Rhubarb & Vanilla Jam

Prompted by an old chum on Facebook to get this done, do happy jam making Ed.

Rhubarb jam will always be synonymous with my Irish grandmother’s clove scented rhubarb jam smeared onto homemade soda bread. It was pretty much the first thing I ate after walking through the door and hitting my head on the low lintel.

I feel happy enough with this jam to know that I’ll be making it every year, using my own with a bit of gardener’s luck. The Timperley Early is still very small.

The recipe comes from the Waitrose Summer Harvest supplement which was entirely vegetarian too and it makes about 5 jars.

1.2 kg rhubarb, cut into 3 cm chunks
2 vanilla pods, split
1kg jam sugar (I used golden caster sugar with no ill effects)
1 orange, juice only

In a large stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan, layer the rhubarb and vanilla with the sugar. Or if you’re like me, bung it all in and stir it around. Pour the orange juice over the top, cover and leave overnight.

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Put a couple of saucers into the freezer. You’ll see that loads of juice will have leached from the rhubarb. Fish the vanilla pods out of the pan, scrape the seeds and stir them into and the pods back into the rhubarb, with 120ml water. Gently warm, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.

Boil for 10 minutes until the bubbles look large and a sugar thermometer reaches 105C. Alternatively, check the jam has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of jam onto a chilled saucer. Freeze for 30 seconds; it’s ready when a skin forms that wrinkles when prodded. If not, bubble the jam for a few more minutes and check again.

{This bit didn’t work for me so well. I use a jam thermometer, but thought it would be interesting to see how this saucer trick worked. To start with, the jam was too runny, so I licked the jam off my finger and put the saucer back. A few minutes later the saucer wasn’t quite as cold, but I thought it was still worth ago, but it still didn’t wrinkle. So I got to eat more jam.}

Skim any scum off the surface, let it cool for 10 minutes, then pour into warm, sterilised jars. Seal, and use within 6 months. Once open store in the fridge and use within 4 weeks. Which shouldn’t be hard.

As always, I’d highly recommend using your nose for this, even though using a thermometer I caught the jam just as the sugar was catching at the edges of the pan. It had pretty much hit 105C and I’m not fussy over whether I have set jam or not.

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To test, I buttered a slice of bread, spread the remains of the pan jam thickly over and chopped it into dainty triangles. It made a perfect food photo. It’s not here because the lure of the jam was too great. I considered setting up another photo, but this story’s good and a fake would be contrived. Although I would get another slice of bread and jam….

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