Ok you know what? After today, how about I not post about rhubarb again this season? Hmmm, I will see what I can do, but I am not making any promises.
I made jam finally.
And you know what is one of the most satisfying noises in jam making? The little pop-blurp when top seals properly and pops in. Right now I am listening to the sweetly weird symphony of pop-blurps.
Alright. So when I make jam I kind of wing it. Well, frankly, when I cook I am pretty much winging it. The only part I actually follow exactly is the canning part because if you f*ck that sh*t up you can KILL people! Yipes!
To be honest with all the rhubarb and strawberries I bought I've been eating it a little at a time, trying to prolong the deliciousness. Tonight I cooked some with a little brown sugar and rum - different and delicious! The other night was with a little mint - which was gross. But I really bought so much that jam seemed like a great way to cook up lots of it in a hurry before the deliciousness turned into rotteness.
So I started looking about for a recipe. The one thing I have found about most jam recipes is that they all seem to use waaaaaaaaaay too much sugar. As it is rhubarb is going to wear off the enamel on your teeth, so why compound the rot with sugar?
The other thing I have found it that lots of recipes call for jello. Blech. Why do that to lovely old jam? In my own experience jam becomes jam at 220o or so. I bring the jam to a boil, then to a really good boil for a few minutes at 220o, and then take it off the heat and jar it up. So far, so good, most of the time anyway.
Yeah, so I just wanted a plain old rhubarb-strawberry jam recipe and found a reasonably easy one over on The Rhubarb Compendium website. The only thing is that it called for way, WAY, too much sugar. I think it was like 12 cups of chopped fruit to 6 cups of sugar, which seems fine in theory I suppose. But it made my teeth wince.
So I used 12 cups of chopped fruit and about 3 cups of sugar. I also added in a little chopped candied ginger (such a culinary cliche at this point), a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
I chopped the rhubarb about 1/2 inch thick, added in some bits of chopped candied ginger, and then covered them in 1-1/2 cup sugar and let that sit for about an hour and a half. Then I cut up the strawberries and covered them in the rest of the sugar.
After about half an hour I smooshed up the strawberries a little, just a little really because you do want a few pieces of fruit poking about, and then mixed them in with the rhubarb. The whole thing then went into my big yellow enamel pan over a reasonably high heat.
If you are going to can this stuff, don't forget to have your jars already ready.
Let the mixture come to a nice boil and then turn the heat up. This will start to really boil, and spatter super hot pre-jam all over you. If you are not used to being burned, use oven mitts while stirring.
I use a regular old candy thermometer to tell me when it gets to 220o and when it gets there, I let it boil away for a few minutes, 5 or 7 maybe.
Here is the thing about this step. You have to remind yourself that with all that sugar cooking what it really wants to do is turn into a thick candy mass. The point of cooking it to a certain degree is to get it to the set point and keep it from the candy point. So use your noggin and look at what you are cooking. If it starts to look like it is thickening into something that resembles a melted Jolly Rancher, pull it and can it.
Once I pull it off the heat, I put it in my sterilized jars immediately. Cap, band, and into the water bath they went for 10 minutes.
Let me just say that I just bought a funnel and a jar lifter and I cannot believe I did not do that sooner. And also I got the pint sized funnel - it works in both pints and wide mouth jars, but the wide mouth funnel is only good for the big jars, so don't bother. As for the jar lifters, well I used to wrestle the jars out of the water bath with a pair of metal tongs, praying each time that I wouldn't drop the jar of boiling hot jam on my foot. So the jar lifter is really a wise investment.
Now I am just waiting to see how this sets up. Of course I saved a little aside to test and that was pretty good. But I can't tell if it is because it is good, or if I am just loving the rhubarb.
I will post a photo tomorrow. So I guess there will be one more rhubarb post.