My jam making exploits are legendary in my household. I wish I could boast that the legend is due to each and every jar tasting exceptionally delicious. Some of them are pretty darn good, but some of them fail miserably. I remember a pot of bright yellow raspberries that burnt to a crisp while I was watching Gossip Girl. Blair took revenge on her latest target and my pot of promising and bright fruit became her next victim.
My jamming is memorable mainly because I’ll slow cook a jelly and preserve it at anytime. Anytime. Honestly, I’ll jam and can anything. At home or while away in Maine or even France. I typically don’t bother myself with cooking schedules, acid levels or canning times. I simply cook everything forever, add in lots of lemon juice and process my jars in boiling water for as long as I can take it. Forgive the pun. I’m such a bad jamming lady.
I realize a laid back attitude doesn’t necessarily mesh with professional jam making, but it’s not like I’m selling my personal jams (yet). I jam for fun, to store away flavors of each season and delight the people I adore with handmade food. Still, I promise that when I do give jars away, I perform my due diligence and ensure that my cooked fruit has ample acid for long-term storage and is processed well.
My favorite time of year to jam is actually the spring. Certainly, the summer provides jewels for preservation like nectarines, tomatoes and raspberries; one by one riping up and taking center stage as the weeks pass. But I prefer spring fruit. After a hard winter of dormant garden beds and little fruit variety, every spring specimen is a surprise and a real joy. I appreciate the sense of renewal that fills each freshly canned jar. I don’t resent the bravado of summer, but I do hold high regard for the newness of spring.
While I can’t get enough of citrus this year (and I know I’m not the only one), I am perennially enchanted by rhubarb. If I ever had a signature fruit, rhubarb is mine, tart and sweet but mostly tart, in a good way. And forget adding strawberries. My signature fruit doesn’t need more than a bit of sugar to find its way to agreeableness.
After spending this past weekend making Meyer Lemon and Elderflower Marmalade (recipe to come, promise!) the way the pros would, marinating the fruit overnight to encourage pectin development and cooking and processing the fruit for two hours the next day, all courtesy of my new favorite cookbook The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, I’m exhausted and ready for the ease of my sloppy methods once again.
Sure, the tediously intensely lemon marmalade is “heaven” according to my mother, but the rhubarb jam I made earlier this month, with a recipe I had envisioned nearly a year ago while living in Paris, is gone. There’s no more in my house and each of the recipients of my tiny jars have emailed and called, politely asking for any stray jars. So there’s no need to worry that there isn’t any traditional lemon juice in this batch (the real lemon juice ensures you have ample acid for long-term storage) because these jars won’t last for long. I had some extra rhubarb and made some herby simple syrup for spring cocktails. Now someone just needs to invite me to a dinner party and I’ll stroll in carrying my signature fruit in syrup and ample vodka or gin to booze it up. Any takers?
Rosemary Vanilla Rhubarb Jam
- 2.5 lbs of fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups organic vanilla cane sugar (white cane sugar works well too)
- ¼ cup Meyer lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup water
- ½ vanilla pod, sliced down the center
- 1 spring of rosemary, wrapped in cheesecloth (so you’re not picking sprigs out of the cooked jam)
In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, Meyer lemon juice, vanilla extract, water, vanilla pod and rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil, and then cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until thick. It will thicken more as it cooks but won’t really set and become firm. Ladle into hot sterile jars and seal with lids and rings. Store in the refrigerator.
Rhubarb Rosemary Simple Syrup
- 5 stalks of fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cups of organic cane sugar
- 2 springs of rosemary
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the rhubarb, water, rosemary sprigs and sugar. Cook about 10 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved and let cool completely. Once cool, strain into a container and store in the refrigerator for about a week or two. If you’d like to make it last a while, store in a sterilized jar.