Saturday, April 28, 2012
Simple Rhubarb Jam (No Commercial Pectin)
At the end of the month I am teaching a canning rhubarb jam workshop and I need to settle on a recipe. I have been making a Rhubarb Apricot Jam for the last few years now, but in that jam the rhubarb only plays a supporting role to the apricot. The workshop schedule was set in early March, so I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do before there was any rhubarb to play with. Looking through my cookbook collection and online for rhubarb flavor pairings I found the ubiquitous strawberry rhubarb, ginger rhubarb, vanilla rhubarb, rhubarb and beer etc but nothing that inspired me. Earlier this week I finally found rhubarb at my local food co-op and I bought enough for one test batch of jam along with several ounces of loose tea I thought I might add.
In the end I decided to highlight the subtle flavor of the rhubarb instead of cluttering the jam with lots of other noise. The sugar is scaled back from many traditional rhubarb jams, allowing the subtle tartness to blend with the sugar instead of being drowned by it. The more I play with rhubarb, whether it is in a savory rhubarb recipe or a simple jam the more I fall in love with its complexity. This jam has a lot going on, especially for such a simple list of ingredients. I will be making many more batches of it before the end of the rhubarb season, not just for my own toast. Sebastian, my 9 year old declared it his second favorite jam. His first favorite will probably always be Tomato Orange Marmalade. For now, it is the only jam I want on my toast.
Before I make another batch of jam I need to wait for the plants in my yard to cooperate. Although while waiting I need to find a use for the tiny stalks I picked for the photos!
Simple Rhubarb Jam
Yield 4 half pint and one 4 oz jar
1 Kilogram rhubarb, stalks halved lengthwise and then chopped into 1/2 inch or so pieces
600 grams sugar
juice of one lemon (I like to microwave my lemon for 40 seconds before squeezing it to get the most juice out)
Combine all the ingredients in a non reactive pot or bowl (non reactive means, anything but copper, aluminum or cast iron). Stir well and cover with a lid or a towel before placing in the fridge at least over night, I usually allow mine to rest for 24 hours.
Remove the pot from the fridge and uncover it, stir well and place over high heat. Heat the jam over high heat, once the fruit is boiling stir constantly until the setting point is reached. With this jam I used the cold plate test to test the set: Place a dollop of your jam on a plate you have previously set in the freezer. Place the plate and jam in the fridge. After about 5 minutes test the jam by pushing it with your finger, if it wrinkles up it is gelled and it's time to can your jam.
Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean with a damp paper towel or cloth and place on 2 piece lids and tighten by hand. Place filled jars in a water bath canner with water covering the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring water back to boil. Boil for 10 minutes more, when the 10 minutes is completed turn off the heat, remove the lid and leave the jars in the canner for another 5 minutes. Remove jars and place on a towel, dish cloth or receiving blanket or a cooling rack, with at least 1 inch between jars. Allow to cool completely, 12 to 24 hours. Once cool take off the bands, test the seal by pushing up on the lid with your thumbs. Any jars that have not sealed properly can be placed in the fridge. Clean the top of the jars, label and store in a cool dry place.