My gardens have never looked this good so early in the season, but I have been working in the yard since mid-February. Spring cleanup, early weeding and edging were done weeks ago so I have been able to concentrate on starting seedlings, planting early vegetable seeds and mulching the perennial beds. I could get used to non-winters like we had this year!
The asparagus patch looks like it took a major hit from the beetles that ravaged the ferns at the end of last summer and I am torn between ripping out what is left and just waiting it out. I keep reminding myself that there is only so much asparagus two people can eat in such a short season and I haven’t found any way of canning or freezing asparagus that was worth the trouble. I’m just hoping for one decent meal of it!
My rhubarb, on the other hand, is thriving! In an average year, I am so overwhelmed with things that need doing outside, I just freeze bags of chopped rhubarb for making jam or pies on a cool fall evening. But this hasn’t been an average year and between feeling so caught up and some threatening rain, I made a batch of rhubarb jam yesterday afternoon.
I have been using the Sure Gel pectin recipe for rhubarb jam for years and it has never failed me. They don’t always include it on the enclosed recipe sheet, so here is the short version: Thinly slice 8 cups of rhubarb and bring it to a boil with 1 cup of water. Simmer until soft. Add 1 box of Sure Gel pectin and bring to a boil. Add 6 ½ cups of sugar and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil for 1 minute. Fill and process jars. I always process jelly jars because I have never really trusted the seal on the inverted jar method.
I sometimes make a double recipe (in a very deep pan) with half strawberry and may freeze some rhubarb to make another batch when the strawberries are in season. This year, the simmered rhubarb was rosy pink so I didn’t need to adjust it, but when it tends to be rather greenish, I usually add a drop or two of red paste food coloring to tint it a more appetizing shade. I have also used my homemade raspberry syrup for color. With either food coloring or syrup, a little goes a long way.
This year’s jam is called “Razzle Double Dazzle Rhubarb Jam” just because it looks and tastes twice as good as I remembered! I always label my jars with my name and the date because I always make extra preserves for gifting.
I use the free Design Pro software from Avery Labels (www.avery.com) to print 2 ½” round labels that cover the dome lids and I buy my labels from www.OnlineLabels.com. They offer a variety of sizes and colors and the pricing is excellent. The Design Pro software lets you import clipart or photographs to decorate the labels. I haven’t taken any exciting rhubarb pictures lately so I opted for a clipart image of a jam jar that I found with a Google (images) search.