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A rhubarb recipe in late September? From a lady who is always talking about local produce, buying from the market, cooking seasonally? I’ll tell you, I even questioned myself, but this is a jam that must be shared. I’ve seen enough late-in-the-year rhubarb harvests to justify one more post about our rosy friend in 2014, and my rose geranium plant continues to thrive, so here you are: Rhubarb Jam with Rose Geranium & Cardamom. This is a sultry, special preserve. It smells positively intoxicating, warm from cardamom and floral from the rose geranium, and tastes sophisticated, pleasantly tart and rosy. If it’s too late for fresh rhubarb where you are, an equal amount of frozen will work just as nicely; if you don’t have any of that, either, flag this post to revisit next spring.

If you haven’t cooked with rose geranium before, get ready to start thinking obsessively about all the ways you might use it. That’s what I have been doing. I planted one tiny plant in late May which promptly dominated my little herb garden with its fuzzy leaves and light pink blooms. I’ve been using the leaves to infuse jams (another favorite was red raspberry with rose geranium), sugar for baking and vodka for an extract of sorts I haven’t yet used. The plant continues to go and go, though it hasn’t bloomed in some time, and I’ll dry the rest of the leaves. Just a few leaves impart a potent rose flavor to this jam; if you don’t have access to rose geranium, 2-3 tablespoons of rosewater would give you a similar result.

This recipe is for a rather small batch, so don’t be afraid to double it. I will be when I make it again. Delicious swirled into Greek yogurt, layered in a yellow cake topped with buttercream frosting, or sandwiched between shortbread cookies, this elegant jam is one you’ll want to have on hand.

rhubarb jam with rose geranium & cardamom

Rhubarb Jam with Rose Geranium & Cardamom (makes 3 half-pints)

  • 4 1/2 c. rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 2 c. sugar, preferably organic evaporated cane juice
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a 3-4″ sprig of rose geranium, left whole
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom (ground fresh if you can)
  • pinch of kosher salt

If you like, you can start the process several hours (up to two days) before you plan to cook your jam by mixing the rhubarb and sugar in a large bowl to macerate. This mixture can be covered loosely and left on the counter for a few hours, or refrigerated for up to 2 days. I generally recommend taking the time to macerate your fruit with sugar before proceeding with a jam, but this recipe can be done with or without maceration.

When you’re ready to cook your jam, start a water bath and sterilize your jars and lids. Add all ingredients to a jam pan, Dutch oven or equivalent, making sure to scrape out any extra juice and sugar from the container if you macerated the rhubarb. Stir to combine and bring to a rolling boil over high heat; continue stirring frequently to prevent scorching as the preserves boil down. When the jam looks glossy and has thickened enough to fall in sheets from the side of a spoon, it’s ready. You can also tell the jam is a good consistency when you run your spoon in a line over the bottom of the pan and the “hole” you create fills in slowly. Rhubarb jams tend to gel nicely and I do not add pectin when making them.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully remove the rose geranium sprig. It’s okay if some of the leaves are left in the jam, but you don’t want the stem. Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars; wipe the rims of each jar carefully 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. 

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