If I had to choose one jam, just one, to have for the rest of my life, it would be rhubarb ginger. There are so many reasons why that would be my choice; I shall give you bullet points.
- It is delicious.
- It is easy to make.
- You can use fresh rhubarb or some from the freezer and no one will know the difference, so you can make it in July or January or April.
- It is “exotic”, so people think you’re “fancy”.
- It is equally at home on toast, in Greek yogurt or on grilled chicken.
- Sometimes it’s mauve, sometimes pink like Macintosh applesauce, sometimes almost green, so it keeps you guessing, and looks pretty in the cupboard.
- Ginger is good for your tummy.
- It is delicious.
There. I think that sums it up nicely. Rhubarb ginger jam is the best. If you know me and I have ever given you a jar of jam, chances are good it was a jar of this, unless you specifically told me (or implied) that you are not a rhubarb fan. And saying that, I can proudly say that more than one “not a rhubarb fan” recipients have tried and liked this, though I tend not to share it with folks I think won’t care for it or (horror!) may throw it out. What an epic waste that would be. When asked what it tastes like, it’s hard to say if you haven’t tried rhubarb before. I grew up eating it in cobblers, pies, cakes, sometimes raw, and love the tart kick of a crisp stalk of ‘barb. Though cooking mellows out that tartness some, and softens it quite a bit, I love that the sugar necessary to make a nice rhubarb jam doesn’t overpower that little kick with sweetness. Ginger gives the jam a nice peppery bite, just an accent, and lime juice and zest a bright note to round it all the way out. Sweet, tart, spicy and bright– I love this jam. I could eat some every day; it’s the only jam I make that I might actually attack with a spoon, toast or yogurt be damned.
We are just coming into rhubarb season in the Northwest– my little plant is chugging along, it’s popping up at the farmers’ market in small, tantalizing bunches and was even spotted last week at the grocery store. It’s usually fairly inexpensive and will keep for a few days in the fridge if you need to store it. Economics-wise, the ingredients for this jam are favorable, since you don’t need flats and flats of rhubarb and there are no pesky peels or pits to toss into the compost bin. For reference, four medium-diameter, foot-long stalks weighed just over a pound and yielded almost 4 c. chopped rhubarb (the other 4 c. came from the freezer). The recipe can be halved, but I wouldn’t multiply it; it doesn’t cook down as well. If you find that you didn’t buy or pick enough rhubarb, try making up the difference (no more than 2 of the 8 c. of fruit, please) with chopped apples or sliced strawberries for a different take. Rhubarb ginger jam is the epitome of spring, a perfect bite, and I hope you will grow to love it as I do.
Rhubarb Ginger Jam (makes about 6 half-pints)
- 8 c. rhubarb, fresh, frozen or a mix, cut into bite-sized pieces*
- 4 c. organic evaporated cane juice or sugar, divided
- 1 c. water
- zest of one lime
- juice of one lime
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 c. crystallized (candied) ginger, minced
Day 1: Combine the rhubarb pieces and 1 c. sugar in a glass or ceramic bowl and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Day 2: Start a water bath and sterilize your jars and lids. In a jam pan, Dutch oven or equivalent, combine the rhubarb (with all of the juice it released and any undissolved sugar from the bowl you refrigerated overnight), water and the remaining 3 c. sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and add the lime juice, zest and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the jam thickens noticeably and starts to bubble more rapidly, about 10 mins. Add the ginger and continue to cook until the jam is set: this information from Food in Jars is very helpful in determining set point, if you have questions. I have made this jam a dozen times; you won’t get a firm, flip-the-jar-and-it-stays-in-place set, but it does thicken quickly and reliably. I use the sheet test to determine when the rhubarb ginger jam is ready to jar.
When you reach the set point, ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars; wipe the rims of each jar and affix the lids. Process the jars in a water bath for 10 mins.; remove to a clear, towel-lined counter and allow to sit untouched overnight. Check that each jar is sealed; refrigerate unsealed jars immediately. Properly sealed jars will keep in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year.
*If you buy rhubarb at the market or store, it should be ready to work with after washing and drying. If you plan to harvest your own and haven’t done so before, take a look at this site for how-to; you want to stay away from the leaves and pull, not cut, to maximize output.