It's finally here.
I visited 3 grocery stores over the weekend, in addition to the local Farmer's Market, and only one store carried rhubarb. I was overjoyed when I saw it sitting there on the shelf, and every time I'm reminded of the first time I saw rhubarb: working as a cashier at a market along the Yampa River, wondering why the celery was so large and so red. I saw many interesting items of produce that summer: purple bell peppers, untrimmed brussels sprouts, stripped and lopsided heirloom tomatoes... they were all lovely, but I took a strange liking to the purple peppers and, of course, to the rhubarb. The market also sold a strawberry rhubarb pie -- which was my first experience of the dynamic duo -- and it's been love ever since.
But we're not talking about strawberry rhubarb pie (although I'm sure one day soon we will be). We're talking about homemade rhubarb jam, which has been taking up fridge space for the past 5 days, and which is truly one of the most charming processes I've experienced. Mainly because I feel like an old lady clad in overalls hunched over an old stove in an old country cabin (which sounds heavenly) because.... jam, but also because I'd never seen or heard of sterilizing jars before canning the jam. This was truly the most charming part of it, because there's just something about plopping a family of Mason jars into a giant cast-iron pot on a warm spring day.
Anywho, before I get carried away with old ladies in overalls in cabins and Mason jars, I promise you'll love this jam. A quick note before you begin: Don't bother peeling the rhubarb -- the fibers will gradually cook down!
2 1/2 pounds fresh unpeeled rhubarb, chopped
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring mixture to a boil. Let boil for one minute, then reduce heat to medium-low and keep the jam on a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 - 50 minutes.
While the jam is cooking, sterilize your jars. This recipe fills about 3 16 oz mason jars. Fill a pot large enough to fit all jars inside with water. Place your jars into the pot without their lids and rings, completely covered by water, and bring the water to a boil. Let boil for 25 minutes before using tongs to remove the jars. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, filling only 3/4 of the way. By following the recipe in this order, you should finish sterilizing by the time your jam is finished; if not, be careful not to let your jars sit out for more than 30 minutes. If they do, you’ll have to sterilize again!