Those who make jam and marmalade at home will understand straight away what I mean referring to the deep sense of satisfaction in hearing the lid on the jars going click after potting jam. You can hear it just about everywhere around the house and it tells you that the seal has been made and the jam can be safely stored until the time comes that you open the jar with a resounding pop.
Without counting marmalade, rhubarb marks the beginning of the jamming season, but this year I have raided the rhubarb patch several times to make cakes, crumbles, stewed fruit before, in what felt like a panic, I realised that, as the weeks go by, the first tender forced stems, have made space for the sturdier, less subtly flavoured main season stalks. Time to get the maslin pan out and fill some jars.
Although in Italy rhubarb is widely used to make sweets, fortified wine and digestive amaros, I have never come across it in other forms of cooking. As usual I do not follow a recipe, but for this jam I take comfort in River Cottage's Preserves book by Pam Corbin (@thepamthejam) to make sure I do not make a mess of what to me is a totally new jamming produce. Bearing in mind that rhubarb has both low pectin and acidity, two essential ingredients for good setting, I have added a sachet of Tate & Lyle pectin to the sugar in order to achieve a soft setting without having to boil the stalks into a grey/green mash. I choose pectin over jam sugar with added pectin because I like to know how much of each I am using and I like to use unrefined sugar.
Consider adding to the jam any of the following, which really go well with rhubarb: fresh ginger (see below), vanilla (one pod, opened, seeds scraped and cut into 1cm pieces), orange zest (only the orange part of 1 organic orange), strawberries (100g each kg of rhubarb), or a mix of those. Rhubarb jam is perfect used as you would use a compote, or on buttered toast; even better on some Westcombe Dairy ricotta on a slice of sourdough.
Rhubarb jam with ginger
1kg rhubarb, cut into 2cm chunks
900g unrefined sugar
1 sachet Tate & Lyle pectin
1 lemon, juiced
40g fresh ginger, chopped (how much ginger you use depends on your taste, I prefer just a hint)
After having wiped and trimmed the rhubarb, cut it into chunks and put them into a large stainless steel pan with a heavy bottom. Pour the sugar and pectin on top of the rhubarb, give a good stir and leave overnight covered. This way the rhubarb is less likely to disintegrate during boiling.
Add the juice of 1 lemon and the ginger then gently bring to the boil, stirring carefully without crushing the ginger pieces. Boil rapidly for 8-10 minutes, until a little jam put onto a cold saucer and left to cool for a couple of minutes crinkles when pushed with your fingertip (setting point test). Alternatively use a preserving thermometer to check that the temperature has reached 106 C.
Pot immediately into clean, sterilised jars and close with the lid. Wait for the loud click and be proud of yourself!