Dang, it’s been awhile. What can I say? I’ve been up to my ears in work (at the farm, at the other farm, at the restaurant, at home), and there is no such thing as a day off around here, right now, at least. But according to my observation of the most accomplished and seemingly-fulfilled human beings I know, I’m on the right track. Keeping busy doing work that enriches both my career and personal life is essential to not only my happiness, but also my legitimacy. So while I may take an hour or two out of my Sunday, aka my only off- but certainly NOT unscheduled- day to actually sit down and (try to) do absolutely nothing, there won’t be much time for lounging ’til the freshly-greened leaves on the trees to turn golden once again. And I couldn’t be more grateful.
My work at Wright-Locke Farm has taken center stage in the whirlwind that is my increasingly farm-based life. Between the children I’ve hosted for visits and programs and the adults- be they parents, farm volunteers, community members, or potential program partners- I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, I feel incredibly excited and honored to be working in a community with so many individuals committed to local food and farm-based education. Summer is fast approaching, and so it’s all systems go when it comes to researching, planning, prepping, and facilitating the bulk of this year’s educational programming.
In the midst of the madness that is my runaround, I have come to the conclusion that my pre-plan can plan, originally created just prior to my hiring at Wright-Locke, is a bit ambitious for both my schedule and bank account this year. I mean, TRUST ME, my summer will not be void of preserving; I’m already creating imaginary weekend itineraries for PYO goodies so that I don’t miss the boat on lower-cost fruit, and I should have a stretch of relative calm during that glory late August – early September period when just about all summer crops are available here in New England. Long-story short, time-suck / wallet-emptying preserves like dehydrated cherries are NOT gonna happen this time around; my health and sanity come before jar tallies, thankyouverymuch!
Another tweak to my previous planning when it comes to putting up seasonal foods is my consideration of nutritional value. I’ve said before that preserving, especially canning, can be bothersome to my nutritionally-schooled conscious. Let’s be honest: the last thing most people need is MORE refined sugar or salt in their diet, and many canning recipes call for these key ingredients in jaw-dropping quantities. And to cook something- that then boils in jars, that then sits on my shelf for months- doesn’t always seem like the best way to capture the nutritive-value of most just-picked fruits and vegetables, either. So while you can safely bet that I will can items like pickles and jams, I do intend to place an even greater emphasis on fermented and overnight-pickled veggies in addition to lower-sugar and naturally-sweetened (read: local honey and maple syrup) preserves this harvest season. The following recipe for farm-fresh rhubarb jam is case in point. I used far less sweetener in this recipe than what is called for in most jams, and used raw local honey for nearly half of all sugar added. The result is a tight, glossy, and brightly-flavored jam with a tart finish and a subtle floral element, thanks to the local wildflower honey I used.
Honeyed Rhubarb Jam
Yields about 6-7 half-pints (I used quarter-pint jars to spread the love a bit more)
- 4 lbs rhubarb, washed and chopped into 1/2 – 1 inch pieces
- 1 small apple, peeled, cored, and thinly-diced (about 1 cup diced apple)
- 1 cup of raw local honey
- 1 + 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of water
- 1 lemon, juiced then quartered (seeds removed)
- pinch of salt
After your fruit has been prepped as indicated above, combine the rhubarb, apple, honey, 1 cup sugar, water, lemon juice, spent lemon quarters, and salt in a large non-reactive bowl; set aside at room temperature for 1-2 hours or macerate in the refrigerator overnight (I took the overnight route).
Pour the contents of the bowl into a large, non-reactive pot and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to cook, stirring the mixture often to ensure it doesn’t begin to stick to the pot; skim foam from the surface of the jam as necessary. After the mixture has reduced significantly (at least a third to a half of the original volume), stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the jam sets (check to see if the jam is set by placing a small spoonful on a plate that has been in the freezer for at least an hour; the jam is set when it holds its shape on the cool plate). If it seems too loose, continue cooking it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it’s set. I also used a candy thermometer, which read 218 degrees F when I chose to stop cooking the jam.
Once set, turn off the heat and remove the lemon pieces from the jam. Ladle the jam into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace. Process jars in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes. Store in a cool, dark, and dry place for up to one year.
Recipe adapted from Rhubarb Jam (2012).