Apple Rhubarb Jam
I’m feeling a bit out of touch with the seasons here this year. Rather than dishing out recipes for winter squash and mustard greens and warm spiced desserts like I was this time last year, I keep coming up with these last few throw backs to warmer months. First it was kiwis and then sweet peppers, and now it’s rhubarb. Yes, rhubarb!
Generally speaking, I’m sure most people would consider rhubarb to be a spring ephemeral, or at least not anything to be had past June. But I’ve recently discovered that’s really not true at all. In fact, it’s at its sweetest in autumn, just when it needs cutting back anyway. There are the big woody stems that should be tossed, but keep any of the slender and pliable ones to throw into such scrumptious treats as Apple Rhubarb Jam.
Rhubarb has been a favorite of mine since I can remember, thanks to the long-lived perennial stand of it in my grandmother’s kitchen garden. It often fell upon me to walk to her house and twist off a few tender stems for one of my mom’s delicious spring-time desserts. I actually got the rhubarb for this recipe from her garden once again on a recent visit.
Gardeners usually put in one or two year-old crowns of rhubarb when getting their patch started. I actually decided to put rhubarb in my own garden this year but wanted to try growing it from seed so I could observe the whole propagation process. So far, my plants are looking young but healthy, having snuggled into their bed for winter. I probably won’t be able to harvest anything from them yet next year but I look forward to plenty of rhubarb in 2010!
Now, I’m sure you’re all thinking “PIE!” when you hear rhubarb. And maybe you’re also thinking “strawberries” at the same time. But let me see if I can broaden your perspective on rhubarb uses and companion flavors. Sweet little autumn apples are the perfect complement to rhubarb’s bright tangy flavor. And jam, when heading into winter, is a very necessary hibernation food store. I seem to be making a lot of little batches of jam this year, and I have to say this is definitely my favorite.
On a general note about rhubarb, be sure never to eat the leaves, only the stalks/stems, as the leaves are poisonous. Also, it is advised not to harvest rhubarb after it has been hit with a hard frost as this may increase the toxin levels in the stems as the leaves die back.
APPLE RHUBARB JAM
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
3 C. diced peeled apples
2 C. white sugar*
1/2 C. water
1 T. ground cinnamon
½ t. freshly ground nutmeg
1 (2 ounce) package dry pectin
*I used the vanilla scented sugar that I use to store my vanilla beans, which added a nice subtle flavor.
In a large saucepan mix together the rhubarb, apples, sugar, water and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Stir in the pectin and boil for 5 minutes.
Ladle into sterile jars, wipe rims with a clean cloth or paper towel, and seal with new lids. Process in a bath of simmering water for at least 10 minutes, or as recommended by your local extension if you are at a high altitude. Store unopened jars in a cool dark place. Refrigerate jam after opening.
(makes about 6 cups)