Thursday, August 26, 2010

Um... blue WHAT?

Rhubarb. I just don't quite understand it. I know we had it in the garden when I was little, but I don't remember eating it. Alton Brown tells me the leaves are poisonous and my parents tell me that if the stalk is bigger than a stalk of celery it is too woody to be good. But how the heck to you prepare it? Other than pies and jams, I have no clue.  I barely remember it at home, but at grandma's house there is still occasionally a jar of bluebarb jam on the table. I always knew rhubarb was in it (duh, the name), but I never really thought about it.

So, with the thought of learning how to cook rhubarb, and to add to my canning repertoire, I set out to make a batch of rhubarb.  There is a big patch in my neighbor's back yard, and, nice fellow that he is, he told me to harvest whatever I needed as it was late in the season and they were probably done for the year. I hit the yard with my knife and picked the three smallest stalks, which were about the size of celery. I was worried I might be too late in the season for them to be good, but Google helped me out again. After reading numerous random pages on rhubarb, I found that if you have larger stalks you can strip off the "ribs" on the outside with a knife and they will taste less woody. Success! Now for the blueberries.

Before we went camping last weekend (but that's another post), I did some research on seasons and had big plans to pick huckleberries for the jam. I had been on a hike last year that had a giant huckleberry field at about 2/3-3/4 of the way through the loop. We made plans to do the 3 mile loop and filled our backpacks with ziplock containers to carry our bounty. We set out, for the second time (apparently you can't take dogs... boo), with high hopes. But wouldn't you know it, the silly Pacific Northwest weather this year strikes again. Right when you have plans for berries, you hit them too early in the season. So we hauled our plastic containers back to the car full of air. Bummer. Guess the store will be getting my business to buy some blueberries.

While the Peach Butter was in the oven, BLee and I started making bluebarb. We stripped the stalks of the ribs and chopped the rhubarb, only to find I had slightly less than called for. After some discussion, we decided we had more blueberries than we needed, so we would just compensate with them to get the right amount of fruit.

BLee was astonished at the amount of sugar, so we split it up to 5 cups sugar and 2 cups Splenda. After we had added all the ingredients, I started looking at the box of Certo.  It contained two 3 oz foil bags of liquid pectin. Upon close examination, I found that the box I had purchased a week ago at QFC had an expiration date of October 2009. Why the heck was that still on the shelf?!?! I have half a mind to take my box in there and talk to a manager. It's cheap, so I don't necessarily want a refund, I just want them to check their products closer so they aren't stocking bad stuff because sheesh, that's ridiculous!

Right before canning, we thought that it didn't seem to be firming very well, but processed the jars anyway. Later that night they still hadn't set up very well. A week later, they're still a syrup. A tasty syrup, but still syrup instead of jam.  I'm not sure if this is due to the Splenda/sugar change out, the expired Certo, or not enough time on the stovetop. Some jams take up to two weeks to set up, but I don't think this stuff is hardening. My plan: pop the jars, throw it into a pot with half a packet of powdered SureJell (because I have it on hand), heat to boiling, and re-can it. If that doesn't work I don't think anything will.

Yes, I'm wearing a half apron as a bib. I was worried about splatter.

But I may keep one small jar of syrup around for pancakes this weekend...

Bluebarb jam
Arliss Redekopp/ the Oelkers Family Cookbook

1/4 cup water
3 cups finley cut rhubarb
3 cups crushed blueberries (fresh or frozen)
7 cups sugar
1 (6 oz) bottle Certo

Simmer rhubarb and water gently until tender.  Combine with blueberries in large saucepan.  Add sugar, mix.  Place over high heat; bring to a full rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, add pectin (Certo).  Stir and skim for 5 minutes.  Ladle into hot sterilized glasses.  Cover at once with thin layer or paraffin, or hot water bath can.  Makes about 9 half pints.

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