Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jam packed week with Rhubarb Jam

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks at the Observatory! For a start, my birthday was on the 4th, and aside from a massive pub crawl the night before, the highlight was the party, in which we sat on the roof drinking, cooked up a mass of steak, and generally got rowdy, not to mention the amazing mouse cake that my amazing friend Liesa made! Seriously, the woman is talented, she’ll be dragged in to make every novelty kids cake my future offspring ask for! IN addition to the birthday shenanngians, I’ve spent this week in Sydney with Matt. Whilst officially I was here for a two day Palliative Care meeting, we went up two days early, spent Tuesday running around the city, catching the ferry, spending hours getting lost in the Botanic Gardens, and generally having a great time. We stayed in a small hotel in Potts Point, just down from Kings Cross. That night, we had an amazing dinner at a small pasta place in Darlinghurst (well worth a look if you’re ever in town!), had a few beverages at The Sugar Mill whilst listening to a table of guys singing karaoke, then discovered the gem that is Goldfish. The guys there were great, and even though it was quite busy, took the time out to discuss their cocktails, make suggestions, debate benefits of certain alterations, and generally deserved a much bigger tip than I could afford that night. The Mika is highly recommended!

Wednesday saw Matt being incredibly brave, and meeting my father’s side of the family. After breakfast in the Cross, it was off to the nursing home to see my Nana, who we took out for a lovely lunch. Unfortunately completely forgot to take photos, as we were having such a great time talking. Hard to believe she’s turning 90 in less than 3 weeks, she’s so on the ball, and if it wasn’t for a bad hip operation, would probably get around town better than me! Then it was off to The Rocks with Matt and dad for a bit of exploration (read: pint @ the Irish pub), back to Paddington for a wander around the old strip (my Nana used to live just off of Oxford St), and another pub visit before dinner with Dad, his wife, and my half-sister at the most amazing backstreet pub (500g NY steak, bleu, with pepper sauce? YUM!). The night was topped off with delicious ice cream from the strip, before collapsing in to bed and instantly falling asleep. Apparently Matt was all geared up to go out, and was trying to convince me to get up again, oops. Probably just as well, with my 7.30am train trip to the airport for the meeting that started today. Matt goes back on the last plane tonight, while I’m still here for another meeting fun-filled day on my own!

Since doing all this trekking around, all I wanted for breakfast this morning was toast with rhubarb jam, but couldn’t get the toast, let alone the rhubarb! I love rhubarb, it really just screams summer for me. I used to hate it as a kid, but my matured palate can’t get enough of the stuff. I had two big bunches the other day, and rather than see it go to waste waiting to be eaten, I decided to make a batch of jam. I do this every year, and it lasts me for ages, mostly because of forgetting it stashed up the back of the fridge! Whilst sweet, I don’t tend to use much sugar (relatively), and it has quite a tart bite to it, which is divine. Mmm, first thing going in my belly when I get back Saturday morning.

Rhubarb Jam

What you’re going to need
  • 2 bunches fresh rhubarb 
  • Sugar (I use raw or similarly low refined sugar) 
  • Apple cider vinegar 
  • Spices (I use cinnamon, ginger, star anise and all spice) 

Wash your rhubarb, and trim off the tough ends and leaves, leaving you with the stalks only. Chop these up into 1cm lengths, and place into a heavy-based saucepan that holds them comfortably.

Sprinkle some sugar over the top, I usually find ¼ cup works well at this stage. Throw in your spices (I leave the cinnamon quills and star anise whole, and grind any other spices I use), and give it all a good mix. Cover, and leave on the bench overnight to macerate. You shouldn’t have to add any more liquid, and by the next morning, there should be a nice syrup starting to form.

Add a few splashes of vinegar to the mix, to preserve the beautiful pinky-purple colour of the rhubarb, then place the pan over low heat. Keep an eye on the pan, mixing occasionally until the fruit is stewed down to your desired consistency. I like mine to be a little bit chunky, but still spreadable. I highly recommend tasting along the way, and adjusting your spice and sugar levels if needed. If the cooked mix just resembles stewed fruit, and has little syrup, you may need to add more sugar.

While your jam is cooking, sterilize some clean jars by filling and surrounding them with boiling water, then popping them into a warm oven to dry and stay warm. Once your jam is ready and still hot, pull out any large bits of cinnamon or star anise*, then transfer it into the hot jars, trying to ensure as few air bubbles as possible. Put the lids on their jars, then turn them upside-down, and leave them on the bench to cool. I label each jar, and then keep them in the fridge, mostly because I don’t have a whole lot of cupboard space, and partially from habit of living in a crazy hot climate.

Enjoy with some toasted sourdough and goats cheese, added to a cocktail, on your morning muesli, straight from the jar with a spoon…

* If you’re like me, and forget to pull out the chunky bits, never fear, the flavours of the spices will just continue to infuse in the jar, and you may have to watch out for sudden crunchy, flavourful surprises when sucking the spoon. I have a jar that tastes more like licorice than rhubarb =/