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Sticky And Sweet: Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

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    Rhubarb Vanilla Jam
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    My aunt's rhubarb plant in the Czech Republic
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    Close up of rhubarb
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    Leaves need to be cut off because they're poisonous
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    Rhubarb prep 1
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    Rhubarb prep 2
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    Wide shallow saucepan is the best
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    Jars filled with hot jam
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    View from the top
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    Place a clean kitchen towel on the bottom of a saucepan and then add the jars. Fill the saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil.
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    Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

May 22, 2017

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Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

When I visited last week, my mom’s rhubarb—planted in a remote, out-of-sight garden corner next to a compost bin—was in its high-yielding, all-emerald glory, calling for attention, ready to be harvested and used in all sorts of recipes. I made a crisp, my mom baked koláče, and I threw some into a pot where I was braising chicken drumsticks on a bed of spring vegetables. There was still plenty left, so I decided to preserve it and take it back home with me.

Rhubarb jam might not be everyone’s first choice to spread on toast in the morning, but I love the earthy, tart and sweet flavors and the amalgam of smooth and chunky textures—not to mention the pretty green color. I decided to throw in a vanilla bean, which adds a nicely mellifluous flavor and tiny, pretty black speckles.

The method couldn’t be easier or faster, but here are a few things I learned from my mom:

Even though it looks like a truckload of sugar, don’t be tempted to reduce it; it’s not there just to sweeten the jam, but to act as a chemical agent. When it melts, it binds to the water in the rhubarb, resulting in a thick, non-runny jam.

It would make sense to double the recipe if you end up with large quantities of fruit, but it’s actually faster to make two identical batches. Also, it somehow makes a better jam.

Even a small amount of lemon adds a nice kick and balances out the sweetness, but it’s also high in natural pectin, which helps the jam to gel.

Mom puts a folded kitchen towel on the bottom of the saucepan when she boils the jam jars; this creates a protective layer and minimizes the risk of the jars breaking.

O

  1. Yields about 3 cups of jam
  2. 2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  3. ¼ cup water
  4. 1 vanilla bean
  5. 2 cups sugar
  6. 3 teaspoons natural fruit pectin
  7. 4 teaspoons lemon juice

1

Place the rhubarb and water in a wide, medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean open lengthwise with a sharp knife. Holding the bean with your fingers, scrape out the seeds with a knife or spoon, and add them with the bean to the saucepan. Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat, until the rhubarb softens and releases its juices, about 5 minutes.

2

Add the sugar, fruit pectin and lemon juice, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking for another 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and take out the vanilla bean. (You can dry the vanilla bean on a paper towel and stick it in your sugar container to give the sugar a nice vanilla scent).

3

Carefully ladle the jam into the prepared jars, leaving a ¼-inch border at the top. Wipe the rim off and seal with a lid.

4

Put a clean, folded kitchen towel on the bottom of a saucepan. Position the jars on top of the towel, and fill the saucepan with cold water until the jars are fully submerged. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil the jars for 3 minutes, and then turn the heat off. Let the jam stand in the water until completely cooled. Remove from the water and dry with a towel.

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