Rhubarb never seems to get the credit it is due. Perhaps because the season for it is quite long (yes, rhubarb is still great all through summer, not just in the spring) or that quickly after it shows up there are strawberries and other fruits trying to steal the spotlight. Rhubarb also doesn’t really help itself either, the leaves are poisonous, the stalks are so tart that they are nearly not edible when raw, and it doesnt have the showiness of a perfect juicy strawberry.
Rhubarb has always made me think of spring. My parents have an enormous rhubarb plant and it was the first sign of life in the garden and a welcome spot of colour after a long winter. The sweet and tart combination of rhubarb desserts is like nothing else out there. Making jam from it has turned out to be a great way to experience that taste any day of the year.
I have been waiting all winter to use my new cookbook, Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber. This book is a classic in France and Christine is a legend in jam making. She has innovative ingredient combinations and techniques that are refined and well tested. She takes a very French approach to jam making. Unfortunately the recipes in this book are not always clear. As you may have noticed from the title, the original book was written in French but there is a little bit lost in the translation. The small vagaries of the book make it a little fun though and lead to a bit more experimentation. I ended up cutting the rhubarb a bit smaller than I think she meant for but I quite like the final texture.
I should also mention that Christine doesn’t use any commercial pectin. She takes advantage of the natural pectin of the fruit she is processing and if she needs extra she will add in some green apple jelly (high in pectin) to boost the pectin levels and help the jam set. It takes a little more faith and science to ensure you get the set you are hoping for but the results are spectacular when all goes well (I must admit that I have had one jam not turn out as desired, but that was quickly solved with a shot of pectin and some reprocessing).
Rhubarb Jam – Recipe
Adapted from the recipe in Mes Confitures
1kg trimmed and washed rhubarb – I found that stalks 1-1.5cm wide had the best flavour
Juice of 1 lemon
Split the rhubarb stalks lengthwise and cut into small pieces (you don’t need to cut it as fine as I did). Put the rhubarb in a non-reactive bowl with the sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to macerate overnight in the fridge. This macerating will help the pectin come out of the rhubarb and allow your jam to set nicely.
The next day, pour the rhubarb into a sieve and collect the juices in your jam pot (I just use my largest pot). Boil the collected juice and skim off any foam. Boil the syrup until it reaches 221F /105C on a candy thermometer. Add the rhubarb to the syrup and return to a boil. Skim off any foam and continue to boil on high heat for another 5 minutes (I added a few minutes) stirring. Put the jam into jars and seal.
Allow the jam to sit for a week or so in a cool place to allow the pectin to set. The longer you leave the jam, the better the flavours usually get, but don’t wait longer than a year as jam only lasts so long and this is so yummy why would you ever wait a year?!
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