Monday, April 23, 2012

Let the Canning Season Begin!

For the past few weeks, I haven't been able to stop thinking about canning. It sounds silly, I know. But spring has arrived in full force around these parts, and with the arrival of spring has come serious garden planning. Before a single seed gets planted, however, a full inventory of our larder is needed. How many jars of pickles do we still have? Plenty dill slices, but we have been out of bread and butter pickles for months already. The salsa is running low, but we still have three half-pint jars of tomato-rhubarb chutney out of the four I canned. (Honestly, barely a spoonful is missing from the opened jar in the fridge... not my favorite, it goes without saying.)

I have been poring over canning books, making lists of new recipes, and participating in several heated debates over just how many tomato plants we need this year. (For the record, four will barely keep us in salsa for the year. Ryan seems to think two is too many. I think I'll win this one.)

So when I went out to the garden plot to measure the other day and saw how huge my rhubarb had gotten, I was thrilled! I remembered a vanilla rhubarb jam Marisa posted about some time ago, and after a quick check to make sure I had all the ingredients, we were in business.

The end result was so much more than I had imagined. The vanilla softened the bite of the rhubarb, and the lemon juice added an unexpected brightness. I keep finding myself sneaking spoonfuls out of the jar, adding a big spoonful to Greek yogurt, or making a slice of sourdough toast slathered in this jam for dessert. I think this may be the best jam I've ever made. Yes, it's that good.

Vanilla Rhubarb Preserves (adapted from Food In Jars)
(makes 4 half-pint jars)

5 cups of sliced rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 T vanilla paste
2 T bottled lemon juice
1 packet liquid pectin

Sterilize canning jars in a large pot of boiling water. Set aside. Meanwhile, add new canning lids to a pot of simmering water to prepare for canning.

Add rhubarb and sugar to a large, non-reactive pot. Stir together and let macerate at room temperature for up to an hour.

Add water and bring to boil. Add vanilla and lemon juice, and reduce to a heavy simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the pouch of liquid pectin and let bubble for another 5 minutes, or until jam coats the back of a spoon.

Ladle into pint jars leaving 1/2 inch head space, wipe rims with a warm, damp cloth, and add lids and rings. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Be sure to refrigerate any jars that do not seal.

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