Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Jelly

It’s a little late in the season to be sharing rhubarb recipes, but my patch is still producing, fighting for space next to the English peas and the garlic that keeps getting taller.

Besides, I’ve been talking about making this jelly for far too long, ever since a friend brought a case to exchange at my very first ever jam swap. It was a clear favourite of both Danny’s and mine, and we hoarded our jars for as long as possible.

You’d think that after six years I’d develop my own recipe for the rhubarb vanilla jelly, but here’s the honest truth: jelly scared me. Homemade jelly is a whole ‘nother ball of wax from making jam. Jelly either sets or it doesn’t (becoming syrup). It’s cloudy or it’s clear. It either works – or it doesn’t.

Today I’m sharing a homemade jelly recipe that most definitely worked for me. It’s not actually that scary after all.

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A trio of spring pickles: ramps, rhubarb and fiddleheads

My spontaneous pickling session last week began with a spotless kitchen. Few things are as inspiring as the blank canvas of pristine counters, an empty dishwasher, and every tool at your disposal.

I had just boiled the kettle and made a pot of tea. The afternoon stretched out open ahead of me, a rare block of time when I didn’t have something pressing to attend to.  My mind wandered to the ramps on the forest floor that were rapidly being taken over by dense foliage. Their season had nearly passed and I had only foraged for one handful. If I wanted pickles, today would have to be the day.

Come to think of it, my rhubarb was filling in nicely; I had also wanted to put up a few jars of pickled stalks. I may as well combine the projects. And if I was really going to do this, why leave out the fiddleheads in the refrigerator? Pickled fiddleheads are a must for future salads and cocktail garnishes.

Before I had time to question my ambitions, I filled my canning pot half full of water, lowered 6 jars onto the rack and set it on my gas range. I grabbed a notepad and jotted down a flavor profile for each batch. [Read more…]

Raspberry-Rhubarb Collins Party Punch

I almost passed them over during the purge of my chest freezer last week: a bag of greyish-coloured chopped rhubarb and a solid lump of last year’s raspberries.

The fruits were encrusted with a layer of ice and most likely freezer burnt. I nearly tossed them in the bin, along with the other unwanted items from the recesses of my deep freezer, but I hesitated. Sure they were not as appealing as the fresh new rhubarb stalks that are pushing up in my garden, but what if I cooked them down for their juice? It was worth a shot.

Together with sugar, water and a splash of lemon juice, I simmered the rhubarb and the raspberries in a pot while I finished emptying my freezer. It wasn’t long before the concoction began to emit the intoxicating smell of raspberry-rhubarb pie, or something very similar. My taste-buds watered and I dipped a spoon in for a sample: tangy and sweet, it tasted of spring even after a year in hibernation.

I strained the bright red syrup through a coffee filter to keep it clear and stashed it away to cool. Obviously it would make a terrific base for a celebratory Mother’s Day sip, something along the lines of a Raspberry-Rhubarb Collins Party Punch.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Honey Jam Recipe (sugar-free)

My rhubarb plants have been benefiting from the cool summer weather (okay, not this week, but June was awfully rainy) and are still producing at a terrific rate.

As Danny recently wrote, we’ve been frequenting our local strawberry u-pick,  and so it was only a matter of time before these two ingredients were married in a classic jam combination.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Honey Jam on www.simplebites.net #DIY #jam #homemade

Strawberry-rhubarb jam just might be my favorite flavor pairing, and I make several big batches (and a few tiny) every spring. This year, however, I attempted two variations on a sugar-free version, substituting honey instead.

If it works for strawberry jam, why not its sister variety? We go through a lot of jam over the winter, spooning it into homemade yogurt for quick breakfasts, slathering it onto sandwich bread for school lunches, and spreading it on pancakes for a lazy weekend brunch.

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Preserving Spring: Strawberry Rhubarb Butter

A few years ago, I decided to spend a summer focused on preserving fruit butters instead of my beloved jams.

I went the butter route because I realized that while I loved the act of making jam, I needed my canning habit to involve less sugar and have smaller yields.

weighing rhubarb-1

Fruit butters are made from whole pureed fruit that is cooked down slowly over low heat, until the water is dissolved and the natural sugars are concentrated and delicious. You end up with a fairly small amount of spreadable, flavorful product that needs very little in the way of additional sugar.

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