I was tweeted last week via a friend Ren Behan to ask if I have a rhubarb jam recipe for Thomas Blythe. I've been meaning to post this recipe up for some time. I met Thomas several months ago at St Johns and he made quite an impression on me .. he's certainly not a chap you would forget. He was charming and witty and a quintessentially eccentric rogish English gentleman. So this recipe is for Thomas.
I delight in getting the balance of the cheek sucking sour wince against the sugary fruit pleasure hit from this exquisite spring treat. These slender pink stalks are charming but only when complimented. You have to flirt with rhubarb. Alone it is sour. But by adding sugar you still have to watch out, too little and she’s still sour, too much and you loose her acidic wit.
This fruit tempers the richness of lamb for example and cuts through the sugariness of vanilla cake to accentuate the best qualities of the ingredients around it. I adore the acidity, enjoying bringing it out in slightly unexpected ways to give a burst of sharp sour juxtapositioned against sweet. It is this contrast and fruitiness is not only fun to cook with but provided the things your taste buds love. Stimulation, interest and contrast. Get Rhubarb right and it will be love for life.
This jam, with floral overtones, has a pink hue and natural tartness it’s delicious served over baked scones with a cup of Earl Grey tea, sandwiched in the middle of a vanilla cake, or as the base for trifle. I just love it, full stop. Rhubarb Jam has qualities no other fruit can mimic. Spare jars make superb presents, yet despite my generous suggestion, I confess to a certain reluctance to give them away!
Makes 9 x 450g jars
Prep time 35 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
2kg rhubarb, chopped
2kg jam sugar
Juice of 2 fresh lemons
1 Preheat the oven to 160˚C/gas mark 3 and pop the jars (but not the lids) into the oven.
2 Put a small saucer in the fridge to chill.
3 Place the chopped rhubarb in a large saucepan pan, cover and heat gently for about 10 minutes. You’re almost looking to ‘melt’ it; heated rhubarb turns from solid chunks into a thick liquid. Stir occasionally and gently stir and keep the pan covered.
4 Once the consistency is liquid, add the sugar and stir. When the sugar is dissolved, bring the jam to the boil for about 5–6 minutes on a good bubble. Take the jam jars out of the oven.
5 While the jam boils, use a metal spoon to (gently!) skim off any froth (like soap suds) that appears on the top. This will improve the clarity of the jam. Take care not to remove too much jam, though.
6 Once the jam reaches setting point it should be viscous enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. To test for setting point, take the pot off the heat and drop a teaspoon of jam onto the cold saucer from the fridge. Leave it for about a minute; if it’s ready, the jam should wrinkle as you run a spoon through the centre. If it doesn’t wrinkle, simply return the pan to the boil and repeat this process about 3 minutes later. Note: take care not to over-boil your jam. This setting point should really take no longer than 20 minutes at most to achieve.
7 Add the lemon juice. Stir well.
8 Ladle the jam into the jars using a jam funnel. After 1 minute, pop the lids on – the heat from the jam will ensure the lids are sterilised. Don’t worry if the jar lid isn’t done up tightly; you can tighten them later once the jars have cooled.