Oh rhubarb. You’re having a moment right now, especially in my neck of the woods. What a strange plant you are, raw and full of crunch and astringency, but slowly softening in sugar and heat, tart but tamed. Donning a ruby gown in exchange for it’s boring step sister celery’s green garb. And how the preserving crowd swoons. The Joe Francis of spring fruit, we shake our cans for you! Until more attractive strawberry rolls through. Then you’re a sideshow attraction, if that.
Rhubarb, a mystery fruit to my life before this season, I think you deserve more than the sideshow. That citric bite that you bring, it deserves some gentle caressing from sugar, a bit of lime to pump up the acid and a lovely nip of gin. Except that you’re particular. Rhubarb, you want the more sophisticated gin – don’t drown you in juniper.
The rhubarb gin rickey jam is what comes from all this talk. If you’re unsure of your thoughts on rhubarb, this would be a lovely place to start. It is straightforward enough that the flavors of rhubarb show themselves, but complex enough with the lime and Hendrick’s gin. And it tastes oddly similar to the first drink that introduced me to the Rickey – a cherry lime rickey. The rhubarb is playing tricks with my taste buds, vaguely reminiscent of sour cherries. [Oh, how I long for you, cherries...]
No matter your cherry taunting, you’re delicious. You’re easy to make. You’re intriguing. A bit boozy. And you’re a nice small batch size. This jam would make a great cocktail, shaken up with some additional gin, strained and topped with fizzy water. I intended to show you the jam with some nice cheese and bread. Until the haze of a summer heatwave, I went for the jar straight up, spoon in hand. And then I realized that this jam? It needs no partners.
Rhubarb Gin Rickey Jam
Yield: 3 half pints
Notes: You are free to use gin of choice or pantry in this recipe. The delicacy of Hendrick’s is my preference, but they did not pay me to say that. Also, this two day technique with maceration was adapted from Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put Em Up.
- 1 lb rhubarb
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1 lime
- 2 oz gin
- pinch salt
- Wash and trim the rhubarb and slice into 1/4″ or 1/2″ pieces. If you like a smoother jam, choose the smaller size. If you like rhubarb jam with more crunch, choose the larger size. Place into a large nonreactive pot and add the sugar. Toss the rhubarb and sugar together gently.
- Either with a knife or vegetable peeler, zest the lime. Save the lime for juicing on day 2! Small, snowflake-like pieces are not the desired effect, so skip the microplane. Chop the zest roughly and place into a cotton tea bag or layered, bundled cheesecloth. Tuck the zest packed into the rhubarb and cover with the lid. Let macerate overnight.
- Remove the pot from the refrigerator 15 minutes before placing on the stove (to gently warm up). Once on the stove, turn to medium high. Stir frequently to avoid scorching. Once boiling, let it cook for five minutes.
- Remove from the stove after five minutes and add the 2 oz [or 1 nip] of gin, the juice of your lime and the pinch of salt. Dig out your lime zest bag, scrape off the excess jam and discard the bag.
- Transfer jam to warm, sterilized jars. Refrigerate for short term usage – jam can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months in the refrigerator. Or can for longer storage. Wipe the rim of the jar down, add clean, unused, warmed lid and clean ring. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water. Store in a cool, dark place.