Rhubarb is ridiculously easy to grow and once you plant it, you have it for life. It is also handy to have as it starts cropping in April when there is very little else growing and certainly no other fruit - not that rhubarb is strictly a fruit. The only down side, that I can see, is its flavour! Of course, many people like the stuff and enjoy it stewed as a crumble or pie filling or just with a good dollop of custard. Personally, I can't stand the stuff, which is why I don't grow it.
I'm temporarily looking after a plot for a friend who's out of the country and he has rhubarb on this plot so I thought I'd make the most of this situation and see if I could make something tasty out of rhubarb without making the lifelong commitment to a plant. So yesterday I picked 5 stems and tried making rhubarb jam for the first time. After standing it in sugar and lemon juice overnight I went ahead with making the jam this morning and I was pleasantly surprised on two accounts. Firstly, the jam was easy to make and set, despite being a low pectin "fruit", and secondly, the end result was both beautiful and delicious - like a gingery nectar!
Hmmm... I'm beginning to wonder whether I have harshly misjudged the humble rhubarb plant!
Rhubarb and Ginger Jam
(makes a just 1 pound)
4-5 stems, weighing roughly 1 lb (454g)
The same weight of sugar as rhubarb
1 small lemon, rind and juice
1/2 oz (15g) root ginger, bruised
1/2 oz (15g) stem ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon syrup from stem ginger jar
Wash the rhubarb and cut it into pieces roughly 1 inch (2.5cm) long. Layer the rhubarb in a non metallic bowl with the lemon rind and sugar then pour in the lemon juice. Cover the bowl and stand overnight. Tip the contents of the bowl into a preserving pan and add the root ginger, wrapped in a piece of muslin. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few minutes until the rhubarb is soft, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a vigorous boil and boil for 5 to 10 minutes until the setting point is reached. Remove from the heat and discard the root ginger. Stir in the stem ginger and syrup. Ladle into warmed jars and seal immediately.