Tall, slim, elegant stalks of rhubarb herald the beginning of the preserving year. Forced rhubarb is available from late January to early March, but it is as the days lengthen and the spring equinox brings much needed balance of day and night, the first tender stems of pale pink – green outdoor rhubarb push their way through the soil. Emerging from their hibernation as if to say
“look at me, aren’t I beautiful!”
It is true that forced rhubarb has a more delicate flavour, but I prefer the more earthy taste of the outdoor variety for preserves.
Rhubarb naturally contains very little pectin so needs a helping hand either in the form of high pectin fruit such as apples or pears or the use of sugar with added pectin. It’s quite tart, so produces a jam or conserve that is less sweet than those made from summer fruits.
It makes the finished preserve a perfect companion to vanilla or stem ginger as it carries their inherent sweetness well. Your finished jam will taste great swirled into yoghurt, in the middle of a sponge cake or put a few spoonfuls in the bottom of the basin when making a steamed pudding.
But why limit yourself to the sweet preserves? Rhubarb is also great for juicing (try it with orange and ginger), rhubarb and rosewater cordial is simply divine. Rhubarb can also be the key ingredient in savoury recipes too.
Try it with pork instead of the more traditional apple sauce. Rhubarb, apples, raisins and onions combine to make a fantastic chutney just as the winter supplies run short. You could try rhubarb ketchup. Simply google Delia’s damson ketchup recipe and replace the damsons with rhubarb. It is a long process but well worth it – the finished product really is sensational!
Kate Johnson is Owner/maker at ‘Spread This’
Simple Rhubarb Jam
- 1kg Rhubarb chopped
- 1kg sugar with added pectin
- Juice of an orange
- Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan and stir
- Bring to a rolling boil for approx. 5 mins stirring carefully.
- Test for set and decant into warm, sterilised jars. Cover immediately and leave to cool before labelling.