Dear fellow experimenters,
Rhubarb is a miracle plant. It is botanically recognized as a vegetable, but in the United States, as of 1947, it is legally considered a fruit, for purposes of regulation and duties.
This is because of its uses - it is seen primarily in sweet dishes, as opposed to savory. It is cultivated and valued for the tart, tangy flavor it lends to dishes. It is scorned and disliked by many that I know because of the way it is commonly overcooked, undercooked, poorly cooked, and abused.
If you don't care for the delicious, tart flavor of a sweet Granny Smith apple, or the crisp tang of a rosy plum, then you would probably not like rhubarb dishes. And if you don't like tough stringy fibers or soggy, watery filling, then you probably don't like overcooked undercooked poorly cooked and abused rhubarb.
Rhubarb must be treated properly. Like the juice recipe two posts back, the next few recipes I will post call upon rhubarb solely for her properties of taste, and not of texture. This is not to say rhubarb cannot be eaten in whole and for texture, for indeed when properly treated the cooked rhubarb should have a texture and quality something between an apple in a pie and sliced strawberries heated. But we will address that ball of wax on another day.
For now, content yourself with the following recipes - both highly rated by all who have tasted them so far. The below recipe is drawn from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I put my mods in italics, so if you wish to stick to the original you may.
Makes about seven 8-oz jars. We quadrupled the recipe and our yield was 13 pints.
4 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup water
2 organic oranges, unpeeled, washed thoroughly (if you don't have veggie wash, use 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar - and a scrubbie, for even better results. Read a blog article about a Cook's Illustrated article about vinegar and water here!), seeded, and finely chopped (minced)
1 organic lemon, unpeeled, seeded, and finely chopped (minced)
1 cup raisins (I would suggest currants, since they are smaller)
5 cups sugar (We quadrupled the recipe and used 15 cups) or 3-3/4 cups
1-1/4 tsp ground mace or nutmeg
2 pouches (each 3 oz) liquid pectin
1/2 cups chopped walnuts (we didn't use these)
Make sure your jars, lids, canner etc are ready before you begin, and the lemons and oranges are chopped - because this all goes pretty fast once it starts!
In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine rhubarb and water. Partially cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil gently for 2 minutes, until rhubarb is softened. Add oranges, lemon, raisins, sugar and mace, stirring until sugar dissolves, Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in walnuts (if using). Skim off foam.
Ladle hot conserve into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Burp and lid.
Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
(We took some of the hot conserve out of the pot and dripped it over yeasted corn muffins - my goodness it was delicious.................!)
I had my suspicions about how it would taste with the peels and all in there, but they are small, chewy bursts of tart flavor, and are a necessary element! An amazing recipe. If you want to taste it before you try the recipe, come on over!
Enjoy, and happy canning to all!
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