Can you believe that rhubarb is still with us? Believe it: I got those lovely stalks above just yesterday at the farmer’s market. Strawberries may get all the glory of Spring, but they are here and gone in flash. Rhubarb, now: rhubarb pokes its head up in early May and just keeps on keeping on, well into July. Is it any wonder that I love it so?
You know what else popped up in May? Marisa’s new cookbook, Food In Jars. Marisa and I first connected through our blogs (via the Can Jam, I think) and our mutual love of putting food in jars. That connection grew into friendship, and as her friend, I’ve watched on the sidelines as Marisa made batch after batch of preserves, tested & tweaked recipes, and somehow fit writing a cookbook into her regular routine of work, play and putting by the seasons. Way back in April, when I was drowning under a particularly knotty dataset, I pre-ordered a copy of Food In Jars, as a little reward to myself. And was I ever rewarded! My copy came two weeks earlier than the official release date and as such, was a completely lovely and welcome surprise. In the meantime, Marisa and her publisher, Running Press, were kind enough to send me a review copy, so guess what? It’s yours! Well, for one of you at least (and only if you live in the US. Sorry, interntional folk: I would love to send it to you, but I’d have to publish my own book to afford the shipping).
The first thing you notice about Food In Jars is the quality: the sturdy, hardback cover, the thick, cardstock pages, the hefty 230+ pages. This is a book that will live on your cookbook shelf for years and years, before finally, recipes memorized, spine cracked, and pages jam-splattered, you pass it down to your son, your granddaughter, your neighbor that always let you pilfer fruit from her apple tree. The second thing you notice is the overall tone of the book: the muted color palette; Marisa’s easy-going voice, telling you stories from her childhood and making even a complex recipe seem like a piece of cake; Steve Legato’s gorgeous photography, perfectly capturing the mood and making your fingers itch to bust out the canning pot. Then, there are the recipes: vanilla rhubarb jam with Earl Grey, sweet cherry butter (why haven’t I thought of that?), mimosa jelly (fruit + booze, my favorite!), Cara Cara ginger marmalade; the list goes on. I’m really tempted by grape ketchup, caramelized red onion and even lemony pickled cauliflower (only Marisa could tempt me with a pickle recipe). And imagine my surprise and delight when, paging through the book and dipping into various recipes, I chanced upon her recipe for grainy white wine mustard, which lists me, and this little blog of mine, as her mustard inspiration! I might have gotten just a wee bit teary. (Shut up. It’s very dusty in here.)
What else can I say? So far, I love it. I’ve made the orange rhubarb butter, a fantastic yet simple recipe with only three ingredients; I’ve made the rhubarb chutney, which is mellowing on the pantry shelves as we speak; and I’ve put sticky notes on at least a dozen more. I’ve learned a few things: for instance, did you know that chutney, like wine, needs to age a bit after opening, or the vinegar flavor will overwhelm? Neither did I. I’ve seen some tricks that I use myself, like not blending a fruit butter until it is well cooked-down, because once you blend it, it spatters that much more. And I’ve been inspired by some recipes that I don’t tend to make at home, like fresh nut butters and infused salts.
I have over a dozen preserving cookbooks, so you would think that I wouldn’t need another one. But I think Food In Jars fills a unique niche: the recipes are human in scale, (no need to procure 6 quarts of strawberries or 20 lbs of peaches), classic basics are updated for the way we eat today (you won’t see “9 cups sugar” anywhere in this book); and while there are interesting flavor combinations, like nectarine-lime, pear-ginger and cantaloupe-vanilla, you won’t need to search out random floral syrups or homemade Meyer lemon pectin to get the job done. <ahem> The recipes are neither aggressively modern nor strictly traditional: some use commercial pectin, some do not; some are low-sugar, some are not; some employ classic flavor combinations, some are inventive and personal. All are clearly those recipes that work best for Marisa, a home-canner fitting preserving in and around everyday life, producing jars of goodness, one season at a time, in her tiny Philadelphia kitchen. Congratulations, Marisa: the book is truly a gem, and one that I will treasure for years to come.
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below answering the following question: “If you could can only one thing this year, what would it be?” Giveaway will close on Friday, June 22nd, at midnight EST. And please, only one entry per person: I will delete extra entries. Comments are being moderated, so it may take a little while to show up, but rest assured, it will be approved. Good luck! Psst: Want to triple your chances of winning? Of course you do! Head on over to Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking and Punk Domestics for more great giveaways!
- 4 and 1/2 lbs rhubarb
- 1, 12-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1 cup (8 oz) raw sugar (organic turbinado)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) organic brown sugar
- Wash, trim and slice the rhubarb in approximate 1/2-inch slices. Combine with OJ concentrate and sugar in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. At this point, I transferred the mixture to a heat-safe bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and stored refrigerated for about 1 week before continuing.
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until rhubarb has broken down, mixture has thickened, and volume has reduced by about half. The higher you keep the heat, the faster it will cook down, but the more you will need to stir. For a smooth butter, blend with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor, then return to pan. Continue to simmer, stirring as necessary and using a splatter screen, until butter will mound on the back of a spoon. Consider using the stacked-burner trick if butter starts to stick. This whole process can take anywhere from 1 – 3 hours, depending on how much you want to stir, how high you keep the heat, how much liquid is in your rhubarb, and the width of your preserving pot. Taste and adjust sugar or orange flavor as you like.
- Fill hot jars with hot butter, making sure to bubble the jars, and adjust headspace to 1/2-inch. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields about 6 – 7 half-pint jars.
- Marisa’s original batch size was a bit smaller: 3 lbs rhubarb, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups orange juice.
- If you don’t have frozen concentrated orange juice, you can replace with 3 – 4 cups of regular OJ; it will just take a bit longer to cook down. If you happen to have a lot of fresh oranges, feel free to use fresh orange juice: rhubarb is plenty acidic enough so there is no safety concern. Fresh orange zest would probably be a nice addition as well.
- I reduced the sugar by about half from Marisa’s original recipe. The resulting butter is tangy and just barely sweet. Feel free to increase the sugar if you prefer a sweeter butter. You can easily use 1 and 1/2 cups of one type of sugar; I added the 1/2 cup after tasting and just grabbed the first one to hand, which turned out to be brown sugar.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
Spring into early Summer.