I have a sad tale to share today, friends. A tale of woe with a warning: let not this happen to you.
Last week, my friend A dropped an armload of beautiful rhubarb on my front step. Thick and red, it was all rhubarb is supposed to be – nothing like the few spindly green crowns I have in my back yard.
(Those stalks below? the best of my back yard. I know.)
I thought long and hard about how to put it to best use, and settled on a big pot of strawberry-rhubarb jam to smear on toast and scones. Why settle for one pie that will likely be gone in a day when you can jar that summery taste to spread around? (Pun totally intended.) I want my morning to taste like summery pie.
Once chopped, I had about 6 cups of rhubarb – I went and bought 3 pints of beautiful organic strawberries that were difficult to not eat as I trimmed and halved them into the pot.
I cranked it up. I added sugar and lemon juice and brought the lot to a foamy pink simmer.
And then I went to check my email.
Do I even have to say?
Turns out jam will not cook itself.
I thought I could salvage it – call it “burnt sugar strawberry jam” or some such (I’m sure browned butter and burnt sugar everything got their start in a similar way), but it was too far gone.
Oh woe is me.
I salvaged a few berries I had saved for W and managed to simmer a tiny pot of it, and luckily there’s no shortage of rhubarb in our neighbourhood (outside my back yard). But those berries.
I’d rather not talk about it.
I had decided to post this as part of The Canadian Food Experience Project, which begins today. Val in Edmonton came up with the idea, and has enlisted over 50 food bloggers to share our collective stories of Canadian cuisine, which I think is a fine idea. This month’s topic is a Canadian food memory, and I have memories of the neighbourhood kids spending their summers with a plastic cup of sugar and a stalk of rhubarb plucked from the garden, dipping the chewed end in the sugar and eating it. The original Fun Dip.
And who doesn’t love the strawberry-rhubarb combo? There’s a good recipe over at Canadian Living – a magazine and cookbook I grew up cooking out of, and another at Saveur, which is what I wound up using as a starting point. I love a jam that doesn’t require a box of pectin to set – I never seem to have one when I need it, and I prefer a runnier jam to the gelatinously stiff.
Whether you use pectin or not, sit by the stove. Enjoy your slow food time and check your email later. (Unless you have an iPhone in your pocket…)
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
5-6 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups quartered strawberries
3 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Combine everything in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the rhubarb breaks down and the mixture thickens and turns jam-like. It should take about 45 minutes. To determine whether it’s ready, drop a spoonful on a cold saucer (put it in the freezer for a few minutes) – it should look like jam. If you like runny jam, leave it runny – if you like it thicker, cook it a little longer.
Makes about 8 cups.