What to CookSummer

DIY Group Project: Rhubarb Preserves

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We love when you guys get together in the real world. The first food52 potlucks sprung up organically and we were happy to just sit back and report on the results (not to mention a Canorama, a pool party, a cookie swap, and the collaborative contesting of food52 supergroup Ginger's Kitchen). But now we want to see what happens when we give you a little nudge.

We'd like you to get together in your various corners of the globe and preserve some rhubarb, in any manner you see fit: jams and marmalades, pickles and compotes. And of course you'll probably want to potluck it up, for sustenance.

You have just over a month to plan, host, and report back to us by Wednesday, June 1st. Then we'll gather any photos, videos, recipes, and write-ups you share with us at [email protected] all in one place for the whole community to enjoy. Rhubarb may not be cropping up near you quite yet, but hopefully it will show up in the next few weeks, at least in the northern hemisphere. And if not -- don't let that stop you: throw a party and preserve something else!

We trust that you'll come up with all kinds of creative ways to attack this challenge, but we've also provided a couple recipes below to get the conversation started. You might also want to check out the entries in last year's contest for Your Best Rhubarb Recipe.

Now: anyone who's interested in hosting or attending -- pipe up in the comments section below!


Rhubarb Preserve, 1955

From The Complete Book of Home Preserving by Ann Seranne

Combine 3 cups sugar and 1 cup water, bring to a boil, and cook until the syrup reached the hard-crack stage, or until it becomes brittle when a drop is put in cold water. Add 1 quart diced rhubarb and cook until the fruit is tender and clear and the syrup registers 224° F. on a candy thermometer. Turn into hot jars and seal.


Rhubarb Marmalade, 1876

From The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

Makes about 6 half-pints

  • 2 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed
  • 3 oranges
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar

1. Cut the rhubarb into 1/2-inch-thick slices; you need 10 cups. Peel the zest from the oranges with a vegetable peeler, and cut the zest into small pieces; you need 1/2 cup. Cut the pith from the oranges, then slice the oranges in half like a grapefruit. Remove and discard the seeds. Cut the orange pulp into small chunks; you need 2 1/2 cups.

2. Combine the rhubarb, oranges, and orange zest in a large heavy enameled cast-iron or other nonreactive pot, add the sugar, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally so the fruit doesn't stick to the pan; you'll need to stir more often as the marmalade thickens. Skim the foam as needed. The marmalade is ready when a spoonful dropped onto a plate sets when cool.

3. Have ready 6 scalded half-pint jars and screw bands, with new lids (see Cooking Notes). Simmer the lids in hot water to soften the rubberized flange. Ladle the marmalade into the jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the rims. Put the lids on and screw the bands on fingertip tight.

4. Place the jars on a rack in a big pot and add water until it is 2 to 3 inches over the jars. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and boil gently for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and then, after about 5 minutes, remove the jars. Allow the jars to cool, untouched, for 4 to 6 hours.

5. Check the seals, and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.

Cooking Notes

Always use a heavy nonreactive pot for preserves. I like enameled cast-iron because it holds heat well and the preserves tend not to stick or burn so easily.

To scald preserving jars, simply dip the jars in boiling water.

To sterilize preserving jars, boil the jears in water to cover for 10 minutes.

"Fingertip tight" means the band is screwed on as tight as you can when screwing on a band using your fingertips -- in other words, not super-tight.

When filling jars, if you can't completely fill the last jar, don't sweat it -- just put that one in the fridge and use it up in a week or two.

To check the seal on a jar, remove the band and lift the jar by its thin lid. If it's sealed properly, it will hold.

To lessen the incidence of foam, add 1/2 teaspoon butter to the marmalade while it it cooking.

- April 16, 1876: "The Household"

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Tags: Pickle & Preserve, DIY Food, Books