From Jam On : The Craft of Canning Fruit
Tart rhubarb gets a color boost and a floral, fruity kick from hibiscus flowers.
One of the first things to arrive at the farmer’s market in early spring is rhubarb.
Right before the first strawberries, these earthy, tart and sour weeds burst out of the
still cold earth to remind us that the seasons have cycled through once more and the
glorious days of warmth and good produce are just beginning.
I sell this flavor at outdoor food markets in the spring and summer, and customers often remark that they’ve never heard of rhubarb before. Rhubarb is a stalk that grows like a weed in most parts of the country. The leaves are poisonous, but the stalks are delicious! It’s a natural tart partner in strawberry pie, and is often used to enliven early spring dishes.
I love rhubarb all on its own, without showy strawberries to steal its thunder. But the ugly brown color is not so appealing, so I like to add hibiscus flowers to color it magenta and boost its herbal and fruity flavor.
This jam appears slightly complicated since it takes two days from start to finish, but it’s actually pretty simple. The first day’s steps are prep and can be done in a 10 minutes when you get back from the market or grocery store with your rhubarb. The next day it will take about an hour to cook the jam and process the jars.
MAKES ABOUT FIVE 8-OUNCE JARS OR TWO PINT JARS
Rinse and dice the rhubarb; take care to use a sharp knife as the rhubarb is stringy and it
takes a nice strong chop to separate. Measure the fruit into a glass bowl or plastic foodsafe
Tupperware and add lemon juice and all of the sugar.
Add to the chopped rhubarb mixture. Stir well. Do not refrigerate, but leave out on your
counter overnight or up to 48 hours so that the sugar and lemon juice can help release the
juice of the rhubarb. It’s pretty cool to watch the rhubarb release its juices!
The next day, measure fruit into a 6-to-8 quart nonreactive pot; stir well.
Wash and rinse the jars; put them into a big stockpot; cover the jars with water and bring
to a boil; turn off heat. Let stand in hot water until you are ready to fill them.
Bring the lids and rings to boil; turn off heat; let them stand in hot water until you are ready to screw them onto the jars.
Place a few metal spoons in the freezer for testing the consistency and gel of your jam later on. You can also place them in a cup of ice water if you prefer.
Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch. Gradually decrease
the heat if the jam starts to stick and scorch; continue to cook for about 20 minutes more,
until the jam is no longer watery and seems nicely thickened. Keep a watchful eye and
stir vigilantly for the last 5 to 10 minutes to keep it from scorching. When the jam seems
thickened and gelled, turn the heat low and test for consistency.
Pectin gels completely when thoroughly cool; so don’t worry if your jam looks loose
when still hot. To test, place a teaspoon of the hot jam onto one of the frozen spoons you
prepped. Place it back in the freezer, with the jam on it, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the
spoon and test the gel by tilting the spoon vertically. What’s the consistency? If the jam
runs loosely like syrup then it’s not done yet, but if it glides slowly along in a gloopy
glob, then the jam is ready. If it is syrupy, bring it to a boil again for 1 to 5 minutes. This
jam has a naturally looser consistency than some of the other jams in this book, but
should still be spreadable.
Once done, give it a quick stir and turn off the heat.
Let sit for 2 minutes before filling jars, so it can just start to congeal. Fill jars to 1⁄4” of top -- using a wide-mouth funnel and a ladle to fill the jars helps avoid a big mess. Wipe rims clean with a damp paper towel. Screw on lids (2-peice lids are easiest to use). Put filled jars in water; make sure they’re thoroughly covered with 1 inch of water over the top of the lids. Boil for 6 minutes (add 1 minute more for every 1,000 ft. above sea level).
Lift the jars out of the water with your jar lifter or tongs and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place. You can then remove the rings if you like. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they’ve sealed pressing gently in the center of the lid with your finger. If it pops up and down, it’s not sealed. If it’s firm and doesn’t move, then it’s sealed. If any of your jars have a faulty seal, don’t panic, just put the jar in the refrigerator right away and you can still use it – breakfast tomorrow! Once cooled, store them in a dark place like a cupboard or closet. They last up to 12 months. After about 8 months, they may darken in color and start to separate or become less gelled. Jam will last two to four months once open and refrigerated. Pairs well with strong, punchy blue cheese such as Stilton, Gorgonzola, and Valdeon; great on crostini with prosciutto and radish, and one customer suggests using it as a glaze on pork ribs; delicious on top of thick Greek yogurt. See Make It Your Own on page XXX for unique flavor combinations and ingredients you can use to customize your own flavor.