When I was in college getting my oh-so-practical women’s studies degree (Okay, get all your jokes out now, especially the classic “I’ve been studyin’ women my whole life and I still don’t understand them. Haw haw haw!”), I became obsessed with prairie women. You know, women in thrice-mended calico dresses, grasping their manifest destiny with tanned muscular hands while at the same time tending a fire, caring for the young ‘uns, and putting up jam. I read piles of journals kept by women during the westward expansion. I read them, discussed them, and wrote papers about them until I started to feel like I was one of them. I think I even considered wearing a bonnet.
I’m not sure what my fascination was with frontier women, but I’m starting to wonder if a bit of it stuck with me. Today I think I tapped into that lingering prairie ethos: I MADE JAM! That’s right, real live jam. Jam with fruit and sugar. Jam you can spread on crusty homemade bread, or dollop on a muffin, or lick off of a spoon. REAL JAM!
I had four handsome stalks of rhubarb just begging to be made into something. The strawberry rhubarb theme has been done; I wanted to go in a slightly different direction. I found a recipe for ginger-rhubarb jam, and with a few tweaks and twangs, turned it into something delicious. Zesty from the ginger, tangy from the rhubarb, sweet from the sugar. And the orange adds a little… depth. Frankly, it’s taking all of my self-control not to just spoon it directly into my mouth right now. I might need to ask R. to hide it from me. Maybe he could dig us a bona-fide prairie root cellar and we could keep in there, just out of easy reach.
Ginger-rhubarb jam (with a touch of orange)
This is adapted from a recipe for rhubarb-ginger jam from Bon Appetit from July, 1997. I’m so old skool. The original recipe can be found here. It’s got slightly different ingredients in it (such as crystalized ginger instead of fresh, and lemon zest instead of orange).
Oooh, this makes about 1/2 cup of jam. I made a conservative amount because I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, plus I’m trying to save some of my rhubarb for some pies later this week. I think it could easily and successfully be made exponentially larger.
2 large healthy stalks of rhubarb (about 1/2 lb), sliced lengthwise, and then again into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tbs fresh ginger root, minced
3/4 cup sugar
zest of one orange (about 1-2 tsp)
Toss everything together into a saucepan (I read that you should use a non-reactive pan whilst working with rhubarb, or things might go dreadfully wrong) over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and then cook, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes, or until it gets really jammy.
No, really, that’s all there is to it. Amazing! Now excuse me while I don my bonnet and eat my jam on some hardtack. Whatever that is.