Posts Tagged rhubarb

Strawberries start the season

My new gig this year is volunteering at the local community garden, which involves hard work, grubby feet and an unpredictable stash of organic produce. This week I scored a little container of small, sweet strawberries, a few stalks of slightly woody rhubarb and a couple of sprigs of mint. The plan was to stew the rhubarb and eat the strawberries, but at the last minute I veered off into jam, supplementing the precious community garden strawberrries with a few from the farmers’ market.

Getting ready to jam. The little pink squares are my home-made crab apple pectin.

But how was I going to get that jam to set, given that both strawberries and rhubarb are low in pectin, and I had neither commercial pectin (which I try not to use anyway) nor a kiwi fruit, which was my 2013 revelation after the New York Times printed a recipe that used a kiwi as pectin for a stunning strawberry jam?

Cue the last two cubes of my home-made crab apple pectin, which I froze in ice cube trays a long, long time ago — that’s the little pink squares mixed in with the fruit in the picture.

It worked. I have a deep red jam with a soft set and a delicate taste of mint.

Recipe, more for me than for anyone else, given that I suspect it’s rare to have ice cubes of home-made pectin in the freezer.

Strawberry rhubarb jam

3 cups strawberries, washed and chopped to chunks
2 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups sugar
Juice of two lemons
2 cubes of home made pectin (or use a kiwi)
3 sprigs of mint, chopped very finely

Let the fruit, lemon juice and sugar macerate for an hour or so until the juices flow. Add the pectin (or kiwi) and head, gently until the sugar melts, and then at a rolling boil until it drizzles rather than pours off the spoon and you can run your finger through a blob on a cold saucer and leave a jamless streak. Stir in the mint, and leave for a few minutes so the fruit settles (I am told this prevents the fruit from floating to the top of the jar), and then bottle in sterilized jars.

This gave me 3-1/2 jars of jam, so I decided not to waterbath them. Instead, I turned the jars upside down for a few minutes after I put the rings on, and I listened happily as they sealed with a satisfying pop. I can always keep them in the fridge.

Can I open one of my three jars now, or do I have to use up the 2013 jam stash first?

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

I opened a jar. This jam is amazing. Absolutely, totally, utterly amazing.

 

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OMG!

There was a moment in our quickfire Sunday afternoon canjam when canning buddy and I scraped every last streak of rhubarb-strawberry jam from the very bottom of the preserving kettle and let out a collective “oooooh.” This jam is lick-the-spoon, scrape-the-saucepan and lick-your-finger good. And it’s beautiful to boot.

The inspiration came from Food in Jars, although we scaled the recipe up hugely, increased the ratio of rhubarb to strawberry, added a little sugar and threw in the juice of a couple of lemons.  It’s spoon-on-yogurt runny and a rich red, with a bite of rhubarb and that glorious taste you only get from local strawberries that have not spent the last three weeks in a refrigerated truck. And in fact it’s so good that we did it all over again the following week.

We made two jams that first week, that one, plus five jars of a rhubarb-lavender venture that Tigress in a Jam posted about a few years back and that I’ve made both with lavender and with rosemary. This time I used used lavender from the garden, which made it almost feel home grown.

Talking garden, we have a large number of still green raspberries that should be enjoying the rain we’ve been getting more than we are. I’m hoping there might be enough to jam, although I worry that the critters might get to them before we do. I guess the summer was warmer the last time I used home-grown raspberries. It was July 5, and we had been eating raspberries for weeks.

But the latest jam making came just in time, I admit. Before adding the latest jars, there were just four jars in the cold room, which was starting to make me feel a little nervous.

Lovely to know that the canning season is starting over again.

Strawberry rhubarb jam
4 lbs strawberries
5 lbs rhubarb
6 (and a bit) cups sugar
juice of two lemons

Chop the fruit, add the sugar and lemon juice, stir the mix and then let it sit around for a couple of hours to let the juices flow. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a rolling boil until it sets. It took about 10 minutes, and it spattered madly. Wear a red shirt, and shoes rather than sandals.

Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath.

Easy.

Rating: 3-1/2 4 (out of 5) This one tasted wonderful as we made it, but the taste seemed to dull over the summer. A jar opened in August was sharp rather than fruity, Too sharp for yogurt, a dribble too runny to boot. Strange.

Edit: Raising the rating to 4 (out of 5) on this one on the realization that it’s actually all about the pairing. This jam is a notch too tart for yogurt, but it’s absolutely perfect atop vanilla ice cream. Sadly this means I will be eating more vanilla ice cream.

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It’s starting

Round about this time of year I start fretting that I’m running out of jam. I never have, and I probably never will, but there were only six jars of jam in the cold room at last count, and I was starting to worry whether there would be enough for two people to eat yogurt with jam between now and the summer fruit season.

But then I remembered the rhubarb, which has just hit the market, albeit in a rather pale and skinny way. Last year’s rhubarb ginger jam was a big success, but I couldn’t find the recipe, so I had to start over.

Here is what I did, heavily gingering a recipe from the Jams and Jellies book from Australian Women’s weekly.

Rhubarb apple jam with ginger

4 cups rhubarb, finely chopped
4 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 cup candied ginger, sliced thin
Sugar — about 4 cups

Simmer the rhubarb, apple, water and lemon juice together for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is soft and mushy. Measure how much liquid you have, and add the grated ginger, along with 3/4 of a cup of sugar for every cup of pulp. (I think I might cut the sugar and up the ginger a little next time). Boil for 10 minutes until it sets, throwing the crystallized ginger in just before the end.

Bottle. Water bath for 10 minutes if you feel so inclined.

And it’s a beautiful jam, in a delicate shade of coral pink. A little runny perhaps – it seemed to be setting, so I didn’t even do a set test – with a taste that you can’t quite place.

Definitely worth trying again.

Of course canning buddy, fearing that I might have to buy jam, also handed over a few spare jars, including one from 2010, so I’m laughing. How long before I start fretting about having too many jars again?

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Mmmm, strawberries (part 2)

I can’t let a mere strawberry beat me down.

I mean I admit that the last strawberry experiment didn’t end too well, but I also know that strawberries are the stuff jam makers dream about, given the color, the taste, and the way the strawberries melt into a spreadable mix that works so well with bread, with yogurt and even with ice cream.

So it was time to try again, and I admit, with cautious pride, that this was almost a made up recipe, with the proportions from one, the techniques from a second and a flash of rosemary inspiration from a third.

And if the taste from the preserving kettle is anything to go by, this one is knock your socks off amazing. Shame that it only made three very, very precious jars.

Strawberry, rhubarb, rosemary jam

1 quart of strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
4 stalks of rhubarb (preferably stalks that are deep red all the way through) sliced very thin
juice of two lemons
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 sprigs rosemary

  • Mix all the ingredients together and let it all marinade together until the sugar has dissolved and the juices have melted out of the fruit. (That takes 4-6 hours, or overnight) Use a slotted spoon to fish out the fruit and set aside.
  • Bring the liquid to the boil and boil, very fast, until it reaches 221F. (This takes quite a while)
  • Add the fruit, bring back to a rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes. Fish out the rosemary half way through, or when it starts to look limp and threatens to fall apart (This bit goes quickly)
  • Test for set. Allow to cool slightly. Skim off the foam, and ladle into sterilized jars.
  • Water bath for 10 minutes, if you are a water bath sort of person.

Deep, rich red, excellent set, satisfying chunks of fruit.

Does it matter that rhubarb is technically a vegetable and not a fruit?

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Green stuff

I’ve neglected this blog as I focus on the shell , as our Toronto renovation project is known, helped of course by the fact that there has not been much to preserve right now. It’s been a cool, wet spring and early summer, and it’s just not the season for major jamming ventures yet. But I did venture briefly into rhubarb orange ginger jam from an internet recipe (4 cups rhubarb turned into a paltry two jars) as a two-evening midweek venture. I definitely trebled the ginger in the recipe, as is my wont, and admit I’ll probably pass on the orange next time — I don’t think it added that much to the flavor — but believe it or not, I was actually running out of jam. Had to do something about that one.

But the real news is that our temporary home this summer (while we renovate the shell) comes with a big, sunny garden, so I optimistically planted snowpeas, beans, and four different sorts of greens, as well as a selection of heirloom and other tomatoes. The soil is probably the heaviest, clayiest soil I’ve ever seen, and we had a few torrential downpours after the planting (which was just after the May 24 weekend), so not everything germinated, but I proudly picked my first small handful of Asian greens today. It’s not enough for a salad yet. Maybe sliced up in chicken soup for a light and instant meal?

The chives, a legacy from gardeners past, are doing much better though, so I tried another internet experiement with chive-flower vinegar. Take a handful of chive flowers, strip the blossoms flowers from the stalks and submerge in a jar of white vinegar on the kitchen counter for a week or so. Strain, use over the year, or until you get fed up with it. No clue what it’s going to taste like, but oh it looks pretty.

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Missing in action

I had my heart set on making marmalade today, and that symbol of winter preserving would have jibed so well with the blizzard that turned streets into a skating rink this morning. But Seville oranges have not made it to the Toronto market yet, and while you can use other citrus fruit to make a perfectly decent marmalade, I wanted that thick, bitter Seville orange peel for the right sort of thick, bitter slather on toast marmalade.

So I bought lemons instead, because I’ve not made decent preserved lemons for ages, and because I love the way they taste.

And that reminded me how scarily easy preserved lemons are to make. There’s no cooking, no slicing and dicing, just a little measuring, a lot of squeezing and then at least four weeks of patience at the end.

In a break with tradition, I actually cut the lemons in quarters rather than trying to leave them whole, and dipped the cut sides into the salt rather than trying to pack salt into an almost sliced lemon and then trying to force a recalcitrant lemon out of a narrow-necked jar at the end of the preserving session. You can fit more lemons into the jar that way. Now all I need to do is find room in the fridge and remember to turn the jar upside down every few days.

Preserved lemons
(Adapted slightly from “Pickles, Chutneys and Relishes”, a slim Australian number that has yet to let me down.)
6-8 small organic lemons, quartered lengthwise
2 tbsp coarse salt
1 cinammon stick
1 tsp cardamon seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds (I used black)
1 bay leaf (I was flat out of bay leaves, so omitted that one)

Dip the cut side of the lemons into the salt, and then pack tightly into a sterilized jar. Add spices. Pour in lemon juice to cover completely.
Store in the fridge, shaking and turning the jar every few days, for at least 4 weeks.
You use the rind only, sliced to taste, and added to whatever you feel like adding it to. But I admit I save the salty lemon juice too once the lemons are gone. A teaspoon adds a kick to any number of dishes. Ideas welcome.

And while I’m posting, here are a few ratings from the season, just to prove that not all the experiments work.

Strawberry rhubarb jam
We made 10 jars of this baby, but I suspect I gave a lot of them away, and if others are as disappointed as I am, I do apologise. I mean this jam is nice enough, but for me it doesn’t quite come together. The first time we made this it was a strawberry jam, with melted-down rhubarb adding an extra bite. It was yummy. This time the recipe called for macerating the rhubarb overnight before adding strawberries to the mix, and we ended up with little cubes of fairly sweet rhubarb floating in a strawberry-vanilla syrup. Tasty. Not special.
Rating: 3 (out of five)

Apricot cherry jam
A use-up-the-leftovers experiment, where we threw cherries and apricots together to see how they would work. The set is perfect, but sadly that’s where the perfection ends. Again, the taste is nice enough, but there are two tastes, not one. One mouthful is glorious apricot, and the next is slightly chewy cherry. If I close my eyes, I am honestly not sure I would know what I’m eating. That is sad.
I think this is crying out to be turned into thumbprint cookies. It might be better there.
Rating: 2-1/2 (out of five). It gains points for the set, and because the husband loves it. It loses points because I can’t quite figure out what it is.

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Less than five dozen jars to go

I did a quick count of the jams and chutneys today, and we’ve crashed below the 60-unopened-jar level, which means all that eating and giving away has made a serious dent in the collection. There are less than a dozen in the fridge (those are the jars that I never got round to water-bathing) and four boxes of jars in the basement, now carefully sorted by age, with the oldest in the box at the top. And excitingly, the sorting unveiled a couple of jars that I had forgotten about, including some 2009 creations that were so special that I saved them rather than opening them. There are a couple of dozen jars of tomato concoctions too, but I was counting jams and chutneys, remember. Crushed tomatoes don’t count.

So for this week, I am opening the seriously spectacular fig-tomato jam from September last year, as well as the July 2009 rhubarb marmalade that ended up forgotten on top in the fridge. I opened it tonight to refresh my memory on the taste, and it’s really rather nice, with a decent set, a pleasant tang and some slightly chewy chunks. It might work with yogurt, or it might need a nice plain pound cake, to counter the sweetness.

Now there’s an idea. A seedcake, perhaps with double the quantity of caraway seeds.

Now I know what my weekend cooking project will be.

That rhubarb marmalade was definitely better than the other 2009 holdout I finished this week, a redcurrant cardamon jam that reminded me why people make jelly out of redcurrants.

Ratings:

Rhubarb marmalade: 4 (out of 5)
Very nice tang, decent chunks, good texture and an unmistakable taste of sweet-sour rhubarb with a little bit of a candied twist.

Redcurrant cardamon jam: 2-1/2 (out of 5)
The taste and the color are specatcular here, and the set is pretty much perfection. But there are too many seeds and too much chewy skin to make a knock-your-socks off jam. And apart from anything else, I really couldn’t taste the cardamon.

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