I preserve for different reasons. To support local farmers and focus my dollars on local eating year round. To give as gifts throughout the year. And my personal favorite, to sit back and enjoy a small taste of summer when I am housebound during the middle of a Nor’easter. But preserving in the height of the season brings its own set of challenges. Getting all of the rhubarb possible into jars before moving onto strawberries for example. Or trying to get anything into jars during the week while working ye olde dayjob. Or getting everything into jars in preparation for the upcoming heatwave.
But like almost everyone, I am on a tight budget these days. A endless to do list, meticulous list keeping, down to the dollar budget. So I stretch. I make batches of jam and chutney with what I have on hand – if I am missing an ingredient or a spice, I am not making a special trip. I make do. I also look for ways for my produce to do double duty. If I have to buy scallions for kimchi, then I guess I am also going to throw them into some rhubarbbq because I am out of onions – who runs out of onions?! And you better believe I am going to stretch those scallions into three or four batches and THEN plant them in the ground. So when it comes to fruit I don’t just want jam, I want a syrup AND a preserve. And maybe an infusion or two. This way, I can sort of justify those $4.99/lb local cherries.
Rhubarb is usually the first fruit of the season that carries double duty around here. (“Fruit” for the incredulous rhubarb haters, wherever you may be). This method though, of a light syrup and then a preserve can be applied to most fruits. So if the thought of rhubarb in all its stalky glory makes you want to hurl, try a berry, peach or citrus version.
First Tour: Rhubeena
I made rhubeena exactly as Tigress suggests, but with her later suggestion of less sugar. I used 2ish cups. I like that its more tart, and can stand up to some lime and tequila in Kaela’s rhubarbaritas. Yes THOSE rhubarbaritas, of which I have become obsessed. I may have made rhubeena exclusively for this purpose. Ahem.
Second Tour: Rhubarb Vanilla Jam
So you make your rhubeena, and you are left with all of this sweetened rhubarb pulp. I don’t let it drain overnight – only until the pulp is mostly dry, so it still has some moisture. This is not your traditional jam texture people – its between a fruit butter and a jam. That said – who cares? It’s crazy delicious. Like cant stop sneaking bites with a spoon delicious. Serve with granola & yogurt, over ice cream – heck, blend it INTO ice cream.
Rhubarb Vanilla Jam
Leftover sweetened rhubarb pulp from Rhubeena (approximately 5 cups)
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Zest and juice of one lemon
Begin heating the pulp over medium heat. Add the vanilla, vanilla bean and lemon and heat until bubbly at 220°. If your rhubarb becomes too dry, add a little more water or vanilla extract as needed. This will be a thicker jam, so be sure to bubble your jars. Spoon hot rhubarby goodness into hot jars, bubble as needed, top with hot wet lids and place into the waterbath. Process for 10 minutes. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.