Find Yourself in an (Easy) Jam

I find Rhubarb to be intoxicating.  Rarely do you get to have it on its own as it is often paired with fruit, most famously strawberries.  It has such a short season, made shorter by the fact that no one I asked could agree…the whole foods produce manager even told me it wasn’t in season though I had some from the farmers market in my bike basket!  So I recommend when you see it snatch it up, regardless of the chatter.  And if you want to keep it for longer than its little window, JAM it!

I continue to fall madly in love with the Blue Chair Jam book, every page is gorgeous and full of YOU CAN DO IT attitude.  Which is my favorite attitude to find myself in and encourage others with.  But preserving is a slow process, so most recipes and lessons go on for several pages and I know that can be daunting.  So when I saw Rhubarb at the market AND the ONE page Rhubarb Jam recipe…well one must recognize signs when they appear so clearly.  If you have never JAMMED before, this is the one to do and feel devilishly clever by the end.  An end that involves sparkling jam.

Rhubarb Jam

adapted from Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, makes 2 8oz jars

1 pound rhubarb stalks, choose the reddest you can find

3/4 pound cane sugar

3/4 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)

Day 1

Chop rhubarb in 3-4inch lengths.  Place rhubarb in a nonreactive container, glass, plastic or stainless steel.  I used a stainless steel mixing bowl.  Pour sugar over it and shake to combine.  Pour lemon juice over that, give it another shake and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let macerate for 24 hours at room temp, slightly warm is even better…the top of a stove not in use is one option, but since we had a sunny day I left mine on a windowsill.  The warmth makes the rhubarb release its juices.

Day 2

Preheat oven to 250.  Place two 8oz glass jars and their lids on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 250 for 20 mins.  This is the time it takes this jam to thicken so it’s perfect! Again SIGN!  But if you go slow it’s fine, this is the minimum time to sterilize and prep jars.  You can use jam specific jars or recycle jars that once contained other items.  I have tons of recycled jars I hang on to for this purpose.

Place a saucer with five metal spoons in a flat place in your freezer.  These are for testing doneness later.  Transfer your rhubarb mixture to a 4-5 quart nonreactive pot, stirring well to dissolve whatever sugar may not have already.  Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally with a large heat proof rubber spatula.  Boil, stirring frequently and lowering the temperature if the jam starts to stick.  It will produce big beautiful pink bubbles and then begin to thicken.  When it is no longer watery, around 15 minutes or a few more (in these last 5 mins you will need to be stirring a lot to avoid the jam sticking to the pot) you can test for doneness.  Remove pot from heat.

Remove a spoon from the freezer, take a small sample of the jam and replace the spoon.  Wait 3-4 mins, remove spoon from freezer and feel the underside.  It should be neither ho nor cold.  If still warm return to freezer for a few moments.  Tilt spoon sideways, if the jam runs off quickly it is not ready, if it runs slowly or has thickened to a glop then it is DONE!  If it is watery, return pot to heat a cook for a few more moments, testing with spoons till you get the desired result.

Remove jars from the oven with a towel and pour or scoop jam into the jars leaving 1/4 inch from the top.  Wipe any mess away with a damp cloth and seal the lid till JUST tight.  Place jars back in the oven and bake for 15 mins.  Remove and place carefully on a wire rack to cool overnight.  Jars should be 3-4 inches apart and not jostled while they cool as this can disturb its ability to set.  As they cool the lids with POP!  THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART!

There you have it!  Delicious Jam!

As a final note, I have to mention Save Food From The Fridge.  A designer is reverse engineering a “fridge” with an emphasis on paying attention to food, its ideal environment, how it ages, etc.  At its heart it is an analog appliance exploring old kitchen wisdom that has been largely lost.  Or summed up better:

Jihyun Ryou is interested in food preservation. “I’ve learned that we hand over the responsibility of taking care of food to the technology, the refrigerator,” she explains. “We don’t observe the food anymore, and we don’t understand how to treat it,” she adds. To Ryou, design is not about making life easier but about propagating knowledge. Instead of concealing, design reveals time-tested rituals, processes and traditions, finding new ways to elucidate them. As Ryou writes, “My design is a tool to implement that knowledge in a tangible way and slowly it changes the bigger picture of society. I believe that once people are given a tool that triggers their minds and requires a mental effort to use it, new traditions and new rituals can be introduced into our culture.”

Food for thought.  I think it’s brilliant.


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