It’s starting to get good, friends. Farmer’s markets are starting to hop, our starts are under the lights still but just itching to get out and enjoy the sun, daylight in Seattle is lasting until 9pm. This is the sweet spot! The first symbols of spring are here too, of course. Rhubarb and asparagus! And this is what the blogger of the month chose for the Can Jam. Asparagus or rhubarb. Pick your pleasure! I couldn’t pick just one because I knew I’d wanna have these puppies around later. Can you see I’m excited? Excited like this…
So instead of making one fancy pants recipe, I made two basic recipes that I believe I’ll use in the upcoming months when these announcers of spring are gone.
I started with rhubarb. I’ve been fooling around with rhubarb already this month, with great results. Double S and I still talk about the rhubarb crumble I made a few weeks back, and have been on the trail of a more healthy/hippie oat bar version. I’m still looking for a good rhubarb oat bar, so please send ideas my way. Anyway, I want to have rhubarb around for later in the year, when the abundance of rhubarb we have now is but a distant memory, so I decided to make a basic rhubarb jam. I didn’t want any added berries of any sort. I wanted that straight up rhubarb deliciousness. I also wanted to keep the sugar low, because I don’t like overly sugary fruits and this rhubarb will likely be used in baked goods, where there will already be sugar.
So after much Googling, I discovered Pomona’s Universal Pectin. Holy crap! Where has this lil’ packet been all my life? O.k., I’d seen it before, but I confess to never doing my homework about pectin in a box. Well, with Pomona’s, you can finally step away from the conventional wisdom that you need to add boatloads of sugar to your jams and jellies, and actually add it to taste. I had finally found my recipe. I like my rhubarb sour, yo, so here’ my recipe for a rhubarb-y rhubarb jam. For baking, toast, whatevs. No big whoop.
Basic Tart Rhubarb Jam
I searched around and read several recipes for rhubarb jam, mainly with tons of sugar and berries added. Luckily, the Pomona’s package has a very helpful handout to help you come up with your own recipes. There are a list of the major fruits used for jamming, but there is also just a general recipe. The general recipe tells you how much pectin, calcium water (in a packet included with the pectin) and sugar to use per pound of fruit, with a range so you can add them all to taste. Finally, some flexibility!
Rhubarb: 4 lbs. Pick the biggest, firmest, reddest stalks you can. After chopping off the bad bits and leaf remnants, this totaled about 3 1/4 pounds, or 12 cups of chopped rhubarb.
Pomona’s Pectin: 2 1/4 teaspoons
Calcium Water (included with Pomona’s Pectin): 12 teaspoons
Orange Juice: 1/2 cup
Water: 3/4 cup
Sugar: 3/4 cup
1. Put your big canning pot on the stove and prep your jars and lids. You need a refresher? Go here.
2. Prep your rhubarb. Clean and chop it.
3. Put the chopped rhubarb, water and OJ into a large saucepan. Stir frequently.
The Pomona instructions say to add pectin as soon as the fruit comes to a boil, but I didn’t think that would work for rhubarb, because the water and juice starts boiling when the rhubarb is still way to hard. So I brought it to a boil, then turned it down to medium low and stirred, waiting for the rhubarb to soften and hoping not to cook out all of the nutrients. This took about maybe 25 minutes.
4. Make your pectin-sugar mix. Add the amount of pectin that is required for your amount of fruit, to the amount of sugar that you want to add to your fruit. Use sugar or any sweetener you like: honey, sucanat, etc. You can use whatever you like.
I love mixing hip hop and canning.
5. When the rhubarb is as soft as you like it, I left rhubarb chunks because I figured it still needed to be processed, add the pectin sugar combo. Add more sugar to taste, but add it slowly because you need less than you think, unless you like a really sweet jam.
6. Pop your new lids into a pot of non boiling water. Get your sterilized jars to of your canning pots. Fill the jars with the rhubarb jam. Leave 1/4 inch headspace. Make sure that you do the trick where you put a knife or spatula down all the sides of the jars–there were lots of bubbles ion this jam. Then clean the rims of the jar with a clean paper towel.
7. Hot water bath process for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours.
It worked! The next day it had set perfectly. Nice and thick!
I wasn’t done yet friends. I decided to also make a basic (for me) pickled asparagus that I could use as a garnish for Bloody Marys this summer. Perhaps you’ve been following the (R)Evolution of my yard? Well, here’s an update. We have almost 90 tomato starts ready to go into the ground!
I’m going through a gif phase. Bear with me!
So, if all goes well (which it won’t, but with this many tomato starts we’re bound to have some tomatoes, even in Seattle) I’ll be sipping Bloody Marys with tomato juice I juiced from my own tomatoes and garnished with my pickled asparagus. Here’s what I did.
Spicy Pickled Asparagus (for Booze!)
Asparagus: 4 lbs. I got asparagus from Yakima, Washington.
Water: 4 cups
White Onion: 1/4 of a medium-sized onion, chopped into half moons.
Carrots: Just a few small ones for color. Optional.
Garlic Cloves: 1-2 per jar. I did two per.
White Vinegar: 1 3/4 cups
Red Wine Vinegar: 1 cup
Salt: 2.5 Tbsp. I used kosher salt.
Dried chipotle peppers. Optional. One per jar. I got these puppies at Grand Central Market in L.A. and hadn’t had the chance to use them yet.
Spices: Do what you like. I used dill weed, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, and pickling spice that I got from my parents that they use for their amazing boiled shrimp.
That song sounds good.
1. Find your jars. This is the hardest part of the process, friends. You need to figure out what jars you are using so you can cut your asparagus accordingly. This was important to me because I wanted the longest spears as possible…for booze! There are those tall thin jars. I didn’t feel like going to the store, so I used quart sized jars. This recipe makes three of the quart sized jars.
2. Turn on your canning pot. Prep your jars by sterilizing them.
3. Clean and cut your asparagus. I made an asparagus template. Cut your spears to match. Cut above where white turns to purple right before it turns to green. Cut and prep your carrots, if you’re using them.
4. Make your brine. Dump your water, red wine vinegar, white vinegar salt and about 1/4 of chopped white onion into a pot. Add spices. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, put on a pot of boiling water. When boiling, blanch your asparagus and carrots for 2 minutes.
Immediately put the hot asparagus and veggies into a bowl of icy cold water to stop the cooking process.
6. Remove jars from canning pot and put a garlic clove or two into the bottom of each ar. If you want them chipotle flavored, toss a red chipotle pepper into the bottom of each jar.
7. Pack each jar with asparagus. Don’t force them or you’ll break the tips ya big dummy!
8. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
And ready for booze! And maybe a cheese platter! What’s it gonna be for June?