Summer usually means fresh plants in the garden, and this week I took full advantage of it. While visiting some friends I noticed this baby hanging out in the back yard, beckoning me to come harvest its goodness.
This photo was taken after I had harvested as many red stalks as I could carry. We left plenty behind to ensure the plant would get me an additional harvest later this year.
Deep red stalks tend to be the best, however there are some cultivars that have a lot more green. Select fresh looking young ones with healthy leaves. You do not need to cut rhubarb to harvest, the stalks will detach easily with a twist.
Trim off the root end and the leaves, and rinse off any dirt. Rhubarb leaves are toxic due to a high concentration of oleic acid, and need to be removed.
Cut the rhubarb in 1cm pieces. This gets layered in a large nonreactive bowl with sugar. I mixed in about 10 cups of sugar for 21 cups of chopped rhubarb, I did not plan on using pectin so a high sugar content is necessary. Next time, I’m going to substitute some sugar for splenda or honey.
After 24 hours covered in the fridge the rhubarb is now soft, far less tart, and floating in a large amount of liquid. This is a necessary process as fresh rhubarb can be much too tart for many people. It also brings out the sweet/sour flavour everyone loves.
The next day the rhubarb gets put in a stock pot with a squeeze of lemon juice and slowly brought up to a simmer. Stir it to prevent the sugar from sticking to the bottom, you do not want it to scorch or brown on you. Prepare to have it on the stove for a few hours, it took mine 4 hours before it was thick enough to can. At this point get your jars and lids rinsed and either boil, or run through a dishwashers sanitize cycle.
Your whole house is going to smell great during this process. It was a real treat! Rhubarb and tomato vine are scents I associate with summer… Now if only I could get my house smelling of vines!
The appearance and viscosity of the jam will change a few times while you cook it. You can stop the process early at any desired thickness, from frozen pie filling to rhubarb syrup.
I cooked it down until it appeared very thick on a dipped in spoon. Dip it in and draw a line in the jam on the back of the spoon with your finger. How fast does it fill in the gap? Does the jam pour out of the spoon fast, slow, or in a gloop?
When my Jam was bright red and thick I set out Mason jars on my counter on a towel, about an inch or two apart from each other. The towel keeps the counter from creating a temperature difference that could crack the jars as you fill them.
I used a ladle to do this part, and now know why a Canning funnel is so useful. I need to get one as I plan to do this much more frequently.
Jars get filled with a bit of open space to account for expansion while freezing. Cover them quickly, let cool for 30min-hour and throw into your freezer. I like to use the tray the jars come in as a convenient way to organize them in my freezer.
Your lids should have sealed by the time the jam is set. I checked the next morning, none of the lids would pop up. These will be sealed but must be kept in the freezer as they have not been processed in a water bath.
This jam will keep for at least a year in the freezer, or three weeks in the fridge. I bring small jars down as I need them -usually they last quite a bit but some people seem to demolish the jars on me. I like to keep them for a taste of summer in the winter, helpful when you need a fresh lively flavour to get you through those dark days.
The next day I was ready to eat jam. I had it with cream cheese on an Udi’s gluten free plain bagel, crisped up in my dedicated gluten free toaster.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to do with all your excess rhubarb. These plants grow heartily in Alberta, managed correctly multiple harvests can be had after the second year. I still need to get me a canner, so I don’t run out of freezer room with all my experimentation.
Thats all for now, hope you enjoyed.