Rhubarb and vanilla jam / marmalade

I still had plenty of rhubarb left after making crumble, and this is only my first (quite moderate) harvest of the year! So I’ve been thinking about trying out some rhubarb jam. I made rhubarb chutney last year, which was okay, but somehow I think rhubarb is much better when it’s sweetened with sugar rather than soured, any more than it already is, with vinegar.

I found two recipes in my WI preserves book, rhubarb and ginger, or rhubarb and vanilla. I’ve tried the rhubarb / ginger combo many times, and it works well, but I’d never considered rhubarb and vanilla. When you think about it, it’s the perfect marriage as custard usually has vanilla in it, and there’s no better combination than rhubarb and custard. And it just so happened that I had a vanilla pod sitting on my spice shelf waiting to be used, so decision made.

I’ll add the recipe to my recipes page if you fancy making it. It’s slightly different to most jam methods, in that you macerate the rhubarb in the sugar overnight, and then after dissolving what’s left of the sugar you boil it for about an hour, rather than the usual 10 mins. I didn’t make the full hour, as after half an hour it started to burn, and I realised it was already setting quite well on the edges of the pan, so I immediately took it off the heat and let it cool. It did say to boil rapidly, so maybe you have to keep stirring for an hour!

It does have a very slight bitter edge, which I assume is from where it had started to burn, so it should probably be sweeter than this, but I don’t mind that at all. Also, I used the juice of an orange rather than a lemon for upping the pectin levels, and these two factors combined means it tastes to me more like a marmalade than a jam. It will be great on toast. The rhubarb taste is quite subtle, and the vanilla really comes through.

I know it’s awful when chefs on TV salivate over their own dishes, and you have to watch them eat it and go ‘mmm’, as if they’re going to say anything different, but this really is lovely.

I only made half the quantity in the recipe, as I wanted to test it out, which worked out enough to fill a large jam jar or a small clip-top kilner jar. I’ll definitely be making some more. But I think the trick with rhubarb jam is to only use the early season pink stems and not the more woody green stems that come later in the year. If you’re lucky enough to have some forced rhubarb, that would be perfect.

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