Friday, May 16, 2014

Too Good to Wait

So... that Rhubarb and Orange Jam? Unbelievable. So good, in fact, that on the off-chance that you have rhubarb to use this weekend, I wanted you to have this recipe. The brightness of the citrus, along with the sweet-tart rhubarb, combine to make a lively marmalade-like jam. (I happen to love marmalade, so that's a huge compliment.)

All told, it took me 2 hours from start to finish to make this, including stopping to take pictures. I bet you could do it in an hour and a half, just working straight through it.

Rhubarb and Orange Jam
recipe from Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff
yields approx. 6 half-pint jars

2 navel oranges
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserve the squeezed hulls and seeds)
3 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups sugar

Prepare your water bath canner and sterilize the jars. Put a small plate in the freezer, and put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl. (You'll heat them just before canning.)

Use a vegetable peeler to cut the zest from the oranges, then stack the slices and cut them into thin julienne strips. Segment the oranges, working over a bowl to catch the juice and reserve the membranes. Put the membranes, along with the reserved lemon hulls and seeds, in a cheesecloth bag and tie the bag closed. 

Put the zest, orange, rhubarb and sugar in a wide 6-8 quart preserving pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the juices just cover the fruit, 10-15 minutes. Nestle the jelly bag (the cheesecloth bag) in the fruit. Boil over high heat, stirring frequently, until a small dab of jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for about a minute becomes somewhat firm (it will not gel), about 15 minutes. Skim off foam, then remove from heat and stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the fruit in the liquid. 

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. drain the water from the jar lids. 

Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put the flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it's just finger-tight. Return the jars to 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 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 that jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label sealed jars and store.

When it comes to canning, I always follow the ingredients to the letter, the first time around. I did stray a little bit from the technique, but how you proceed is up to you. Please follow all food safety guidelines when you're canning things.

First I julienned the orange zest, then I added it and the sugar to my pot.

The pot was on low; I just wanted to lightly warm up the orange and sugar to get the oils coming out of the zest while I worked on the next step: segmenting the orange. I added the segments to the pot as I went, but I did work over a bowl to catch the juice and to have a place to put the membranes. I also added the lemon juice at this point. 

Finally, I cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch slices and tossed it in the pot. Next time, I might go a little thicker, as it did break almost completely down during the cooking process.

I cooked and stirred as directed until the juice was just covering the fruit (and veg; rhubarb is actually a vegetable) and then I put the jelly bag in like so:

This is the interesting part of the recipe- she uses the naturally occurring pectin in the membranes and lemon hulls to thicken the jam. After it boiled on high for 15 minutes, I took out the jelly bag and carefully squished it, in order to extract as much of that pectin as possible. The recipe doesn't call for doing that, but it seemed to be holding a lot of liquid that I didn't want to lose. 

I followed the rest of the instructions with regards to canning the finished product. I ended up with 6 half pint jars, one pint jar and a little bit leftover. I waterbath canned the half pints, and I'm planning on using the pint jar right away... I've got a batch of yogurt to make later on, and this will be an excellent topping. I also think that it could be used to make a crazy good marinade for chicken, with the addition of a little chili paste for some zip and maybe a couple other ingredients. I'll report back as I try things out. 

I hope you try this out. Small batch canning is a great way to get in the swing of preserving things, without making a huge production out of it. If you do give it a shot, post some pics over on my FB page and let me know! Until then... happy canning!

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