather.
04:28 pm - Sun, October 26 2014
Mark B Small said:
I HAD TO GOGGLE "South Dakota Rhubarb" and came up with your site.....
THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!! I need to know where I can purchase some bulbs
for planting out here in Calif (born in Blunt....near Pierre)
I've been making Rhubarb sauce for my little 97 yr. old Mother-in-Law EVVA who has been with us for 15 yrs and she LOVES IT !!! She smiles and giggles
THANK YOU AND YOUR READERS for any help finding a source for bulbs.

Mark B Small
Ps... going to plant it in Palm Desert & San Luis Obispo ANY TIPS ???

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