Rhubarb is here, spring is in full swing, and I'm ready to start making jam. I should be outside working in the garden, but surely one of the greatest joys of having one's own garden is the time spent in the kitchen getting to know the harvest - and I still have a lot to get to know about rhubarb. I don't yet grow rhubarb in my own patch, but it is readily available at local farmer's markets and some grocery stores for a few weeks in the spring.
Since the first signs of spring I'd been dreaming of making a rhubarb jam. I'd imagined a blushing pink hue and pleasant tart-sweet flavor, maybe flecked with tiny vanilla seeds (as a friend cleverly suggested), or perhaps bits of chopped figs. I'd never tried rhubarb in jam form, but there was just something quite appealing to me in the idea.
In flipping through some inspirational books, I came across the recipe for Rhubarb Grapefruit Preserves in the Chez Panisse Fruit book. The simplicity of the recipes in the Chez Panisse books always wins me over, though I couldn't resist the addition of dried figs which I found sweetened the jam just a touch and seemed to blend rather nicely with the intensely fragrant grapefruit.
Here is my adaptation of the recipe:
Rhubarb, Fig & Grapefruit Jam
(adapted from the Alice Waters' recipe for 'Rhubarb Grapefruit Preserves' in the Chez Panisse Fruit cookbook)
yields approximately 3 1/2 pints of jam
2 Lbs. rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 grapefruit, peeled and juiced, pith removed and the rind chopped very fine
4 cups sugar
8 oz. dried Black Mission Figs (or other dried figs of your choosing), chopped - stems removed
Place a plate or two in the freezer for testing the jam later.
Prepare canning jars and lids.
In a large stockpot with a lid, combing the chopped rhubarb, grapefruit rind, grapefruit juice (strained), and sugar. Cover and let sit overnight.
Bring the rhubarb mixture to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Continue to cook, skimming off any foam rising to the surface, until the jam is thickened and reaches the 'gel stage' when placed on a cold plate. (This took me roughly 15 -20 minutes)
When the jam has reached the gel stage, turn the heat off, and begin ladling the hot jam into the hot, sterilized jars, being sure to leave 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the rims clean with a clean, damp towel, place the lids on and screw down the bands just until finger-tight. Process in a water bath canner with the lid on for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and process for 5 minutes more. Remove the jars from the canner and test the seals. Any jars that do not seal may be placed in the refrigerator and will be good for several weeks.