Monday, 20 June 2016

Things to do on a rainy day... part 1...

.....Make Rhubarb Jam

We normally have difficulty growing rhubarb in our garden in France. I think this is because rhubarb is a heavy feeder and the soil here can be a bit thin and chalky but also because the summer temperatures are too high. Rhubarb doesn't like to get too hot in the summer (I understand it prefers an average summer temperature of below about 22 centigrade). So in a good year it fails to thrive unless you can grow it in a cool, corner of your garden.

In our new garden we  decided that our potager should be made from raised beds rather than simply a patch of earth. This was partly because we are both getting old and raised beds are much easier to manage but also because with a raised bed you have much more control over both soil structure and texture. The soil in our raised beds is quicker to warm up, more friable and we have packed it with goodness, all of which is much better than the soil we had at our old house. We planted some fairly mature rhubarb late last year and it is doing well - I wonder if the cold and wet summer weather we are having has anything to do with it? There must be some advantages to the never ending rain.

It being cold and wet last week(again) - we decided to pick some of the aforementioned rhubarb and make some jam. You can pick - or pull, to be correct - rhubarb until the middle of June. After that you must leave the stalks and leaves to grow so that they build up the strength of the crown for future years.




The jam proved a great success. Here is the recipe:

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

1 kilo rhubarb stalks (leaves removed - they're poisonous)
1 kilo granulated sugar
1 lemon
2 oz approx of root ginger
2 oz approx of stem ginger in syrup.

The night before you want to make the jam chop the rhubarb up and put it into your jam pan with the sugar, grated rind of the lemon and the lemon juice. Stir it all to mix evenly and then leave the mixture to stand (covered with a cloth) overnight.

Next day - put 4 x 500g jam jars and their lids in an oven at 100 degrees C to warm and sterilize.

Peel the root ginger, bruise it a bit and put it in a muslin bag which you add to the rhubarb mix. Put the jam pan with rhubarb mix onto a hob and cook slowly until the sugar is fully dissolved then boil it fairly vigorously mashing the rhubarb as you go(with a potato masher)  so that you end up with the rhubarb cooked to a fairly pulpy mass.

Remove the pan from the heat and remove the bag of ginger from the mix. Squeezing the liquid from the bag as you do so.

Add the stem ginger, finely chopped, to the mix and bring back to the boil. Boil until setting point is reached.

You can check for setting point in one of two ways; using a jam thermometer which will tell you the temperature at which setting point is reached or by the 'wrinkle test'. Here you put a tiny amount of the hot jam liquid onto a cold plate (cool it down in the fridge or freezer first). When the drop of jam on the plate has cooled push it gently with the tip of your finger and if the surface wrinkles the jam has reached setting point. I usually use both methods together and take the jam off the boil once the first indication of a set is seen by either method.

Put the jam into your sterilized jars and put the lids on immediately. The jars will be vacuum sealed as the jam cools and you may hear the lids go 'pop' as the vacuum draws them inwards during the cooling process.

That's it!



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