On rhubarb

This winter was a hard one, and now I look forward to the bounty of spring, summer, and autumn so I can prepare for next year: gathering berries, growing vegetables, foraging for wild garlic and whatever else I can find. It’s already beginning.

Faced with the most recent financial uncertainty, I turn to canning. (‘How 1930s of you,’ commented Chris, who then said I should refer to my vegetable patch as my ‘victory garden’. I just might.) My first preserving endeavours this year have been to make rhubarb jam and bottled rhubarb. You see, we have a lot of rhubarb.

See? I told you.

The River Cottage, No. 2: Preserves might just be my new favourite book. (Actually, it’s tied with the RHS New Encyclopaedia of Gardening Techniques. I’m borrowing both from Rebecca, and I will be loath to return either of them.) I used the recipes in this book to make both my rhubarb jam and honeyed bottled rhubarb.

Making jam is not without adventure. Having never cooked rhubarb myself before, I didn’t know that one is supposed to ‘peel’ the rhubarb before cooking with it. I interpreted ‘trim’ in the recipes to mean trimming the ends of the stalks! Neglecting to peel the stalks before making the jam did not seem to make any difference however, except to turn the jam red. That’s a much more jammy colour anyway. I ended up with three jars instead of the predicted five — I’m not sure why. It seems like whenever I make jam I end up with one or two jars less than what the recipe says it will yield. I also ended up not having enough rhubarb to completely fill the bottles. (Why couldn’t I have just gone out and cut some more to put in? Because rhubarb is quite tart, and the stalks had soaked overnight in a honey syrup mixture.) As you can see, I took the time to peel the rhubarb before canning it.

So far we have made crumble, muffins, jam, and preserves, and have given at least four full carrier bags away. If Rebecca can be parted with her big steel pot for a little bit longer, I might give jam and bottling another go! Rhubarb cake, bread, and cordial are also in the works…