• Serves: 5 jars
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy

I was recently given a huge bag of rhubarb by one of my mum’s old colleagues. Given that my freezer is already crammed with beautiful, hot pink chunks of Yorkshire rhubarb awaiting the crumble or compote treatment, I couldn’t really justify stashing this away too. After making a gorgeous strawberry, rhubarb and coconut crumble pie (I know, right…doesn’t that just sound like the actual best thing ever known to man?), I turned my thoughts to the remainder, crammed into a huge bag sitting on my kitchen floor.

Home-grown rhubarb differs from the forced Champagne rhubarb that starts to appear in late winter, grown in the mysterious-sounding ‘Rhubarb triangle’ in Yorkshire. The stalks are much thicker, tougher, and more fibrous; I find myself reaching for my largest, heaviest-duty kitchen knife to tackle them, rather than simply shredding away with a little paring knife. They are also much more sour, although they do tend to have a more pronounced rhubarb flavour than the sweeter, hot pink stuff. The stalks need cooking for longer to avoid them remaining crunchy and chewy. They also have a decidedly less pretty appearance, cooking down to a greenish-brown mush rather than vibrantly pink chunks.

However, it is this rhubarb that is absolutely perfect for jam making. It’’s cheaper than the early forced kind (or, indeed, free, if you grow your own or have friends who do). Jam means long, hot cooking, allowing the stalks to soften thoroughly. Plus there’’s plenty of sugar added to offset that sourness. For me, the ultimate jam involves combining the rhubarb with vanilla and cardamom. Vanilla lends a gorgeous sweet perfume that heightens the rhubarb flavour and makes it lusciously dessert-like, while cardamom lends its citrusy fragrance and gives an exotic note to the mixture. The combination of jam sugar and a little lemon juice means the jam sets very quickly; it can usually be made from start to finish in an hour.

 

here's what you'll need...

  • 1 kg rhubarb (weighed after trimming)
  • 1 kg jam sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 12 cardamom pods, seeds ground to a powder

rhubarb jam ingredients 1

 

tip

This recipe can be easily adapted for whatever quantity of rhubarb you have. Simply use the same weight of sugar as rhubarb, and use roughly one lemon, one vanilla pod and 12 cardamom pods per kilo of rhubarb. If you’’re not a fan of cardamom you can of course leave it out, or try other spices instead: cinnamon, cloves or star anise would work well.

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here's how it's done...

  • 1

    Chop the rhubarb stalks into 2-inch lengths. Put it with the sugar and vanilla pod into a large saucepan or preserving pan.

    rhubarb jam step 1

  • 2

    Heat gently until the sugar starts to dissolve and the rhubarb starts to release juice, then turn the heat up.

    rhubarb jam step 2

  • 3

    Once everything is liquid, add the lemon juice and cardamom. Put a small plate in the freezer to test for a set later. Turn the heat up so the jam is bubbling vigorously.

    rhubarb jam step 3

  • 4

    Cook, stirring regularly to prevent sticking and burning, for 30 minutes to an hour (wear oven gloves and an apron for stirring, as it tends to spit hot sugar everywhere!).

    rhubarb jam step 4

  • 5

    Everything will thicken and darken and turn syrupy, though some chunks of rhubarb will remain; once it’’s at this stage, test for a set. Spoon a little jam onto the cold plate from the freezer, then wait for two minutes. Run your finger through the jam; if it wrinkles and stays separate, it’’s ready. Turn off the heat and leave the jam for 10 minutes, then ladle into sterilised jars and put the lids on.

    rhubarb jam post image 1

 

 

 

By Elly McCausland on 16.06.14

Guest Contributor

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