Truffles are no trifle at the Rhubarb Fest

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Last Tuesday, the kitchen at First United Methodist (copper-top church) was abuzz with activity as more than 25 volunteers worked together to make almost 900 homemade rhubarb truffles, all in an afternoon. The truffles are a new addition to CHUM's annual Rhubarb Festival and will be sold to raise funds for this community building organization.

David Craig and Jim Taylor, both members of the copper-top, have been working in the church kitchen for many weeks to perfect their process and find a recipe for the perfect rhubarb truffles.

"We spent more than a month trying this and trying that, and this is the way we decided to do it," Craig said. "We might be a little different in our approach to it, but we do the best we can."

One batch of the tasty treats is made over the course of two days. The first day, the rhubarb (or a mixture of rhubarb and strawberries) is cooked down and put through a sieve to get rid of all the stringy stuff, which leaves a smooth rhubarb puree. That puree is then added to bits of chocolate, along with some boiled whipping cream, to make a "ganache," which goes into the refrigerator to cool. The next day the ganache is rolled into little balls, covered in cocoa powder, cooled again and then dipped in chocolate before the process is complete.

"In my family, there is a tradition that goes back to my great-great aunt who had a candy store in North Dakota and she made fudge on a marble slab, so my two brothers and I all have marble slabs for making fudge," Craig said. "People here (at the copper-top) knew we made fudge on the marble slab for the Super Bowl and because they thought of maybe having rhubarb candy of some sort, they approached us, and of course it took us a month and a half to figure out, but here we are."

The Rhubarb Festival takes place on Saturday, June 27 and lasts from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at 11th Avenue East and London Road, where the truffles and other rhubarb treats will be sold.

"I like the rhubarb festival because these people just keep coming back for more," Craig said. "We've even had plenty of trial and tribulation, we've been in plenty of fights and almost broke up even. We weren't before, but we're kind of like brothers now."

The process has been long, but it took time to perfect the recipe which produced their nearly 3,000 treats.

"We go slow and easy, make them real nice. It's not a race. The first day we started doing this after church, Jim and I spent hours, until 1:20 in the morning making truffles," Craig said. "The recipes came off the Internet, but we had to make big changes because they don't tell you everything. That's why we had to spend the past six weeks working on this stuff and figure out how to make it right."

Richard Gurske, active in leadership at the church, was one of the many volunteers working to make the project a success.

"David needed a hand and I just like helping out. This is my first shot at truffle-making ever. Usually, the only thing I do in the kitchen is just eat this stuff," said Gurske.

The event gives back to CHUM, which provides programs, including emergency food, shelter, advocacy and outreach to over 7,000 hungry, homeless and low-income people each year.