Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Spring Preview

Some things in life just belong together...ducks and water, Romeo and Juliet, chips and salsa, and strawberries and rhubarb. This unlikely pair (one is fruit and the other a red celery look-alike and a vegetable) share only their color. When raw, rhubarb is crisp and quite sour. In order to be edible it needs something added to it to sweeten it. Back in the day, kids in Britain used to eat raw rhubarb dipped in sugar as an affordable treat. But now it is much more common to see rhubarb baked into pies or made into jams, very often partnered with sweet, red strawberries.

Strawberry rhubarb jam was a special request made by my son, after we spied some rhubarb at Bristol Farms the other day. And since we just polished off our last jar in the pantry that I made last spring, the timing couldn't have been better. I have never seen rhubarb for sale at any southern California farmers market, and so I always have to buy it at the regular one. Last year I paid almost $20 per pound for the stuff, so it was a real bargain at $9.99. And the fact that it was grown in the United States makes it "local" enough for me. We all have to make exceptions to our rules sometimes, don't we? At least it wasn't shipped from halfway around the world.

So that store bought rhubarb and my farmers market strawberries were married in a large pot with some orange zest, sugar and lemon juice. Their union created sweet, yet tangy, bright red and glossy offspring. The jam came together quickly and the entire process, chopping the ingredients to its water bath in jars, was complete in less than an hour. And I have a delicious sweet smelling house and 6 jars of jam on my counter to show for it.

The recipe was adapted from one in the Gourmet Preserves cookbook. I'm not sure if I would use orange zest again, because it does have a pronounced orangy flavor that I'm thinking my kids won't be crazy about, but I thought it was quite delicious!

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
makes 6, 1/2 pints

2 pounds of strawberries, hulled and cut into uniform pieces
1 pound of rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1 C water
zest from one orange or lemon
2 T lemon juice
2 C sugar

Place strawberries, rhubarb and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Add zest, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of sugar. When jam boils again, continue to add the remaining sugar in 1/2 C increments, waiting until it returns to a boil each time. Continue to boil, stirring frequently for about 10-20 more minutes, or until jam reaches a temperature of 212 degrees and is sputtering. You may even begin to see the bottom of the pot as you stir.

Fill hot, sterilized jars (I let them heat up in my pasta cooker, then drain and fill them) leaving a 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims and lids with vodka, apply lids and process jam in hot water bath (I use my pasta cooker) for 10 minutes, making sure that there is at least one inch of water above the tops of the jars. Remove jars to a towel to cool, and you should hear the tell-tale "ping" of the airtight seal.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I have never seen rhubarb for sale at any southern California farmers market, and so I always have to buy it at the regular one.

Oh, good, I'm glad it's not just us! We felt a bit guilty buying rhubarb at the grocery store for strawberry-rhubarb pie.

I did grow up eating raw rhubarb dipped in sugar. Yum!