Rhubarb Tuesday

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Rhubarb, long used by the Chinese for medicinal purposes, sent to North America by Benjamin Franklin, always one of the first harvestable crops from our fields; it is also the only item we’ve ever had sent back to us by a customer.   It’s not for everyone. The stalks are bitter and the leaves can be harmful in large quantities or for small pets.   In my mind, though, nothing beats stewed rhubarb.  On ice cream, in a crisp or turned into a rosy red jam.

This year we tried something new: Rhubarb Marmalade.  Our small sample of taste testers agreed: the marmalade won, hands down.  I, however,  remain devoted to both, fair cousins with different strengths.  The jam is a lighter rose color with more tart rhubarb taste while the marmalade (on the left) is a deeper red and a more complex blend of flavors.  The marmalade did double duty as a condiment to roast pork while the jam is pretty much confined to the breakfast table.

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From a recipe standpoint, the differences are slight.  For our Jam, we used 3/4s cup of sugar for every pound of rhubarb (5 Lbs in our case) and a package of commercial pectin.  We simmered the chopped rhubarb with two tablespoons of lemon juice for 30 minutes until the fruit had largely dissolved, then added the pectin and sugar combined; boiled the mixture for 15 minutes until a drop of jam on a cold plate would set and then ladled the hot jam into sterilized jars.

For the marmalade, we used a full cup of sugar for every pound of rhubarb and added a generous cup of grated lemon rind and again, a few tablespoons of lemon juice.  We mixed the ingredients in a bowl and let it sit, covered, over night.  The next morning, the rhubarb chunks were floating in a lovely syrup of sugar and juice drawn from the fresh rhubarb.  We put the whole thing in a pot on the stove and boiled it hard for a little longer than the jam – using the same setting test – a drop of marmalade on a chilled plate.  Again ladling the hot marmalade into sterilized jars.

Ten pounds of rhubarb yielded 12 ruby jars of pure Spring joy.

Jun 05, 2013

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