I feel like I’m trying to make up for lost time. When I first tried rhubarb last year, it was at the very end of its season and it’s hardly the most popular kid on the block when it comes to the freezer case at the grocery store. So now that rhubarb season has come around again–now closer to its end than beginning–I find myself buying it in bunches by the pound (more accurately, 5 pounds). I just can’t get enough of the color, its pretty red to pink to green stalks, or its flavor that reminds me of sour cherries.
Pie is of course a great way to use up a big bunch, but I don’t want to overload myself on pie before I even get to strawberries, blueberries, cherries, or peaches. Cake is good too, and I’ve simmered a good amount (4 cups chopped) with sugar and water (1 cup of each) and a vanilla bean (split) to make rhubarb syrup (cook for 20-30 minutes and strain) to add to seltzer or slightly more boozy libations that deserve neon bendy straws and a sunny day on the porch.
But how to keep a little taste of spring around longer than the last crumbs of baked goods or drops of syrup? Jam, of course. I picked up this cute little cookbook at Chicago’s Printers Row Book Fair last weekend and figured it was just the push I needed.
Ginger is a pretty common accompaniment to rhubarb’s tartness, and it’s easy to taste why. The prettiest rosey pink color of the jam looks like it would be overwhelmingly sweet but the tingle of ginger (in raw and candied forms) along with a little bit of sour from strips of lemon zest make this my new favorite thing.
I’m usually indifferent to jam stirred into yogurt, but this jam is perfect for that (and hey! pink yogurt! pretty!); I’ve also been spreading it on a slice of whole wheat bread with dried fruit baked in. It would be so perfect with scones or cream biscuits, and I can’t wait to use this in thumbprint cookies, or even some variation on a linzer tart or cookies.
…Excuse me, I need to go buy 5 more pounds of rhubarb before it’s all gone.
The original instructions from Gourmet Preserves Chez Madelaine have you cook the rhubarb, lemon, ginger, and water first then add the sugar in stages, but I…missed that part and just dumped everything in the pan at once–it worked out fine. If you want to make a smaller batch just to keep in the fridge for a few weeks, you can halve all of the ingredients and skip the boiling water bath. If you’re new to canning, here’s a 101 post I wrote while I was learning last summer. Makes about 7 1/4 pint jars.
2 pounds rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 slices fresh ginger
10 thin strips of lemon peel (use a vegetable peeler to strip off only the yellow zest, avoiding as much of the bitter white pith as possible; slice pieces into 1/4-inch wide strips)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
In a wide, shallow pan, combine all ingredients except for the crystallized ginger. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the jam is thick (it should be around 220 degrees or pass the spoon/plate test) and the rhubarb is well broken down. Pick out the ginger slices and stir in the crystallized ginger.
Funnel into clean, warm jars and either store in the fridge for a few weeks or process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.