Rhubarb Jam

April 13, 2011

We are very lucky to have a particulary prolific Rhubarb plant in our garden, inherited when we bought the house, it seems quite happy to be left alone, growing in a mound of concrete hardcore at the bottom of the garden. Each year we give it a shovelful of homemade compost and let it be and very year we have a bumper crop from February right through the summer. It makes a lovely jam, here is how I do it.

I prepare the stalks the night before, washing and cutting them to short 1cm slices (because this rhubarb isn’t forced the stems can be quite thick so I cut them short to account for their large size otherwise). I measure out 1kg of the slices and add some finely grated fresh ginger root (about the size of a thumb), then layer this in my big stock pot (I don’t have a preserving pan), with 900g of granulated sugar and a packet of pectin powder, and over the lot drizzle a small cupful (100ml) of orange juice and leave it all overnight.

In the morning the sugar and the orange juice have dissolved and left a rhubarby syrup. I set about sterilising a few jars, by washing them in hot soapy water and rinsing them with boiling water from the kettle then drying them in a low oven (120 degrees C). All my jars are random recycled ones but this amount seems to make up about 6 standard jam sized jars. Then I add my jam thermometer to the pan of Rhubarb and syrup and get it boiling (jam temp). I boil it for 5 or 6 mins then turn off the  heat. The jars are usually ready now, so I decant the liquid jam into a measuring jug to pour it into the jars. I usually fill half the jars with pretty textured jam, then blitz the last half with my hand blender to make a smooth jam for the kids. Then I add a wax paper disc and a cellophane ‘lid’ held on with an elastic band. – Top tip, dip your cellophane circles in cold water before putting of the jars then as the jam cools they tighten onto the tops for a proper seal.

Strawberry Jam

June 28, 2010

Dreaming of the breakfast I had this morning (home-made strawberry jam on toast – home-made speltish bread, and a cuppa) I got out the jam pan. I have to say my previous goes at jam have not been consistently successful, the jam is yummy but I can’t seem to get the ‘set’ right. Everyone you talk to has their own technique which can be very confusing, so I decided to consult an expert. My husband bought me the ‘river cottage preserves’ book for Christmas so I decided to follow the strawberry jam recipe to the letter. The recipe calls for 1kg of fruit, 500g granulated sugar and 450g jam sugar (sugar with pectin added) and 150ml lemon juice. Previous jam experiments have left me with a cupboard full of jammy bits and bobs so instead of the jam sugar I used 1kg of granulated and a sachet of pectin powder – so much for ‘to the letter’, I hear you tut tut – I just can’t help myself!

Unfortunately, no all this fruit did not come from own two window box pots from the ‘strawberries’ post, so I cheated and bought them (sainsburys had a half price deal) only ever use british strawberries for food miles reasons and because we do strawberries very well here.

I put 200g of fruit (the larger ones so I didn’t have to bother chopping them up) and smushed them in the pan with 200g of the sugar with a potato masher, slowly warmed it up then added the rest of the fruit. Slowly brought it up to simmering point (gentle bubbling) and left it there for 5 mins for the fruit to soften. Added the remaining sugar and the pectin stiring to stop it sticking until the sugar was all disolved, then adding the lemon juice. Brought it up to a full rolling boil, my thermometer got up to 105 degrees centigrade, keeping it there for 10mins. Then let it cool a little for the foam to disperse (I am sure this is what the jam books call scum but it sounds dreadful and looks more like foam to me!) Then popped it into sterile jars – recycled jars washed in hot soapy water and dried in a low oven and used still hot. I always over estimate the amount of jars needed especially when they are all random sizes, but the official yield of this recipe is 4-5 x 340g (normal bought jam size) jars. Then sealed with a wax paper disc and celophane and elastic, just like my nana used to do.

I am overjoyed at the result the colour of the jam is a bright summery scarlet and it tastes delicious, fruity and not too sweet. And it is a perfect set, with fruit pieces and a light jelly base that runs off a spoon like a proper expensive french preserve. My breakfast this morning was lovely, I tried to have a look at the Saturday Times jumbo crossword too, but the kids wouldn’t let me get very far – typical!


June 14, 2010

Martha was pretty keen this year to grow strawberries (after she saw peppa pig do it!).  I have tried to grow them before, but the slugs got them, so this year we bought some cheapy plastic window box type pots from wilko’s to raise them up a bit, and to jolly them up a bit I sprayed them with some leftover plasticote (in an orangy red – not dis-similar to their original colour, but it was all I had knocking about) then Martha and I finger painted the flowers on them with acrylic paint.   To be fair those are mostly my fat fingers, Martha did the middle dots on the flowers and some of the more swirly embellishments.

The late frost this year got the seeds we planted so I cheated and bought plants, but we are the only people I know with a crop this early even the PYOs are not ready yet, but we have had a few handfuls of the ripe ones already and they are delicious. Martha is very proud of her green fingers.