As usual, I found myself with too much of a good thing. This time, it was rhubarb. The big red fleshy stalks stared back every time I opened the fridge. Once in a while, a few would tumble out in a desperate attempt to make their prescience more of a priority in my life. It wasn’t happening. Yet.
I had bought a half flat of strawberries and several bundles of rhubarbs for some charity bake sale galettes but hadn’t really taken the time to calculate precisely how much fruit was required for this plan. Instead, I took a wild guess and was wildly wrong. It happens. The strawberries became a lovely sorbet but the rhubarb sat patiently awaiting a decision.
I didn’t have a plan. I was tired of pie and had already roasted a fat lot of it. There were a few jars of jam from last year languishing in the pantry and I wasn’t keen on adding any more. How much toast and jam can a girl eat? I was stumped, waiting for inspiration.
Then Sandra Holl of Floriole mentioned a savory rhubarb jam recipe with beer from Chef Paul Virant’s fantastic book, A Preservation Kitchen. I was intrigued – something interesting, something different than the same old sweet preserves. On my way to the bookshelf I tripped over a case of New Glarus Spotted Cow. And so it began.
I cut up the fruit and let it macerate in the fridge for a few days with the sugar, beer and lemon. Basically, I forgot about it. But then it all came together pretty quickly into a sweet/savory combination that surprised me. I wasn’t sure what I expected but the slightly tart, slightly sweet combination was delightful. It will be wonderful with roast pork, duck or even that gorgeous holiday ham.
The Chef recommends a wheat beer, which is somewhat in the middle of the spectrum – anything too dark will overpower the gentle tartness of the fruit, anything too light won’t have enough prescience. I found the Spotted Cow, an ale, to be just right; the fruitiness played perfectly against the tart rhubarb. Plus it’s just a damn good beer.
While rhubarb season may have passed for most of us, keep this one in mind. I still see stalks in my grocery store throughout the summer and think this would be a good one to put up for the winter.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: UNUSUALLY GOOD. As I’ve said before, going into pioneer mode and stocking up the pantry for winter is immensely satisfying. Going beyond the typical jams everyone makes is pretty great too. Put this one up – the recipe makes a manageable amount – and dazzle your family during the holidays. They just might wonder who you’ve become.
A quick word on this book. If you’re at all interested in preserving, even a little intrigued, get it. The recipes are interesting and just a little different than most. And if you’ve ever gone on a jam/preserving/pickling bender and stared at shelf after shelf of colorful jars wondering, “What the hell am I supposed to DO with all of this?”, he’ll tell you. Half the book is recipes that use what you’ve just made. Brilliant.
RHUBARB BEER JAM – Recipe adapted from Paul Virant’s The Preservation Kitchen
Makes 6-7 half pints
3 pounds rhubarb, diced
3 cups wheat beer
1½ cups sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
- In a wide, heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients – rhubarb, beer, sugar, lemon zest and juice – and bring to a simmer.
- Turn off the heat, let the mixture cool, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days.
- Strain the mixture through a sieve into a wide, heavy-bottomed pot (save the rhubarb for until needed).
- Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reaches 215°F, about 12 minutes.
- Return the rhubarb to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the jam lightly coats the back of a spoon and the temperature has returned to 215°F, 10-15 minutes.
- In a large pot of simmering water, sterilize seven ½-pint jars by boiling for 10 minutes. Place the lids and rings in a separate pan with water to cover and bring to a simmer.
- Once the jam is complete, use tongs to remove the jars from the pot and set upside down on a kitchen towel to drain.
- Drain the rings and lids on a kitchen towel as well.
- Place the jam in a large measuring cup with a pour spout and fill jars to within ½” of the top, using a canning funnel if desired.
- Wire the rims clean with a slightly damp paper towel, top with a lid and screw on a ring until finger tight and snug. Don’t over-tighten.
- Place a canning rack into the pot of hot water and return to a boil.
- Use tongs to lower the jam-filled jars into the pot, making sure there is enough water to cover the jars by 1”.
- Boil the jars for 10 minutes, starting the timer once the water comes to a boil.
- Remove the jars with tongs and cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, check the seals by pressing the lid. If it presses in, a seal was not created and the jar must be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 2 months. If sealed, store at room temperature in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.