Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Jam

So I thought I'd start out with a bang and do Rhubarb! But unfortunately... this recipe is just not working for me. It got me thinking, maybe I don't like rhubarb as much as I thought I did? Or maybe I got a bad batch. All I know is that I am not digging on this jam like I thought I would. Everything about it is great: texture (perfect! jammy! thick! no pectin!), coloring (light rosy pink with specks of bean!), prep (easy! quick cooking!), except the taste (earthy? saccharine? dare I say, soapy?) But, seriously, rhubarb is great... I think. Go try some and see for yourself.

This is a very easy recipe I spliced together from Marisa's Vanilla Rhubarb Jam and Amy Pennington's Rhubarb Jam from her splendid book, Urban Pantry. The gist is simple: macerate your fruit (veggie?) with sugar, lemon juice and water for a day (or 2 like I did... lazy me!) then add a bit more sugar if you like (I was concerned about the tartness/jelling ability of my rhubarb) and cook!

The cook time was quicker than I thought, not using any commercial pectin, but it set up beautifully. I think it would be even better cut in half with strawberries, which is what I'll do next time. I'm not giving up on you, Rhubarb! You will be mine. Oh yes, you will be mine.

Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Jam
adapted from Food in Jars Vanilla Rhubarb Jam and Amy Pennigton's Rhubarb Jam in  Urban Pantry
makes ~3 pints

~2 1/2 lbs. rhubarb, washed and roughly chopped
3 cups (600g) sugar
2-3 T. lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split
2 cups water

Combine rhubarb with 2 1/2 cups (500g) sugar, lemon juice and water; let macerate overnight (up to 2 days). When you are ready to cook your jam, add the split vanilla bean and begin to cook your fruit down on medium high to high heat. Add the extra 1/2 cup (100g) sugar after you get a feel for the taste. Once the jam begins to cook down (after 15-20 minutes or so) remove the vanilla pod and add scraped seeds back to the jam pot.

Make sure to rinse your vanilla bean off and set it out to dry off a bit- add it to your jar of vanilla sugar or homemade vanilla extract. You do that, right? If not, you should! Both are fantastic ways to extend the life of your precious beans.

Continue cooking down your jam until it reaches a nice gelling point. I didn't even take the temp this time, it was quite obvious once the rhubarb had set.

Fill your jars (I don't always sterilize if I'm processing for 10 minutes or more) and water-bath process for 10 minutes.

Voila! Mediocre Rhubarb Vanilla Jam. Seriously, I'm not letting this jam win. I'm going to try again and next time, I promise, I will succeed! Let me know if you try it and how yours turns out.

** Update! I revived several jars of this so-so jam by cooking again with 1/2 flat of fresh and 1/2 bag of frozen strawberries, no need to add more sugar. I also gave it a quick whirl of the hand-blender. It turned out super delicious, so I think the key is less sugar than you think and quite possibly the addition of another fruit or at least a more pronounced spice like cinnamon or nutmeg. So many rhubarb recipes leave you thinking you need to douse them in sugar before it will be edible and I forgot my essential cooking mantra: Know what you like, Do what you like. Try it again and you'll be pleased. (By the way, I did not reprocess this time, just straight to the fridge where the jar has been dwindling down each day since!)


  1. I think the strawberries will help it out a ton! Like with strawberry rhubarb pie, Rhubarb tends to do better in an ensemble rather than featured solo. =)

    1. I think you are right! I tried mixing a half-pint jar of this with a bunch of fresh strawberries and the flavor improved quite a bit. Also, I think I may have added too much sugar to the jam recipe in the first place. Oh well, c'est la vie!