Monday, August 10, 2009

Rhubarb and Raspberries

Well, the last of the first flash of black raspberries is done. By hoarding pickings in the freezer, I was able to accumulate enough for a gallon of black raspberry melomel (honey-based fruit wine) as well as a hearty mixed raspberry shortcake on my son's birthday. The very last picking went into bumbleberry spread.

I tried making a berry spread earlier this summer based on apple juice concentrate and no sugar. The strawberries washed out in colour and it took a long time to cook down.

Some low-sugar fruit spread are based on apples (so it's more like a fruit + apple butter), but local apples don't come in until mid-August (green ones, too).

I have a six plant rhubarb row. When I pick a third of it, I have enough rhubarb for 4 pints of rhubarbade concentrate plus a small rhubarb crisp, or 4-6 jars of rhubarb sauce plus some left over rhubarb sauce. I love rhubarbade as a summer drink that is an alternative to lemonade or iced tea. Making it this year I used up some runny orange marmelade that had been sitting on my preserves shelves. I also steeped elderflowers in the concentrate before its final heating and jarring. Once or twice I threw in a handful of black raspberries to cook with the stalks.

The first few batches I threw the leftover pulp once the juice is extracted into my compost. Then my frugal nature clicked in and I thought: this pulp is already cooked, it is smooth, it is acidic but not overly so and its flavor is mellowed down. Why not use it as a neutral base for fruit spread? I put it in the fridge and when I produced some cherry pulp a few days later from making the cherry melomel base, I combined the two with some additional sugar and produced a rhubarb-cherry spread. This will be excellent over waffles or in the middle of cookie bars.

Then I made a rhubarb BBQ sauce with it. And two batches of bumbleberry spread. "Bumbleberry" is simply any mixture of berries. The first mix was strawberries and black raspberries The second mix was black raspberries, a lot of blueberries, cherries, and a few red raspberries. I use a cup of sugar per 4 half/pint jam jars. This is much less than regular jam recipes, but enough to preserve the berry color in the spread.

Here's the recipe for the first batch:
3 - 3 1/2 c rhubarb pulp
3/4 c. black raspberries
1/2 c. strawberries
3/4 c. raw sugar (more to taste if pulp not sweet)
1/4 c. lemon juice (to ensure enough acid)

Mash berries with sugar and lemon juice. Heat to a boil, gradually adding rhubarb pulp. Add more sugar to taste if needed.

Put into 4 half-pint jars, being sure to remove any air pockets, with 1/2 inch head space. Process 15 minutes.

Last year we had rain all summer and I had rhubarb all summer. It looks like the same is happening this year. Last year all I preserved was rhubarb sauce that I'm still eating. This year I have a lot more useful items on my preserve shelves!

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