Rhubarb & Orange Jam

I’m lucky enough to have not one but two farmer’s market within a short drive of where I live – even better, one is on a Saturday and one is on a Sunday. I haven’t been going that often the past few months – mornings have more often been devoted to biking and running! But today the weather was grey and drizzly, so the ride got done on the trainer in the garage, before a quick trip to the Saturday market.

I wanted to make a little thank you for a friend who helped fed my cat when I was away for a few days recently, and one for her father who every so often sends me a carton of eggs from his happy, free-range chooks. I decided to make jam – it keeps well, so it doesn’t matter if my friend isn’t heading home for a visit for a while. And I wanted to try some more microwave preserving – yes, you can make jam in the microwave! And to be honest, although I’ve only done it a handful of times, I’m a convert. It seems to be less messy, and require less active attention during boiling.

I grabbed two lovely big bunches of rhubarb at the market:

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It looks lovely with the green leaves still attached, but I must admit two big, long leafy bunches aren’t quite so easy to carry around a crowded market as the top-lopped stems I usually buy!

After chopping the tops off, I gave the stems a quick wash and scrub, using a recent purchase – an environmentally friendly vegie brush purchased from a great little company called Minimal Impact. I picked mine up at their stall at my Sunday farmers market, but you also find everything from bamboo toothbrushes to goat milk soaps at their website.

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(Yes, this picture is upside down!  I updated to Windows 8 the other day and I can’t figure out how to do ANYTHING since I did so. All my programs have gone, including Photoshop, and if I wait until I can reload it,  well, I know what happens when I think “I’ll post about that later, just take pics for now.” It doesn’t happen. So instead, I’m blogging within 30 minutes of screwing the lids on my jam jars. Post with dodgy photography beats no post, eh?)

The recipe I used is from a book, and I like to respect copyright, so I can’t share it here. However, I do want to share how very easy it is to do – basically, chopped rhubarb, orange juice and peel, sugar and water, cooked in the microwave! Even sanitising the jam jars is done in the microwave. The recipe was from a book called Microwave Dried Fruit & Other Fruit Delicacies. It seems to be long out of print, but it’s worth picking up if you see a second-hand copy. You can buy author Isabel Webb’s more recent book, 5-Minute Microwave Bottling, though. It does take longer than five minutes to make a jar of jam, obviously (the title refers to the fact that some recipes  involve only five minutes of actual cooking!), but this is a great little book, summarising 20 years of experience in making jams, chutneys and sauces in the microwave.  It’s full of handy information, from adjusting cooking times depending on the wattage of your microwave, to how to substitute honey, golden syrup or other sweeteners for sugar when making sugar syrups (using in fruit preserving).

It took me only about 45 minutes to make four jars of jam using this method, and less than half of that was hands-on. I sterilised the bottles in the microwave while chopping and washing the rhubarb, and then was able to head off and do other things while the jam cooked.

Of course, I haven’t put it to the final test – opening a jar and seeing how well it set! But it certainly passed the taste test – tart but sweet, with the orange adding that little extra bit of flavour.

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Next, I think I might try Webb’s recipe for Pineapple Salsa with green capsicum, ginger and mustard. Sounds like nothing I’ve ever had before, and that’s always intriguing!