I discovered something rather shocking and disconcerting last weekend:  my sister doesn’t like rhubarb.  Doesn’t like rhubarb!  I mean.  You think you know someone.  Your whole life, you’ve shared experiences, holidays, bathrooms … then, you learn about such a serious character flaw.  It really colors how you view things.  Good thing she sends me Peeps … s’all I’m saying.

The funny thing is rhubarb is one of a long list of foods my mom never made when I was growing up.*  No rhubarb and strawberry pie.  No rhubarb tarts.  Nothing.  It’s something that I’ve only just come to love over the last year, believe it or not, after being introduced to by friends of ours who have it growing in their back garden.  And, isn’t it yummy?  There’s something about the tartness – not to mention the ludicrous Dorothy Draper-esque pink-with-a-touch-of-green stalks – that seems to bellow SPRING!!!

Anyway, in embracing my new-found love of rhubarb, I’ve been making all sorts of treats and trying out new recipes.  One thing that I knew I needed to make was rhubarb jam so that, when the days are short and the winds are cold, I’ll still have a jar of sweet-tartness for toast or cakes or to drizzle on ice cream.  And, when it comes to jams, jellies and preserves, you can’t go wrong with Pam from River Cottage – this recipe is hers (written in Imperial measure), I wouldn’t dare claim it.

Please note:  this is a loose rather than thick jam.

Rhubarb Jam

  • 2 1/4 lbs rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 lbs jam sugar (don’t use regular sugar – get jam sugar since it contains pectin)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

Layer the rhubarb pieces with the sugar in a large non-reactive bowl (glass or pyrex would be good), making sure all the pieces are covered.  Pour over the orange juice and let it sit for at least an hour, although overnight is better.  You’re trying to draw out all the juices from the rhubarb.  Before you take the next step, make sure you have five jam jars sterilized and set aside.  You also want to put a small saucer in the fridge to chill.  Stir well, but try not to break up the pieces, then pour into a large stainless steel pot and bring to a rollicking boil for 5-7 minutes.  Test to see if it’s set by dropping a 1/2 teaspoon of the liquid onto the chilled plate – within a minute or two, it should be sticky and somewhat jellified.  You should be able to tilt the plate on its side and the jam shouldn’t move much, just slowly drip.  Once you’ve hit that stage, pour the hot jam into the sterilized jars and seal immediatly.  And, there you go – springtime in a jar!

*Other foods my mom never made for us:  lamb, fish (shellfish, yes – fillets, never), brussel sprouts, greens of any kind (although, now that I’ve had kale and mustard greens, that was really more of a blessing than a curse), and cornbread.  No, it’s true.  I was raised in the South, but my parents were from the north, so my culinary childhood was bereft of a few southern traditions.  The exception being fried okra, which the rest of the family probably never realized we cooked because we’d eat it as fast as we made it.

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