25 July 2012

Confiture de rhubarbe

Because of the weird weather, there's not much fruit on the trees this year. There were some cherries earlier, and the little pear tree in the yard has quite a few pears on it, but there are almost no apples, few plums, and no walnuts that I've seen.

On the other hand, because of the wet weather, aided by some well-timed weeding that Walt did in March, we have had a magnificent crop of rhubarb. If, like me, you grew up or live in a region with a warm climate, you might not be very familiar with the vegetable treated like a fruit that is rhubarb. It's a perennial that comes up from the roots (rhizomes) every spring, with thick reddish stems and large green leaves.

Rhubarb cooking into jam

Rhubarb likes to be watered abundantly. It also needs cold winter weather to thrive. We had those conditions this year, with a very hard three-week freeze in February, and then abundant rains from the beginning of April through most of July.

The rhubarb patch out in the garden

You eat only the thick, stringy stems of the rhubarb plant. The leaves are mildly toxic. You take the strings off the stems the way you do with celery. A friend told me that you can eat them raw, dipped in sugar. You can also cook them into pies, compote, or jam. Rhubarb is good combined with apples, strawberries, or other fruits. Or by itself.

The rhubarb after it spent 18 hours in sugar, before cooking began

I made rhubarb jam yesterday. Walt harvested several kilos of stems, and after I trimmed them up I had three kilos to cook. I added three kilos of sugar — rhubarb has a tart taste so I used quite a bit to make it sweet. The chopped up rhubarb stems and the sugar, mixed together in a big stainless steel pot, macerated together overnight, until all the sugar had liquified.

Jars of rhubarb jam cooling upside down

Then I put the pot on the stove and brought it up to the boil, adding the juice of a lemon and two teaspoonfuls of vanilla extract. After fifteen minutes, the rhubarb stems were cooked, I could tell. And that's when things got sticky. I decided to strain the rhubarb out of the sugar syrup and run it through a food mill to remove any remaining fibrous strings from the mixture.

It worked, but it took a while, turning the food mill's crank and slowly pureeing the heavy, sticky rhubarb stems into a smooth pulp. When I had done as much as I could manage, I put the pulp back into the syrup, which was bubbling away on the stove. I let it cook until the temperature reached 105ºC (220ºF) and then put the jammy jelly up in sterilized jars.

I ended up with six jars of jam, of various sizes.
That should keep us for a year or more.

I haven't really tasted it yet, except little dabs while I was cooking. In a few minutes, after I walk the dog, I'm going to make some good tartines of toasted bread, butter, and rhubarb jam. I'll report back.

* * *



  1. Confiture de rhubarbe is one of my favorites. Rhubarb is also good, as you said, mixed with other fruits.

    It seems that Mary Grace went through. Could it be considered as semi-spam? Or is it that WV is not full-proof?

  2. I don't know who the Mary Grace comments come from. It must be a person, not a robot, because the WV supposedly screens out robots. Mystère...

  3. I never had rhubarb jam before but I make a compote every once in a while. It is delicious! (woke up early today; we had an earthquake).

  4. What a lot of work, especially
    the milling. But the results
    look wonderful, gorgeous color.
    Interesting way to awaken, Nadege.

  5. My mother made rhubarb pie when I was a child growing up in Homer, Illinois. I remember chewing on the stalks, too, when no pie was available. Nowadays, Norma makes a rhubarb strawberry pie that is to die for. Your rhubarb jam looks great, Ken, even if it is labor intensive.

  6. It's the very tartness of rhubarb that makes it attractive, especially when paired with a sweet crumble topping and/or custard. And the reason why it's so tart also makes it an excellent way to bring up the shine inside your saucepans!

  7. It's good to have a variety of crops for the variety of summers I suppose. Your jam set up perfectly. I hope you get some plums this year. I'm having a hard time believing that your apple trees are not putting out. I never saw so many apples as you had last summer.

    Nadage, my son in San Diego is getting used to earthquakes, but I doubt if I ever would.

  8. Why do you cool the jars upside down?

  9. Hello Starman, I cool the jars upside down because I read or saw on TV that that was a good thing to do. Probably a superstition. It works, though, and does no harm.

    Bob, Stan and Lorraine had a big rhubarb patch in Urbana. I had never come across rhubarb before I did house-sitting for them. Then, in the early '80s, I had friends in the country near Fontainebleau who had a rhubarb patch and made great jam. That's when I really understood...

    Nadège, 3.8? Isn't that a weekly occurrence? Rhubarb compote is good too, for sure.

    Autolycus, really. It is pretty acidic. But I like the taste. On toast, with plenty of butter.

  10. rhubarb crumble is one of my favourite deserts [though without the custard they drown it in in the UK]. Have never made it into confiture --looks yummy. Antoinette

  11. Our neighbour who runs the local boulangerie has given us a pot made fron rhubarb we gave her from our patch,

    Toast and rhubarb jam for breakfast tomorrow ...

  12. 3.8 is pretty weak but it was only 2 miles away, in the ocean, so it woke up the South Bay area. The thing is, you never know if it is going to stop or get stronger so you just brace yourself. After all these years, I still HATE them.

  13. Wonderful post, and that looks gorgeous to eat!

  14. I buy rhubarb at the farmer's market here in British Columbia. One of the best things I have made with it is a rhubarb-apple crisp. Yummy! Our neighbor Otto makes rhubarb wine. It has a different taste but is pretty good!


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?