Day 17 of 365
This has been my motto for some time. I had wanted to make jam for years before I was finally brave enough to try it. My great grandmother was a master jam maker, so jam is nostalgia and everything that is right in the world to me. And, right now, as the world gets madder and madder, I am really clinging to the jam.
You should have seen me the first year learned how to make jam. I think I must have made 80 jars. I sent them to friends and family all over the country. I just kept on and on making jam. I realized at some point that I was making it to deal with my anxiety, but the process really seemed to help me. On top of this, when I see people taste some jam that makes them smile, it feels like I have done some good in the world.
I feel so helpless otherwise. I write to my Congressional representatives on the regular. I have found that my letters are getting angrier and angrier, but what changes? Nothing.
So I keep making jam.
Last week, I decided to try to combine a few recipes and make my own kind of jam-jelly spread. It might sound like a strange recipe, but it is a little bit of heaven on toast. I made several jars as treats for our CSA customers, and my son said, “I’m not going to let this leave this house.” He loved it!
Since some did leave the house, I am making another batch this weekend and wanted to share my recipe with you.
After surveying my brilliant friends for advice, I call this recipe Rhuberry Jem with Vanilla Bean. It’s strawberry and rhubarb, part jam and part jelly (hence the “jem”), with a touch of vanilla bean. I’ll have to make another post and just share the recipe. But, tonight, any readers who follow me are getting my backstory with jam making. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. And, without further ado, here’s how you can make your very own Rhuberry Jem with Vanilla Bean.
Rhuberry Jem with Vanilla Bean
2 cups rhubarb juice (instructions below)
2 cups puree from fresh strawberries
1 package SureJell low-sugar pectin
4 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
*You will also need 3 to 4 large or 6 to 7 small jam jars, and my favorite for gift-giving are these tiny tulip jars from Weck and a fine strainer or cheesecloth for making the rhubarb juice.
To make the rhubarb juice, you will need about 7 or 8 stalks of rhubarb. Cut them up into small pieces and put into the blender. You may have do this in two turns, so as to not overwhelm your blender. I had to do this with my old blender. Add about 1/2 cup of water each time and blend. After each blend, filter the blended rhubarb through the strainer or cheesecloth into a bowl or giant measuring cup. You will have to squeeze to get the juice out.
After you complete the rhubarb juice, remove the stems and blend about 24 ounces of strawberries in your blender. You want it to be a full puree, very smooth.
Combine your juices to make a total of 4 cups. It’s okay if the balance is not perfectly 2 cups of each, but you want to aim for pretty close.
Put the juice into a large pot (small and medium pots are dangerous for making jam) and bring to a simmer. It’s at this point that I scraped out the oily insides (the seeds) of the vanilla bean and add the insides into the mixture. Gradually add the sugar, stirring as you go. Next, add the SureJell. Make sure it is mixed in well. I use a whisk to make sure I get it all mixed in. I also had a few vanilla bean seed clumps I had to scoop out and give a little extra work with the whisk and put them back in.
Let the whole concoction simmer on a medium to medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Keep a close eye and do not let it boil over. If it starts to, turn down the heat immediately.
At this point, your “jem” is pretty much made. Just ladle the yummy concoction into your jars and let it cool. If you like, you can water bath the jars and can have this treat many months from now. I did this extra step, but if you plan to eat it sooner, it is just fine in the refrigerator without being “canned” for many weeks.
The best part though is to wait until it starts to thicken but is still warm. Dip in your spoon and enjoy that warm coziness. I always try to give a taste to my son at this point too. It’s his favorite too!
I have a very quick Ruby and Kate update. Ruby is doing well, except that she was pretty upset when I forced her to walk around and take a break today. She settled down after a few minutes, and I could see it was really good for her to walk around and stretch her legs a bit–and use the bathroom. Moms need a break too. Kate was a struggle. I cleaned up her dog crate, put some eggs in there for her, and moved her out of the chicken coop into her very large and luxurious crate for baby hatching. She did not like this a bit! In fact, I don’t recall a broody hen ever being this upset about the move, and I have been doing this for years.
When I went to check on Kate one last time, she wasn’t even on the eggs and was pouting at the back of the crate. This may not work. I have moved about 20 or so broody hens in my years of doing this, and I’ve never seen one not get back on the eggs within a few hours of the move. I put one of the eggs under her tonight, couldn’t even find the other, and am trying to be hopeful. It may be that she’s just not going to do this, so I will give her one more day. If she just doesn’t want to do it, I’ll enlist Jane.