Rhubarb My Rhubarb
Not only did I get a vigorous rhubarb patch when I bought this house, I got a rhubarb patch with history. Apparently, mine is patch semi-famous in the neighborhood for its sweetness. Several people have pointed out my rhubarb patch and commented on this. But the true defender of the rhubarb is Betty, my 80-year old neighbor who comes running out of her house, screeching with alarm should anyone stray too near the precious rhubarb. Apparently, Betty has been coveting my rhubarb for years, and two or three years ago when the dear departed Mrs. Warnick was in the hospital, she agreed that since she was in the hospital and wasn’t going to be able to can, that Betty might as well take some rhubarb. As I heard it “she had everyone and their neighbor over here in that rhubarb patch.” So now she’s barred from my rhubarb, which means I was going to have to do something with it because it’d be a shame to just let it go to waste.
Betty and her daughter Rebecca have been known to provide a running commentary for everything going on in my yard, which is annoying, to say the least. And which is why there is a crew of adorable twenty-somethings in my backyard today digging postholes, and why next week I’ll have a glorious six-foot privacy fence. But this morning has been characterized by several rounds of squawking over the property line, and I’ve had to go get Steve, who lives across the street, and who actually owns the property next door to me, which since the lot lines split back and front, has one house on the alley with Betty and Rebecca in it, and one house on the street with a family who shall heretofore be known as the Clampitts. Hence the fence.
So, knowing the fence guys were coming, and since the rhubarb patch is on the property line, I cut it all the other day, and yesterday I made rhubarb-ginger jam. I checked with the Fannie Farmer cookbook for some general jam guidelines, and then just sort of made it up as I went along. I cut up the rhubarb, and threw it in my big stockpot with about 3 pounds of green grapes left over from this weekends Birthday Barbecue for the NG’s 35th. I also added about a pound and a half of strawberries that were getting kind of old, and a package and a half of leftover candied ginger that’s been kicking around the back of the fridge. Then I sliced up two big pieces of ginger into coins … probably about eight inches worth of ginger root, and stirred them into the slowly softening fruit mixture. The cookbook said you were supposed to measure everything carefully but the proportions looked like about 1:1 fruit and sugar, so I dumped about 2 pounds of sugar in and let it all cook down until there was no watery stuff on the top anymore. This took a very long time. Then I canned it … I followed the directions carefully and sterilized everything and even boiled the full jars for 15 minutes (10 minutes plus 1 minute for every 1000 feet above sea level). The seals all popped down, and I put labels on the jars, and this morning I had toast with a little goat cheese/creme fraiche mixture topped with Rhubarb-Ginger jam. It’s not terribly jammy, more the consistency of apple butter, but it’s lovely and tart and just a little gingery.