In my last post, I had mentioned that I might make this Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam recipe from Food 52. I’ve decided to make my own variation on it. I didn’t read the editor’s note to the original recipe until the jam was already cooking — if I had, I probably would have halved the total amount of sugar in the recipe. The resulting jam is definitely sweet, but also complex and delicious. I decided to use half organic cane sugar, and half sucanat. I’ve mentioned sucanat before, and I really do love the deep molasses flavor it imparts — a perfect complement to rhubarb’s bright tartness. For the most effective use of vanilla beans, check out Shuna Lydon’s blog post about vanilla.
Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam with Sucanat
Yields approximately 1 pint
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup organic sucanat
2 vanilla beans
18 ounces rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup water
pinch kosher salt
Whisk together the cane sugar and sucanat. Split the vanilla beans into two halves. Lay each bean on a flat surface and scrape the interior out with a small sharp knife. Knock the oily interior into the sugar mixture and smush the seeds into it with your thumb, forefinger and middle finger to distribute evenly throughout.
Place the rhubarb, vanilla-sugar mixture and water in a heavy saucepan with a generous pinch of kosher salt.
Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring to scrape the bottom. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the fruit with the back of the spoon. Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the jam is thick, just shy of spreadable, as it will thicken when it cools.
Remove the vanilla beans and reserve them for later use. Carefully spoon the hot jam into jars and leave unsealed to cool. When cool, screw on the lid and refrigerate.
A quick note about rhubarb. This week, our CSA fruit share included about 3 pounds of rhubarb from Briermere Farms, and I’ve been contemplating what to do with it. I’ll most likely make a few pints of this delicious Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam from Food 52 that I made last year, but I’m also thinking about savory uses for rhubarb. Rhubarb, in and of itself, isn’t sweet, but it’s most often paired with strawberries in jams, compotes and pies. I found this savory, Indian-inspired recipe for a Rhubarb Lentil Stew last year, and I thought it was brilliant. Usually, I’ll add lemon juice to lentil-based soups and stews to add that bright burst of tartness that balances out the earthy flavor of the legumes. In Mark Bittman’s recipe, the rhubarb provides not only the necessary acidity, but also complex flavor and texture to an already flavorful dish. As with so many of Mark Bittman’s recipes, this one is minimal effort for maximum pleasure. Enjoy!
Combine all ingredients except salt and cilantro in a saucepan and add water to cover by about 1 inch. Cook at a steady simmer until lentils and rhubarb are quite soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove cloves and, if you like, cardamom pods. Add salt, then taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
In case you haven’t heard, it’s ramp season. Ramps are generally celebrated for their aromatic, garlicky flavor and short season. Pickled ramps are on many menus these days, and I decided to give them a try myself. I got this recipe from Food52, and I have to say I’m quite happy with it. I didn’t have fresh thyme on hand, so I substituted with a half-teaspoon of dried thyme, and it worked out just fine. This recipe only uses the white and purple bulb/stem portion of the ramps. I reserved the leaves for sautéing. In fact, I pan-seared a pork chop from my butcher shop, and sautéed a few handfuls of ramp greens in a bit of the reserved fat rendered off from the chop with a sprinkle of salt. It was perfect.
Pickled RampsMakes about 1 pint pickled ramps
3 bunches ramps (about 1 pound), green tops and root ends trimmed off
2 dried red chilies
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3 slices fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ cup sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
¾ cups red wine vinegar
¾ cups water
Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the ramps and cook for 1 minute. Drain and run cold water over the ramps to stop the cooking. Drain again. Place the ramps in a medium bowl or mason jar. Add the chilies, thyme, ginger, and fennel seeds.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, red wine vinegar and water. Bring to a boil and pour this mixture over the ramps. As soon as they’re cool, you can serve them, or just cover and refrigerate.