Next stop on my quest to learn to can is a lesson in rhubarb jam making. Rhubarb is kind of intimidating for some reason. I, for one, have never cooked or baked with the vegetable myself. Perhaps one of the reasons it is intimidating is because the leaves of the plant are toxic. So: don’t eat the leaves, problem solved! Also you should know that there are two kinds of rhubarb varieties readily available; field-grown rhubarb has an intense flavor with green leaves and reddish green stalks, while hothouse rhubarb has bright red stalks with a slightly sweeter, milder taste and tender stalks. Depending on where you are, rhubarb is harvested in the spring to early summer. I can feel the tart sensation on my tongue just thinking about it.
Eva Scofield and Alison Roman from Maiden Preserves taught me how to make this delicious rhubarb jam last week. It wasn’t hard at all. I think you should make it too.
Maiden Preserve’s Rhubarb & Rosé Jam
6 cups rhubarb, cut into 2" pieces
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pectin
5 lemons, juiced
½ vanilla bean
1 cup Rosé wine (you can also substitute a white wine if you'd like)
In a bowl, combine rhubarb pieces, lemon juice, 2 cups of sugar, and Rosé wine. Take the 1/2 vanilla bean and slice it open lengthwise and scrape the seeds out. Add the seeds and the bean to the bowl. Cover with plastic and leave in the fridge for 4-24 hours.
You don’t want to chop up the rhubarb too finely because it disintegrates easily when you boil it, so the larger the pieces are the more likely it is that there will be some whole pieces left to give your jam texture.
Alison says that the lemon juice in this recipe is both for flavor and to help the jam set. Also, a note for rhubarb beginners: if your rhubarb is mostly green, your jam might turn out a little brown-ish. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When you're ready to get your jam on, strain the liquid into a pot. Remove the vanilla bean and discard. Combine the remaining cup of sugar with the pectin. Stir well. Bring liquid to a boil, and vigorously whisk in your sugar/pectin mixture.
The reason you separate the fruit from the liquid and do this in two steps, is so that the pectin doesn’t form clumps. (Like when you thicken gravy with cornstarch. You have to first dissolve the cornstarch in water or else it forms difficult clumps in the gravy immediately).
Add your fruit, and continue to boil, skimming off any foam that floats to the top. Cook for approximately 10 minutes.
Don’t stir while the fruit cooks. You want it to break down a little but not completely, and sometimes it looks like the pieces are still intact when they’ve already fallen totally apart. You should push the mixture around with your spoon gently to test the texture.
Place some jam into a cold saucer or bowl, and chill for 5 minutes to test for set.
Jam should have a slight wrinkle on top, and have a nice jam-like texture. If it is still very runny, cook an additional 5 minutes and test again. You can also add more lemon to make the set firmer.
Place into sterilized jars, and seal using the Water Bath Canning method: Fill the jars to about ¼ inch from the top and seal with two-part lids. You should have already boiled the jars in a large pot of water to sterilize them, so use the same big pot and place the jars, now full with jam, so that they are fully submerged in the warm water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes and turn off the stove. When the water is not scalding hot use a pair of tongs or a jar-lifter to lift the jars out. Let cool and check the seals to make sure they properly sealed; the air should be sucked out and the middle of the lid tightly pulled down. If they aren’t sealed, boil them again.
And presto! Delicious, preserved rhubarb jam! The jars will stay good on the shelf for about a year.
My jam instructors, Alison Roman and Eva Scofield, met working the kitchen of NYC restaurant Momofuko Milk Bar a year before they formed Maiden Preserves. They both were interested in starting a small business, and found themselves amidst the perfect environment for such a thing: “Living in Brooklyn has been super inspirational because it’s like, oh I don’t have any kitchen experience but I’m making salsa…or I’m making syrups,” Alison said while we waited for the jam to come to a boil. “I thought, I have tons of experience, why am I not doing something? We were both working for other people, and I thought, how do I make my own reality? I’m going to make my own money.”
Alison has been making jam for 3 years. She grew up in California, where “there’s constantly really badass produce in season, whether that’s the best peaches or the best apples.” Of course she wanted to preserves those flavors, and her experience in kitchens taught her how. She partnered with Eva, a novice to jam making but an accomplished saleslady. I first came across Maiden Preserves at the Brooklyn Flea where I tasted their life changing Lemon and Vanilla Bean jam. It was lemony but mild and sweet, not too tart.
They were about to make some foraged rosehip and raspberry jam before I left. It smelled amazing! Check out Eva and Alison's blog for creative ways to use jam; their specialty is combining fruit jam with alcohol.
See the rest of the Can I can? Blogs:
Top photo: Kate Wilson / Photo of 4 jars: Avery Powell