I feel like some tout in a seedy doorway, at once bored and alert, tossing out my banter with practiced skill, repetitious yet intriguing, tacky yet titillating. Except, instead of GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!, the neon sign over my head blinks RHUBARB! RHUBARB! RHUBARB! “Come on and get your rhubarb heAH, just one taste my lovlies, just one taste, it’s sweet, it’s sour, it’s tangy and tingly, step right up now, step right up!”
Maybe I should just throw in the towel on this Local Kitchen thing and start following rhubarb season all over the globe. I’ll start a new blog, All Rhubarb, All The Time. Only, what to choose as the most appropriate URL stumps me: www.rhubaholics.com? www.pieplantlover.com? www.icantquityou.com? Decisions, decisions.
Anyway, my rhubarb obsession (rhubaphilia?) has born fruit, if you’ll excuse the horrendous pun (and before you tell me that rhubarb is actually a vegetable, here in New York, we have long known it is a fruit. A wonderful, magical fruit.). Not only has my obsession yielded another jam, I’ve managed to clear two more items out of the freezer (the Great Freezer Clean-Out of 2011 continues!): a straggling 3/4 of a pound of black currants, bought frozen from Fishkill Farms last Fall, and quince juice, leftover from my Julia-gifted quince. Huzzah!
And how did this jam come out, you ask? Well, it has rhubarb in it, so obviously it’s good (duh). But if you are looking for something a bit more descriptive than “good” (might I suggest, delicious?), I would say tart. Tangy. Bright. Not sweet at all, verging on the savory. One husband of my acquaintance sheepishly admitted that it was “bursting with fruit flavor” (despite fully recognizing the cheese-factor of that particular description). A firm set, firmer than my usual, practically a jelly, but with enough bits in there to reassure you as to its jammy tendencies, and the most spectacular color: really, my pictures don’t do it justice. It’s quite gorgeous.
So, if there are some Memorial Day farmer’s markets in your neighborhood, why not scope them out for some rhubarb? But I feel compelled to warn you: rhubarb may be habit-forming. Jam at your own risk.
- 1 lb rhubarb, washed, ends trimmed and chopped into 1/4-inch dice
- 3/4 lb black currants (I used frozen)
- 1 lb (2 cups) raw sugar
- juice & zest from 1 small lemon
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup quince or apple juice (I used frozen)
- Day 1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to macerate at room temperature, stirring now & then, until bedtime, then refrigerate overnight.
- Day 2. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Transfer fruit and juice to a sieve suspended over a large, wide stockpot or preserving pan. Reserve fruit. Add quince (or apple) juice and bring juice to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil until liquid becomes syrupy, is bubbling thickly and reaches the set point (220 degrees F on an instant thermometer), about 15 minutes. Skim foam if necessary, add fruit and return mixture to a boil. Bring the jam back to the set point by boiling briskly over high heat, stirring minimally, for about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat, skim foam, and ladle hot jam into clean, hot jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 3 and 1/2 cups.
- The set of this jam is pretty firm: I like it, as I make so many that have a loose, preservy set (and it’s nice to have options), but if you want a looser set, try using only 1/2 a cup of quince juice. Apples have slightly lower amounts of pectin than quince, so a full cup of apple juice should give a looser set.
- This jam is tart, just on the verge of savory. For a sweeter jam, you could increase the sugar by up to 2 cups.
- If you can’t find any black currants, blackberries would make a nice substitution.
Canned, at room temperature in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
Rhubarb is in season in the Spring, while black currants follow later in the Summer and quince are available in the Fall. With frozen fruit, you can make this jam all year long.