Canning with Apologies

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The past few days nothing of exciting or intrigue has happened that's been worth writing about. (Though I did spend a day with a delightful woman named Sheng and her family as they cooked a huge Hmong feast for Elise and I, but that's a story for Edible Sacramento.) I've either been reading, writing, working, and using my few bits of free time in the summer to re-establish my social life and proving to my friends that yes, I can call and, no, I'm not dead.

Still, I've found a bit of fun in jam making recently. It seems to be my auto-escape when it comes to studying. Last spring during finals it was rhubarb and rosemary jelly and this spring I made apricot and Riesling jam. The latest kick to break up summer thesis research has been rhubarb and grapefruit preserves.

I think I turn to canning because it's so multifunctional. I can easily sit on the kitchen counter and stir away while reading a book or taking notes, though it helps that I'm ambidextrous in certain regards and have a good left-right brain split in which to make jam and annotate the Marxist theory simultaneously.

In the end I get experience in jam making. I create something tasty and debatably nutritious for myself. Plus, I enjoy giving these away to friends and family as penance for my being so absent all the time. In fact a lot of these jams will be gifts, not to mention the growing larder I have of liquors, extracts and whatnot. My pantry might resemble to any passerby the workings of some mad scientist developing aromatic and strange biological agents.

The current jam - the rhubarb and grapefruit - is a particular favorite of mine. It comes from Alice Waters' book, Chez Panisse Fruit. I could write out the whole recipe but I can sum it up simply enough:

-2 grapefruit
-2 pounds of rhubrab
-4 cups of sugar

Peel the grapefruit and chop up the peel into little batons. Juice the grapefruit as well. Chop up the rhubarb. Place sugar, rhubarb, grapefruit juice and peel in a tall stainless steel pot and let sit for 2 hours. Place over medium-high heat. Skim off the foam. Cook at a boil for about 25-30 minutes, stirring gently and often to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Place in sterilized jars.

Simple stuff, right? Plus, the result is a jam with layers of taste and flavor. Both sweet, tart, and tangy the rhubarb offers more texture and a ticklish blush to the preserves, but offers a slight tartness under the sugar. The grapefruit's citrusy zing runs clear throughout but is most prominent when you get a piece of he peel which is simply a jubilant revelation of GRAPEFRUIT in your mouth.

I have it smeared over some bread to go with my Earl Grey tea as I type this. Breakfast of champions who can do more than pour out some cereal.

Still, nothing too intriguing. No jaw dropping run ins with humanity. No cupcakes. No book reviews. Just too busy. However, there is jamming to canning which is delightful in its own right. Hope you'll forgive me.


  1. oh I remember thesis research need to disappear for a little while to get it all done.

  2. Rhubarb & grapefruit. Mmm...sounds intriguing & yummy. Must try. Thx.

  3. Jam is my thing, love it...toasted french bread in the morning with coffee...any kind, most kinds, would love the kind you made!! Good for you, I tend to buy it instead of make it myself!! -Chris Ann

  4. Do you scrape off the pith or leave it on the peel?

  5. Lisa - No pith. I just used a vegetable peeler. It only took off the peel. Any major bits of pith, scrape off, but any small bits of it aren't a problem as it'll be cooking in sugar for a really, really long time.

  6. There's something remarkably satisfying about canning, isn't there? I made plum jam last night, and asked my husband if he was proud of me. He mentioned my educational and career accomplishments, and said "My great grandmother made jam." Spoilsport. The key is, of course, to master both the liberal and domestic arts.

  7. hang on.. a jam with peel - would you not call that marmalade? or is marmalade for citrus-only spreads? semantics aside, it sounds delicious.

  8. Wow. My mouth is watering. Yum.

    Have you ever heard of Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber? If you like making jams, it might be worth checking out (the Gew├╝rztraminer jelly is a personal favorite).


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