Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam & Books
It has occurred to me several times over the life of this blog that I have been remiss in telling you about a passion of mine that has nothing to do with food. No, I am not talking about my love for synchronized swimming, underwater basket weaving, or sky-diving. I am of course talking about books.
OK. *cracking knuckles* Here goes. I am about to try and explain to you how much I love to read.
Hmmm. Ah…hmmm. Well…I…I mean, it is kind of like…um…
All right, so I don’t know how to word it-no pun intended! I just really love to read. How can I accurately convey how much I love the smell of books, the weight and feel of them in my hands, and the sound the paper makes when you turn the page? I love to see the ocean of words on a page and all the book spines lined up on a shelf. I love that sometime, somewhere, someone wrote those words just for me to read and I wonder where they were when they wrote them. When I read a particularly poignant, witty, or clever part of a book, I always wish I could turn to the author and say, “Did that just come to you? Or did you struggle with trying to word that just right?” Ninety-nine percent of the time I have a book with me and on my person when I leave the house. I used to use my eighth grade french class text book to hide what I was reading-which at that time was probably Exodus, by Leon Uris-and only escaped getting in trouble because my french teacher was also my English teacher (Yo Mrs. Lewis!) and she couldn’t bring herself to punish me for reading when she was always trying so hard to get her students to read in the first place. I spent most of my sophomore year of high school literature class in the hallway doing random homework because I had already read all of the semester content within the first few weeks of school. I often walk into a used bookstore-or Barnes & Noble-and leave empty handed because I am so breathlessly overwhelmed with joy, excitement, and anticipation that I can’t choose any one thing to purchase. I want everyone to love books as much as I do so I almost always give books, or gift certificates to buy them, to children as gifts. And that includes my own kids. When the Navy moved us from San Diego to Minnesota, they packed and moved more cases of books than they did anything else and that included 3 full cases of children’s books even though we didn’t have any kids at the time. I regularly buy books based entirely on the cover because I like the surprise of reading a story I know nothing about in a book I might not otherwise have picked up.
I love books. I love to read. Are you catching my drift? Are you picking up what I am puttin’ down? Are you buying what I am selling? Do you get it?
So with that, this is what I am reading right now:
Have any of you actually read this book? My cover looks a bit different because it is an older publication and was pulled from the 25 cent bin from a shop somewhere in the Smokey Mountains about 7 years ago. Unfortunately, I took it from my bookshelf with all the intent of finally reading it for the first time (this is one of those books I bought based entirely on the title and the phrase in the above book review, “An epic historical novel artfully constructed.” Doesn’t that sound interesting?) but went into labor the same day and haven’t had a chance to make it past the first few chapters. On my Kindle, I have this:
I just started reading it so this will be my I-have-two-minutes-before-my-daughter-gets-out-of-school-and-need-a-distraction-or-I-will-fall-asleep book. And by the way, I avoided getting a Kindle for years because I really do love the smell and feel of a book in my hands and generally deemed electronic books as kind of evil. But my husband got me one for Christmas in the hopes I would learn to love it and it has proved invaluable when traveling. It is also much easier to fit in my diaper bag. Easier, say, than my five pound, hard-cover copy of The Twilight Of Courage.
I am telling you all of this for several reasons and if you are not with me on this and you secretly just want to get to today’s recipe, then feel free to scroll ahead. As for the rest of you, I would LOVE to know what you are reading nowadays. A long and extensive conversation with my sister last week, that was actually over biscuits and jam, reminded me how much I love to get book recommendations from people. I really love older books and am always trying to get people to read them (Steph-PLEASE read A Girl Of The Limberlost-you will love it!) and as a result, often miss out on anything good published in the last 5 years. And yes, I have read The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Other than that, hit me with your best shot!
So remember that jam I mentioned my sister and I were devouring? It is the same jam I mentioned in the last post. Strawberry rhubarb. Here. Just let your eyes just drink this in:
Seriously. I just may have to take a break and go eat some of this. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what I am going to do. Hold on a sec…
OK. Much better. You don’t mind if I type with my mouth full do you?
Anyway, about the jam. What can I say? It is super easy and amazingly scrumptious. You can taste the strawberry but the rhubarb shines through without being too sour and too…rhubarb-ey. I mean, I love rhubarb, but straight can be hard to take. This is BY FAR my favorite way to eat it. It is also, I discovered, a great way to introduce people to it if they have never had it before. Because rhubarb is kind of a developed taste, it can be a bit intimidating. But it is in season right now and the Farmer’s Markets and even the grocery stores are full of it! If you have never tried it before, now is your chance to totally fall in love. Then you can expand a bit and make rhubarb crisp, strawberry-rhubarb pie, rhubarb tea…all kinds of craziness!
Can you see the butter on the biscuit under the jam? Totally unnecessary. One bite and you will be instantly transported back to your Grandmother’s house. The flavor is reminiscent of something straight out of a farmhouse kitchen. Nostalgic yes, but too good to leave in the past. Nothing new fangled or tweaked or ‘updated’ with modern flavors. Just straight-up, good ol’ Midwest American jam. Might I suggest you enjoy some with a good book…
P.S. In regards to the activities mentioned in the first paragraph, I really do love synchronized swimming and used to swim in high school, as did my two sisters, and later went on to coach for a few years. Go Rangers! My husband and I went sky diving together when we lived in Hawaii-even though I am deathly scared of heights. And I was totally joking about the underwater basket weaving.
One Year Ago: Lemon Chiffon Pie & Grilled Pork Chops
Recipe from the talented kitchen of Mary Zeug-aka Aunt Mary
I should note that I usually do not process my jam in a water bath when I make it. The fruit is so hot, it always seals the jars without having to mess with it. If you prefer, you can absolutely process the jars for about five minutes.
6 c quartered, hulled, and lightly rinsed strawberries
8 c diced rhubarb
2 pkg Sure-Jell, low sugar or regular
1 c water
11 c sugar
In a small bowl, mix together the Sure-Jell and 1 c of sugar. Add this to the fruit and 1 c of water and stir all together in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and add the rest of the sugar. Stir often to prevent scorching and bring back to a boil. Once it is good and boiling, let it go for a minute, remove from heat, and immediately pour into sterilized, pint canning jars, leaving one inch of head space. Wipe the rims clean and top with sterilized lids and rings. If desired, process in a water bath for 5 minutes. Let hot jars set out on the counter until completely cool. When they are room temperature check to make sure all the jars have sealed. Store any that haven’t in the fridge for several months. Alternatively, the jam can be poured into plastic ‘freezer’ jars and frozen for up to a year.
Yield 10 pints