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.
I’m not ashamed to admit it–this time of year, I will let out my inner five-year-old and happily high-kick my way through a pile of leaves as they crunch under my feet. Out of all four seasons, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations of fall are my favorites. I’ve made it pretty clear that I love summer, but there is something about the way fall hits all of my senses at once that gets me every time.
The sound of dry leaves skipping down the street in the wind is so unique and only comes this time of year for a few short weeks. The colors make me want to climb a tree and live in the sun-bright yellow, pumpkin-orange, cranberry-red leaves clinging to nut-brown branches, which match the colors flooding the market during its last few weeks outdoors. The smells–burning leaf piles (not as much in the city, but something I remember distinctly growing up), the earthy scent of wet leaves as they start to decompose back into the soil, getting ready for spring–fill the air.
Late last fall, I bought some concord grapes and cobbled together two little jars of freezer grape jelly (or, more accurately, jam) from a recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It was the most amazing grape jam I had ever tasted–not from anything special about the recipe, but just because it looked and tasted like…well, grape jam. And I made it. And when I pulled one of the jars out in February to make a PB&J, it tasted even better. So I told myself that this summer I would learn how to can.
These pears in syrup brought back such clear memories of going to my grandma’s basement to get a jar of pears, pickled mixed vegetables, or tomatoes from a whole room full of beautifully preserved produce. The things we don’t appreciate at 8 years old…
And can, I have.
Filed under Cooking, How-to
This time of year always seems like it’s in the midst of an identity crisis: it’s 80 degrees and sunny, then it’s 50 and rainy and dark; strawberries are still at the market, right next to winter squash, apples, and pears; I’m running a fan during the day and curling under a blanket at night.
Sincerest apologies to Bob Marley, I just had the title of this post stuck in my head and it needed an outlet before it would leave me alone.
The past two years, I’ve been vaguely interested in learning how to can…stuff. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make, all the recipes I ever saw for jam prompted the response “Want some sugar with that sugar?” Eesh. I’m not a huge sweets person to begin with and while I do get cravings for a good PB&J or want something to stir into yogurt, I inevitably end up with about 3/4 of a jar of jam sitting in my fridge for god-knows how long before I throw it out (I do keep the jars though). It seems like such a waste. And I’ve never been a pickle fan, though I have learned to like a little bit of pickle relish on a burger. So what on earth would I can that wouldn’t go to waste? Continue reading