Archive for June, 2013

Bebop-a-rebop rhubarb… jam

Though the calendar says June 10, most people in Minnesota would tell you that it feels like early April. Personally, having spent my college years in the state of Washington, I’ve been describing this month as “late February in the Pacific Northwest.” Cold and wet. A drizzle to be exact. Generally miserable for gardeners and lovers of the sun alike.

That said, there is one staple of the early spring that is excelling in this cool weather. The ever popular rhubarb. Though technically a vegetable (we’re using the stalk, not the “fruit” of the plant), most eaters think of rhubarb more as a fruit, as it is often found in sweet desserts like pies. I grew up with a mom who regularly made rhubarb crisp, sprinkled with oatmeal and sugar crumbles and of course, a packet of strawberry or raspberry Jell-O, so I would generally be in agreement with the “fruit” designation (though the biologist side of me balks at this misclassification).IMG_0141

The simplest way to eat rhubarb, yet the most difficult for some, is straight out of the garden. I have vivid memories of my brother and I eating stalks of rhubarb, dipped in a small plastic cup of sugar, the stringy skin always a challenge, but the tart and sour treat worth the effort. This method is not for everyone, particularly those who don’t love the “pucker in the far back of your jaw” feeling.

That said, a bit more sugar and maybe a few other ingredients and you’ve got yourself  a much more palatable sweet and sour combo. As previously mentioned, this often manifests itself as dessert, but another incredibly easy option is jam.

Having gotten what I consider incredibly lucky, I discovered this spring that the house we bought this winter had a garden already planted with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR rhubarb plants, all of which, given the cold weather previously mentioned, have done very well so far this year. Not wanting to waste this early season bounty, last night I set to the task of preparing a bunch for freezer jam. For those of you leery of canning, I highly recommend freezer jam as an easy, and more or less “fail safe,” way to get into home preserving. With rhubarb, you don’t even need pectin, just a knife, a pot and a bunch of sugar. The recipe I followed was one my mom found online and you can find it here.

MY NOTES: The recipe calls for six pounds of rhubarb. If you’re like me, I don’t have a scale to measure that small of an amount, so I used the rough conversation suggested by the original blog author of one pound equaling about four cups of rhubarb. Knowing I didn’t have enough for 24 cups (six pounds x four cups), I opted to cut the recipe in half. After I measured my 12 cups, I started adding sugar. Five cups of sugar seemed like it would be an awful lot, being someone who prefers the sour to the sweet in a rhubarb jam, so after three cups, I stopped, seeing the chunks were thoroughly coated and a nice juice was forming. If you have a bigger sweet tooth, you may prefer more. If you use less as I did, you might have to cook it a bit longer to help with gelling, but really, since it is freezer jam, it doesn’t matter as much as canned jam.

Once you have cooked the jam, you have a couple options. Some people will recommend you let it completely cool in the pot before you fill your jars. Personally, I put it in jars and let it cool on the counter for a while, then put it in the fridge overnight to cool completely. Either way, there are two things you should NOT do and they are: do not put hot jam in the fridge (this warms other items in the fridge and isn’t good for food safety or fridge efficiency) and do not put hot or warm jam in the freezer (mainly because this big change in temp can cause your jars to break, and like the fridge, it isn’t good to warm up the freezer).

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Another nice thing about freezer jam is you don’t need official canning jars, you can really use anything you want, though I personally recommend limiting the use of plastic and only freezing in glass, such as old jam or condiment jars. I also recommend going with smaller jars (half pint or less), unless your household goes through a lot of jam quickly. Mine does not, so the smaller jars are better for making sure they don’t go bad in the fridge once thawed.

As expected, this jam was right the right balance of sweet and tart for me. It was perfect on a slice of toast and I can only imagine it will be divine on chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

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June 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm Leave a comment


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