Even before I brought home 25 lbs of rhubarb from Tai’s Grandma’s massive Maine rhubarb patch, I had begun the season’s rhubarbapalooza with about 8 lbs of gorgeous, fat and deeply magenta stalks courtesy of Madura Farm. Since the pale pinky-green stalks are far more common in New England, I pounced on these beauties, and knew that I would save them for preserves where color counts: rhubeena and jelly.
Last year, when I was leafing through my new copy of Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ‘em Up!, I spied a recipe called “sparkling rhubarb jelly.” And thought: “Sparkling wine & rhubarb?! Sign me the <expletive> up!” Alas, the recipe in question was for a simple rhubarb jelly, sans sparkling alcoholic goodness. But the idea stayed in my head, apparently, because when I lugged home those fat magenta beauties from the farmer’s market, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: rhubarb prosecco jelly.
Prosecco tends to be a bit sweeter than champagne or cava, so it is a perfect foil for the tart rhubarb. The Meyer lemon pectin was an inspired addition here, if I do say so myself: the bitterness of the citrus pectin allowed me to add enough sugar for the standard 1:1 ratio of sugar:fruit juice without the resulting jelly being tooth-achingly sweet, and the floral Meyer lemon added just a hint of savory flavor, giving this jelly a rich and complex profile. The set is just barely there: I suspect I could shake a jar hard and have a thick, rather gloppy syrup, perfect for a meat glaze or vinaigrette, yet it spreads nicely on a piece of toast. Just the way I like it! While I don’t normally use refined white sugar, I like the choice here, both to preserve the beautiful pink color of the jelly and to prevent any caramel/molasses flavor from interfering with this fresh, tart, sparkling jelly. While rhubarb season has only just begun, this one is going to be tough to top.
- 1 and 3/4 lbs rhubarb, washed & trimmed, sliced to 1/2-inch pieces (to yield 3 cups juice)
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 cup prosecco or other sparkling wine
- 1 and 1/2 lbs (3 cups) sugar (refined white beet sugar)
- juice of 1 small lemon
- pinch salt (optional)
- 1/2 cup Meyer lemon pectin (or other citrus pectin or apple pectin)
- Add rhubarb and water to a large stockpot. Bring to a simmer over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer until rhubarb is mostly broken down, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a clean jelly bag (or a cheesecloth-lined colander) suspended over a bowl and allow juice to drain, undisturbed, for at least 2 hours. Resist pressing on the jelly bag, lest your jelly be cloudy. Reserve pulp for leather, popsicles or granola.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Measure out 3 cups of rhubarb juice: combine with prosecco, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a wide, heavy-bottomed preserving pot or Dutch oven. Use your largest pot: between the rhubarb and the prosecco, this foams up a lot. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Add pectin, raise the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the gel point: 220 degrees F on an accurate thermometer or a small dollop of jelly creates wrinkles after 1 minute on a frozen plate, about 20 minutes. I relied on the frozen plate gel test here and the final jelly temperature was 223 degrees F. Cook for 1 minute at the gel point.
- Remove from heat. Skim foam. Ladle hot jelly into hot jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields 3 and 1/2 cups.
- You should be able to replace homemade citrus or apple pectin with commercial pectin: follow the directions for 4 cups of juice, and use the recommended amount of sugar unless you are using low-sugar or flex-batch pectin.
- Since the citrus pectin is quite bitter, this jelly is not overly sweet; in fact it rides right on the edge of savory with the tart rhubarb, lemon juice and floral Meyer lemon peel. The prosecco I used was rather sweet, so if you choose a drier wine, you could probably take up the sugar by 1/2 a cup without adding too much sweetness.
- If you want to see some bubbles in the final jelly, as in the Bubbly Meyer Marm, you should stir in 2 – 3 tablespoons of prosecco just before canning, after you’ve taken the jelly off the heat. Just make sure that you are clearly at the gel point: my set was right on the edge and additional prosecco might have tipped it in the syrup direction.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.