It's thick and rhubarb- tart and cooked-sugar-sweet and has a little heat from the fresh ginger and a little something friendly from the vanilla.
It's terrific. I'm already thinking of ways to use this, and I'm also already thinking I should have made more.
Guess I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed when I go to the Farmers' Market on Friday.
But back to the beginning....
At last I made the Rhubarb Ginger Jam from Christopher Kimball's The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. There aren't a lot of different jam and pickle and tomato sauce recipes in this chapter. Titled "Preserves," the chapter focuses on the basics of "putting food by" and gives general instructions on how to make freezer jams, cooked jams, some pickles, and so forth, and features a small number of fabulous recipes to showcase different foods and different ways of preserving them. I want to try out a few more before I put this book back on the shelf.
What interested me about the jam recipes was the absence of pectin called for in the recipe.
This Rhubarb Ginger jam, for instance, calls simply for rhubarb, fresh ginger, sugar, and vanilla. That's IT. Fruits contain pectin already, though some fruits have more of it than others. Still, you can cook your jam ingredients down and figure out whether or not you need pectin at all, rather than just add it in as a matter of course.
And how do you do that, you ask? Well I'll tell you. Actually, I'll let Mr. Kimball tell you instead:
"After much testing, I determined that adding the pectin at the end of cooking, if at all, was the best method. In Rodale's Preserving Summer's Bounty, there is a simple metal bowl test, which can be used to determine the pectin level. When the perserve mixture reaches 220 degrees it is at the correct temperature, but that does not mean that the mixture has enough pectin to set up on its own. To establish whether or not the mixture will set, Rodale suggest the following test (which I repeat almost verbatim): Float a light metal mixing bowl in a larger bowl or basin filled with ice water. Drop a teaspoon of the preserve mixture in the bottom of the floating bowl. Because metal conducts heat well, the mixture will cool quickly. Once it's cool, run your finger through the mixture. It is ready if it doesn't run back together. If this attempt fails, cook the mixture four or five minutes longer and try again. If it fails again, it is now time to add pectin to the preserves. (One package per four cups of fruit is stirred into the mixture off the heat and then put back on the burner and boiled for two minutes.) I found that adding pectin at the beginning of cooking speeds up cooking time, which is a benefit, but I found that I preferred the texture of the fruit when the pectin was added after cooking."
Pretty cool, huh?
Let's get started.
First, here's the recipe from Mr. Kimball's book (you can find it on page 386 if you already have a copy):
Rhubarb Ginger Jam
"This is another good way to use up extra rhubarb. I find that vanilla bean tastes much better than extract in this recipe."
2 pounds rhubarb (about 8 cups)
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup minced or grated fresh gingerroot
1/2 vanilla bean, split, with seeds scraped into pan
(or, in my case, a teaspoon and a half of vanilla extract)
Wash and trim the rhubarb and slice into 1/2-inch pieces. Place all ingredients in a large nonreactive saucepan.
Bring to a simmer.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes on medium heat until the mixture reaches 218 to 220 degrees (F) on an instant-read thermometer.
Skim any foam from the top and remove vanilla bean. Let sit for 5 minutes. Jam can at this point be stored in sterilized canning jars or water-bath canned per the instructions at the beginning of this chapter.
Makes 6 cups
The canning instructions are the standard canning instructions for any water-bath jam, so I just went ahead and did it the way I've been doing.
Get your jars...
Wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water and rinse.
By the way, here are my nifty new canning funnel and jar lifter thingy. oooh. aaaah. Wash them, too, while you're at it.
Set the rings aside on a plate or something. You won't need them til near the end.
Place your clean jars in a deep pot of hot water (so the jars are full and topped off with at least an inch of water, and simmer for at least ten minutes to sterilize them. Keep the jars in the hot (not simmering) water until it's time to fill them.
Same deal with the lids - wash, rinse, simmer, hold til needed.
You can do this while the preserves are cooking, or you can get everything to this point and then make your preserves. Whatever works for you.
You'll also, of course, need a deep pot with a rack to process the jars in.....
*One change I made was to substitute a teaspoon and a half of vanilla extract for the half a vanilla bean because I didn't have any vanilla beans on hand. I can't compare the flavor of extract vs. bean yet, but if Mr. Kimball believes the flavor is better with the bean, I would bet he's right.
*My other little note about this recipe - and maybe this is somehow my own ineptitude or inexperience - is that I didn't end up with 6 cups of jam; I ended up with about 3.
The thing was, I kept cooking and cooking and stirring and stirring, and the jam never made it to 218 degrees, never mind 220. But after however many hours I spent on this jam (okay, probably not hours) I figured it had cooked long enough.
I also did the teaspoon of jam in a bowl over ice water test
and it seemed to have gelled enough, so I stopped cooking and ladled it into my little 4 oz jars. I think, because I cooked it so long trying to get to that desired temperature range, that I reduced the amount of jam by half. But that was okay, flavor-wise, and I liked the resulting thick consistency. So no harm done there.
Ladle the jam into your jars, leaveing about 1/4 inch of space at the top. Put the lids on the jars, and then place a ring on each lid/jar and tighten just until the ring won't turn. Place the sealed jars in your pot of water.
Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat a bit, cover, and boil gently for 10-12 minutes. I go with 12 unless the directions tell me otherwise. When the time is up, shut off the heat and let them sit another 5 minutes before removing the jars and placing them on a flat surface to cool.
At this point, my favorite part is hearing the little "click" of each lid as the vacuum pressure sucks it in toward the center of the jar. When it clicks, you've got a good seal.
Stick some labels on the jars, and you're done!
And if you happen to have a little of the jam left over, that's not a bad thing, either.