Every spring the rhubarb reappears in our garden, pushing its pink knobbly stems out of the ground, straightening up and unfurling it’s leaves.
It’s a sure sign that the spring is with us and the first rhubarb is always greeted with enthusiasm. I’m not quite sure what happens after that because its popularity always slips even though the rhubarb is just getting into the swing of growing.
We’ve tried it in cakes and tarts at the shop but apart from the first flush it doesn’t make the customers swoon like the appearance of summer fruits. As it produces steadily through the summer there’s quite a lot to be used.
One recipe that is popular is rhubarb and ginger jam. It is a bit of a culinary trick as it uses jam sugar. It’s something that I would usually avoid, but as rhubarb, which is technically a vegetable, doesn’t have a high pectin content, this is a good solution. Jam sugar already has added pectin, which takes the heartache out of getting the jam to set. Paired with stem ginger the jam is delicious.
Stem ginger, which is young root ginger preserved in sugar syrup, can be found in the local Asian store or supermarket and if you don’t have rhubarb growing in your garden it’s available at the farmers markets every weekend at the moment
A word of warning, do not feed the rhubarb leaves to livestock nor chickens, as the oxalic acid content is so high that they are poisonous.
There’s absolutely no danger with the pink stems. I grew up eating them raw and dunked in sugar, the ultimate tart rhubarb and sweetness kick, a habit, which might be frowned upon now.
– makes 4-5 jars
• 1kg rhubarb
• 100g stem ginger
• juice 1 lemon
• 1kg jam sugar
Cut off the leaves and the base stem of the rhubarb and throw them away (compost or bin)
Put a small plate or saucer into the freezer
Put some clean jars into a hot oven at 180ºC to sterilise them.
Wash the stems and cut into approx 3cm lengths then put them in a large saucepan and cover with the jam sugar and the juice of a lemon. Give the pot a shake then leave for an hour so that the sugar begins to melt. Put the saucepan on a medium/low heat so that the sugar slowly dissolves then increase the heat until it boils and cook at a rolling boil for approx 15 minutes or until the rhubarb has softened.
Drop a spoonful of jam onto the chilled plate and leave for a few minutes to cool. Gently push a finger across the jam and if it wrinkles it’s ready, if not boil for a couple of minutes longer.
If the jam is ready carefully decant into hot jars and seal with a clean lid.
The jam will keep for months and it makes a good present if you’re going visiting so it might not last that long.
Enjoy the jam!
Lettercollum Kitchen Project
22 Connolly Street