There are harbingers of spring in the garden. Eggs and herbs. Flowers and spots of sunshine. I’d like to say that this rhubarb jam is a celebration of my first harvest of the year, but it’s not.The rhubarb still has a ways to grow. Instead, this jam celebrates a more mundane annual ritual: cleaning out the freezer. While fruit picked at the peak of ripeness and made instantly into jam preserves some of the flavor of summer, frozen fruits (or vegetables, in rhubarb’s case) are a perfectly acceptable alternative. And when it all gets to be too much for us in the summertime–all the plums ripen at the same instant I find myself unable to resist a box of peaches at the market and my brother offers to bring a haul of rhubarb to town–well, into the freezer it goes. And at this time of year, when our kids have eaten through our obviously-inadequate annual supply of jam, we’re glad to have summer’s bounty patiently waiting for us to deal with it.
In the past few days, we’ve made peach, yellow plum, Italian plum, plum-ginger, and this rhubarb jam. We canned most of it, froze some, and experimented with making a sticky jam tart. And hopefully these 35 jars will hold us over until summer comes again.
The Rhubarb Brown Sugar Jam is simple but seductive. Sweet, bracing, tonic. And maybe, where you are, you can already pick a few stalks of rhubarb or find it at your local market. The recipe is infinitely scalable. You can make one jar to spoon over toast (think of it with this bread!) or a big batch to freeze or can. Or do as my 5 year old did and just enjoy a bowl of it with a spoon. (I probably would have added some yogurt to the bowl myself, but hey.)
Rhubarb and Brown Sugar Jam: Remove and discard the leaves from as many rhubarb stalks as you plan to use (remember that rhubarb cooks down quite a bit) and wash well. Slice into 1/2″ rounds and place in a pot with a splash of water or orange juice, just enough to keep the rhubarb from sticking until it starts to release its own liquid. Add a bit of white sugar and a bit of dark brown sugar (if you plan to can your jam you must use at least 1/2 c. sugar per quart of fruit). Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the rhubarb breaks down and becomes thick and jammy. Lower the heat or add a spoonful of water if it starts to stick. When the fruit reaches your desired consistency, taste for sweetness. You can leave it a bit tart, or add additional brown sugar to sweeten the pot.