Taking advantage of the many fabulous farmers markets around the Puget Sound and the abundance of local rhubarb available right now in the area, I've been quite busy putting this, one of my favorite vegetables in the world, to very good and quite extensive use.
I absolutely love rhubarb and I never miss an opportunity to buy a few pounds whenever I spot tall, ruby red stacks at the market. I use most of it right away and cut up and freeze the rest for the wet and chilly winter months when a little rhubarb anything is a a welcomed splash of sweet and sour color and a reminder of the nearness and promise of spring.
Last Wednesday I found intensely colored and firm stalks for a dollar a bunch at the Columbia City Farmers Market. The price was the lowest I've paid this season and the heavy bunch was the most beautiful I've taken home so far.
It was these stalks, along with fresh rosemary purchased last week for a family al aperto dinner party and the golden, redolent of vanilla Acacia honey we brought back from Paris last March that inspired me for the 15th edition of IMBB?
Elise's theme, Has My Blog Jelled? could not be more tailored made for me. Granted, cooking with flavored gelatin and aspic has never been my cuppa and other than a panna cotta here or there I really do not eat as much Jell-O as I did when I was little. However, there is no doubt than one of my favorite culinary endeavors is preserving at home so I went for an entry that fit both my taste and Elise's extended theme.
Just this week I made my standard Rhubarb Compote, a gorgeous Red Raspberry & Rose Jam (my own recipe) and the latest addition to my repertoire: Rhubarb, Acacia Honey and Rosemary Jam. The recipe can be found in Niedermorschwirhr's fairy godmother of jams and jellies, Christine Ferber's book Mes Confitures:The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber.
As stated in previous preserving efforts I've posted about in this blog, I am a fan of small batch jam and jelly making and of using lemon in place of commercial pectin. Out of all the preserving books I've read and researched this is the one I reach the most for. And out of all the jams and jellies I've made for say the past 11 years or so hers are my favorites to make and to savor.
The recipes are well written, use just the necessary amount of sugar to assurea good set, are user friendly and can be easily tweaked to fit one's local fruit availability.
Which is why I am such a fan of confiteurs such as Ms. Ferber. Her artisanal preserves are lauded by the likes of Alain Ducasse for their straightforward and simple approach, use of seasonal and heirloom varieties and the paring of unusual fruits, herbs, spices and spirits that render interesting and unusual flavor combinations.
Madame Ferber's jams and jellies are one of the reasons why I carry an empty suitcase with me whenever I travel to Paris. It is her cute jars topped with frilly white and red polka dot fabric tied with white satin ribbon picked up at La Grande Epicerie de Paris--at the Bon Marché--but especially the paper and cello topped exclusive selection of Christine Ferber pour Pierre Hermé on sale at Pierre Hermé's boutiques, that fill up most of the same suitcase on the return flight from Paris.
The jelling agent in this recipe is the juice of two lemons. The rhubarb, is of course, fresh as can be, crisp and garnet hued, grown by local farmers--although hot house rhubarb can be a great consolation once the summer is over.
The sugar used in the recipe is ultra fine (my favorite for baking and cooking) which I find works better than granulated.
The Acacia honey, one of the best I've tried, was purchased from Monsieur Guy Allart--of the Ruchers du Bel Air in St. Maur des Fossées--at the *Saint Mandé market in Paris.
Here in Seattle beautiful imported acacia honeys can be found--among many of the city's gourmet merchants-- at DeLaurenti's and chefshop.com's South Lake Union store. The latter has what to me is definitely the best selection of honeys--and a pretty sweet tasting bar--in the area.
Chefshop.com, by the by, is the only merchant in Seattle that carries a selection of June Taylor marmalades which in my opinion are some of the very few comparable in quality and craftsmanship to those of Madame Ferber. Her Blood Orange Marmalade is one of my favorite toppings for both my homemade yaourt nature and my Greek yogurt.
The pairing of the rosemary and rhubarb is truly a revelation. Delicate, with a stunning color and honeyed unctuousness that is the right amount of floral and sweet. The rosemary is evident--of course-- but not overly herbal and the green needles peeking though the pink makes for a lovely presentation. This is a very unique and elegant jam perfect to enjoy at home and share with friends.
*Metro:St-Mandé Tourelle, Ligne 1, direction Château de Vincennes
Rhubarb with Acacia Honey and Rosemary
2 3/4 pounds rhubarb
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
7 ounces acacia honey
juice of 2 small lemons
10 springs rosemary
Rinse the rhubarb under cold water. Cut the stalks in two, lengthwise, and then in small dice. Let the rhubarb, the sugar, and the juice of 1 lemon macerate overnight in a ceramic bowl covered with a piece of parchment paper.
Next day, pour this preparation into a sieve. Pour the collected juice and the honey into a preserving pan and bring to a boil. Skim and continue on high heat. The syrup will be sufficiently concentrated at 221F on a candy thermometer.
Add the diced rhubarb. Bring to a boil and mix gently. Skim carefully. Add the juice of the second lemon and the rosemary sprigs. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, continuing to stir. Check the set. Put the jam into jars and seal.