Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Last weekend my townhouse mates asked for some greens for their spaghetti sauce. The spring greens are gone and the only real summer green in the garden is my chard. So I went out to harvest chard. I brought the basket over and she said she didn't want a lot. Often she takes tons. So I tossed the rest in the fridge. And it had been sitting there. I needed to get it frozen and finally did.

Then it was time to wrangle with the rhubarb again. Their placement in the garden is fine if I keep them well picked. If not they block the air conditioning unit as they grow too high. So I picked and I chopped. I had 12 cups of chopped rhubarb to use up. I decided to make rhubarb jam. I followed the recipe except for adding a tablespoon of cinnamon (I used Saigon cinnamon). In my opinion rhubarb isn't the same without cinnamon.

The recipe calls for a lot of rhubarb. Usually rhubarb is paired with another fruit because it barely has any pectin. This one was using orange which has a lot. But it doesn't put nearly enough in if you really want it to set up as jam. It also doesn't have the sugar to become a jam. Typically you have about the same amount of sugar by weight as you have fruit in no pectin jams, give or take a little. This called for one pound of sugar and 2 1/2 pounds of rhubarb, plus however much the orange weighed. Jam seems a lot like an art in the kitchen, but the reality is that it is a science. It is true that the less pectin you have, the less sugar you need. But you do need enough of both to make those bonds (plus acid, but rhubarb is quite acidic so no issues there).

So the recipe isn't really rhubarb jam. It is rhubarb butter. You can also tell that it won't be jam by how long they say to boil it down. Jams don't usually take 45 minutes, even jams without added pectin which usually require longer boiling times. So I got out my huge stock pot as it has a good thick base to make for even heating and put it on my quick boil burner and boiled it down fast. 2 1/2 pounds of rhubarb became four half pints of rhubarb butter. And it was to die for. It is very sour with just enough sweetness to be tasty. Like a lot of very sour things, it will do well on a buttered piece of toast as eaten plain it is way too intense. It would also be good as a topping for ice cream or cheesecake.

I had more rhubarb and made a couple of jars of stewed rhubarb. Interestingly enough it has about the same proportions of fruit to sugar. So it was also a bit intense. I can't eat that plain. I expect to eat it with something like like pudding.

Both got preserved in a boiling water bath. I always find the recommended USDA times for processing very strange. Rhubarb jam is 5 minutes. Stewed rhubarb is 15 minutes. Stewed rhubarb is not a very thick product and I would think it would need a shorter processing time than something thick like rhubarb jam. Is it because of the higher sugar content n the jam? Sugar is a preservative if you get the concentration high enough, which it is for jam. But I would think the processing times are based on how hot the interior of the jar gets - you know, to sterilize the jar. I did both for 15 minutes to be safe.

I keep thinking I need a red rhubarb to make my preserves look pretty. It looks a little like, well, vomit. I swear it tastes good though. I often give gifts to my neighbors during the holiday season. Do you think these look too bad? They really are a great treat and you can't buy them in a store.

Usually I make pickled peas earlier at the start of the pea season, but this year I've been freezing them instead. After eating a burger and missing them terribly, I decided to make a small batch. I don't process pickled peas as they turn to mush, but I do love them as refrigerator pickles. To make them use any pickle brine you like and just toss in the raw peas. Don't heat the peas up. I often keep a jar of brine in the fridge so I can toss in extra peas or cukes when I harvest them. Refrigerator pickles are so much better than ones that need to be shelf stable for storage. The heat really hurts the texture and a refrigerator pickle never needs to be heated.

Though this is not technically preserving (though I might freeze one of these). I made little pies.

Plating from those little dishes isn't easy. Mine didn't come out perfect. But you can't eat them in the ramekin because you need space for the ice cream. I've decided that gooseberries can't be eaten without some kind of cream. They just really go together. I hate whipped cream, but ice cream works. And I must say this was way too much to eat at once. Each of the little ramekins holds about a sixth of a pie. I think tonight I'll eat just half of one. I only had enough gooseberries left for half a pie, so didn't use a real pie pan.

Gooseberry Pie

  • 4 cups gooseberries topped and tailed
  • 2 cups sugar (makes it sweet, use less if you like it more sour)
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 t salt
  • T lemon juice
  • pie crust (enough for the bottom and top)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the lemon juice to the fruit. Then mix it all together and pour into the pie crust. Add crust to the top in whatever arrangement you like.


  1. Hi Daphne, You are always so busy and accomplishing so much! I am amazed at the amount of canning knowledge you know. Thanks for the info on pickling peas! I never would have thought of that. Rainy here so haven't been out in the garden yet today.

  2. It's interesting to see you say that rhubarb isn't the same without cinnamon. We don't use cinnamon with rhubarb; we use ginger instead. It definitely needs somthing to pep it up a bit.

  3. I've never had pickled peas and I can't wait to try them! We skipped pea season this spring, as we were building our new garden. We're going to try to grow peas this fall, and hopefully get enough to pickle!

  4. You have been busy - it's always so satisfying when you know you have lots of preserved food for the winter in the store cupboard isn't it. I've been making rhubarb jam too, including some with rosewater - just a little, not so much that it tastes as if you're eating perfume! Hadn't heard of pickled peas, sound great.

  5. looks like you got a lot done. I think everything looks yummy!!