rhubarb & orange jam
One of the fruits that I remember adoring from early girlhood was rhubarb. The other was watermelon. I think the love I had for watermelon had more to do with the “staging” than anything else. Warm July or August, my mom would set me on a sun-warmed patio step. She’d lower a plate into my lap stacked with deep red watermelon wedges, polka-dotted with their shiny black seeds. The sugary juice would drip down my tan arms and fall from my elbows. I remember first her demonstrating, and then her happy encouragement that I spit the seeds as far as I could. (They’d be sprouting like weeds the next summer!) If seed-shooting was what watermelon-eating was still about, I’d probably still be eating it. I’m not sure when and how it happened that watermelons lost their favor with me. But rhubarb endures. I’ve learned over time that if ever life combines sweet with tart, it makes me deliciously happy.
Those long red and green rhubarb stalks are beginning to appear in our local markets. And with plump, heavy-with-juice navel oranges stacked high, it was time to break out the canning gear. If you’d rather just put jars in the freezer, you can avoid the canning piece. Seeing these color-filled jars (and others like them) lined up on pantry shelves gives one a sense that all is well, and that (to me) seems worth the effort (even if it’s only an illusion.)
Rhubarb and Orange Jam
- 2 navel oranges
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserving the squeezed hulls and seeds)
- 3 pounds rhubarb, trimmed of any green or soft areas, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 9 cups)
- 2 cups sugar
Prepare for water-bath canning. Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot. Put a small plate in the freezer, and put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl.
Use a vegetable peeler to cut the outer zest from the oranges, then stacking the slices, cut them into thin julienne strips. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, segment the orange. (If you’d like tips on how, see here.) Reserve the membrane. Put the membranes and any seeds, along with the reserved lemon hulls and seeds, in a cheesecloth bag and tie the bag closed. (Pectin appears naturally in these parts of the fruit and will result in the thickening and setting of the jam.)
Put the zest, orange, rhubarb, lemon juice and sugar in a wide, heavy 6- to 8-quart pot.
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the juices just cover the fruit, 10 to 15 minutes. Now nestle the “jelly bag” in the fruit. Boil over high heat, stirring frequently, until a small dab of the jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for a minute becomes somewhat firm in about 15 minutes. (It will not gel.) Skim the foam off the top of the jammy mixture, then remove from the heat and stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the fruit in its liquid.
To sterilize the lids, ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully emptying the water from each one back into the pot. Place jars upright on a folded towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.
Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed and the jar should be refrigerated right away. (If using Weck jars, as seen here, seeing the tab of the orange rubber ring pointing down is proof that the seal is secure.)
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This recipe is only slightly adapted from one appearing in Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff
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For a printer-friendly copy of this recipe, click here.
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