I'm not always that adventurous when it comes to rhubarb, though I did see an enticing photo of rhubarb ice cream over at the Kittalog the other day that looked very tempting. (If only I had a functional ice cream maker--if I didn't have to get a new lawn mower and a new dehumidifier, maybe I'd get a new ice cream maker.) The only strawberries we can get at the moment are from California, so I'm less inclined to make strawberry-rhubarb things until the strawberries are local. Or, you know, at least from the east coast. (While I have lovely strawberries in my garden, they're not all that plentiful. For the past few summers, the June ritual has been that in the morning, I wander out into the garden in my pajamas with a teacup or a medium sized ramekin and pick just enough strawberries for my breakfast. Last summer, I left for Ragdale in the midst of strawberry season, and I reluctantly told my housesitter to eat what strawberries remained because I knew they wouldn't still be around when I came back. That's the thing with truly seasonal produce--it forces you to be generous with your bounty. There is a limited window of time in which to be greedy about it, and if you have to miss the window, you might as well offer it to someone else.)
Anyway, what I'm almost certain I'll make, at least with this first batch of rhubarb, is my ritual rhubarb dish, the one I tasted once and then spent many years attempting to recreate -- rhubarb-ginger jam.
In the interests of full disclosure (and perhaps self-promotion), I should say that I wrote an essay about this rhubarb dish, and it was published in The Washington Post almost exactly a year ago. The essay, with recipe, is linked here.
I'd sent my boss the link to the essay, and she'd given it to her husband to read, and apparently, he'd said, "Yes, of course, the essay is beautifully written, but now I really want some of the jam." And so I gave her a little container of it to give to him, and he was just delighted. I saw them at a gathering for a retiring colleague, and the husband rushed over to me and began to rhapsodize. He kept saying,"It's so subtle, that slight tang of the ginger, and they're both such strong flavors, but they balance each other out so perfectly" and on and on. Although he is a professor of English and Russian, he was not particularly articulate about the jam, but I knew exactly what he meant. I feel the same way about it.
Makes about 3 cups
This can be prepared in 45 minutes or less. It can be eaten warm as a compote or chilled as a jam. The recipe appeared in the July 1997 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.
From Rita Newell, innkeeper at Reading House in Watkins Glen, N.Y.Ingredients
|2||pounds rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces|
|2||to 2 |
|cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger|
|zest of 1 lemon|
Combine the ingredients in medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium and cook at least 20 minutes (it may take as long as 40 minutes), stirring often, until the mixture thickens and mounds on a spoon.