Thursday, May 19, 2005

SHF: My Day-long Rhubard Grapefruit Orange Jam

This week's Sugar High Friday is over at another Alice's blog, My Adventures in the Bread Box. I think it's pretty neat that we have two things in common: Alice and a blog that starts with 'My'. Her theme was Citrus, so today, I'm going to tell you about my recent experiment in jam making!

When I went to Japan last month, my plan was to take a case of Loulou's Garden Rhubard Grapefruit Jam with me as gifts for my family. Loulou's jam is so absolutely wonderful with its subtle sweetness and luscious organic fruits, and jams like that aren't as readily available in Japan. It seemed like the perfect thing to bring to a country that is overflowing with everything else. Sadly, when I went to the Berkeley Farmer's Market a little late that Saturday before I left, to my surprise, no Loulou! Her usual stand was empty!!!!

I'd already made up my mind about bringing my family some really tasty organic jam, so I wondered for a little bit as to what I should do - go find an alternative source? I thought about running over the the SF Ferry Bldg Farmer's Market on Sunday, but I didn't have the energy for that... I really, really, really loved the supreme combination of grapefruit and rhubard, and knowing how much my Mama and my Aunt loves grapefruits, I knew there was only one solution. After a few moments of pause, I knew exactly what I had to do: make it myself!

I've never really experimented with making jams at all. I've boiled down some frozen berries before with sugar to make a fruit spread to go with my biscuits, but jam from scratch? I had no idea if I needed special ingredients like 'pectin' and other jam-related things I hear about. But when I looked to Loulou for inspiration, her ingrediented listed none of those things. What I gathered was that I should be able to make my jam from three simple ingredients: rhubard, grapefruit, and sugar.

Always an experimentalist and never one to hesitate, I bought a humongous amount of grapefruit and a pomello (I wanted to see if there was a difference in taste - the conclusion: a big difference in texture!), along with my usual 10 lbs bag of oranges, a few stalks of rhubard, and went to work. After peeling a few grapefruits and a pomello, I was wiped out. Tired. My hands were sore. I was whining. The Papa got tired of hearing me whine and came to peel some more grapefruits. A few moments later, he was whining too.

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Somehow, we got through six giant grapefruits and a pomello, and I started what would turn out to be a whole day adventure - cooking. There was enough grapefruit juice to boil the fruit in, but I added some sake for good measure. Sake. Makes the world go around. (Just ask Anne!) I chopped up the rhubard, added it to the pot, and started cooking!

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I learned that fruits also produce that gunky stuff you get when you boil meat - that bitter stuff that floats to the top? We call it 'aku' in Japanese, not to be confused with the other 'aku', which means evil - although I'd say that the gunky stuff is pretty evil. I stood infront of the stove for what seemed like hours clearing the fruit juice of all its gunk. I hate aku!

I cooked the juices down to a jam-like consistency, about 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 hrs later. I lost track of time. It was just me and my soon-to-be-jam fruit juice, meditating on a Sunday afternoon, sitting by the stove, scooping up aku, day dreaming about onsens and Kyoto... The jam looked very good. Very Loulou. Since Loulou listed sugar as one of the ingredients, I figured I'd better add some too. In my case, I added honey, since I don't like refined sugar very much.

With anticipation, I had a spoonful after I blended the honey...

BLAH!!!!

It was terrible! It was too sour to the point of bitter with too much rhubard flavor and not enough of anything else.

With a tear in my eye after spending the entire day nursing this pot of jam, I went to repair work. I peeled about 5 oranges and added them in. I poured in some more sake, because... well, it makes the world go around. I also added more honey in it and prayed that it would be edible next time it cooked down.

The Kitchen Gods must have heard my prayers. The next bite after it cooked down to jam consistency (after some more aku scooping) was nothing like the first bite. The jam was fruity with a strong orange top note, followed by the subtle bitterness of the grapefruit, finishing with the tart aftertaste of rhubarb. I don't know where the pomello went, but I didn't care. There were orange rafts of pulp gliding along the red-pink grapefruit-rhubard ocean, since the oranges hadn't quite cooked for as long as the grapefruit and rhubard did. Rhubard chunks were also present, flaking apart when I spread them onto bread. There I had it: my Rhubarb Grapefruit (Pomello) Orange Jam!!

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Boiling the jars for sterization and soaking the lids in 100% ethanol were another adevnture in itself, but in the end, I managed to end up with five 8 oz jars of organic, homemade jam.

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I saved a jar for myself and took the rest with me to Japan. I enjoyed my jam with croissants, toasts, and in the Papa Yogurt. My Mama and my Aunt were big fans and raved about it over and over! My Mama said how it was more like eating fruit than jam and how she enjoyed the combination of natural sweetness with tartness. My Aunt told me that my Uncle enjoyed it so much, they finished the jar in a few days - she even asked me for the recipe! Not bad, considering I thought this was a total failure at one point!

And you know the funniest part of all this? I'd never had rhubard jam before trying Loulou's, but I was surprised to see "Rhubard Jam" as one of the topics my favorite bread baking boys at "Yakitate Japan" are tackling in the latest issue!

PS:
Bay Area folks: don't forget to check out the Launch Parties going on this weekend! Owen from Tomatilla! and Paper Chef fame is organizing not one, but two, open-invitation Launch events this weekend for his book, Digital Dish. You can find a pdf file of the Introduction, where Owen lists all the contributors to Digital Dish.

I'll be going to the Saturday one at 11:30 AM at the Berkeley Farmer's Market to meet Dr. Biggles, who may be the second funniest blogger on my blog roll. (Can you guess who the funniest is?) I think it'll be so much fun if we can make this into a Food Blogger's Day Out at the farmer's market and actually really meet (as 'in person'!) all the wonderful writers, cooks, and friendly bloggers and blog readers I've "met" over the last few months! I hope to see y'all there!

If you miss it on Saturday, you can catch the same authors at La Fayette at 4 PM on Sunday. More details here!

PS: Check out the round-up for this SHF here!

6 comments:

Clea said...

Bringing rhubarb jam with you to Japan was a very good idea. I was amazed to discover that they don't sell rhubarb in Japan (at least not where I live). When spring comes, I always crave for rhubarb pie, stewed rhubarb, rhubarb jam... and here I can't find any! Is there a way you could make the Japanese love rhubarb so much that you would find it in any supermarket, like tomatoes? If someone can do it, I'm sure it's you, Alice!

the other Alice :) said...

Yay! Awesome job on jam making. My first attempt at jam...an orange marmalade...was the most harrowing experience I've probably yet been through...well, almost. Anyhoo, glad it was a success in the end!

Anonymous said...

Sheesh, I went to the San Francisco farmer's market Saturday morning! I found the June Taylor jam but not the Loulou's jam. So sad. Guess I'll just have to go back up there. You are very brave to try making jam yourself.
--Mariko/supereggplant

Alice said...

Claire,

Thanks, Claire! I'm sorry to hear about your lack of rhubard season in Japan... My family wasn't really sure what rhubarb was either. I learned from our favorite boys in Yakitate Japan (vol.17) that rhubard is called Daiou (Big Yellow) in Japanese, and apparently, it is a specialty in Karuizawa. Interesting, huh?

Alice,

Thanks for doing such a lovely hosting job for this SHF! Citrus was a wonderful theme with so much flexibility, it looks like everyone had a great time! And thanks for coming to check out my blog!

Mariko-san,

I have yet to check out June Taylor's creations one of these days - I've heard so much about them!!

Jennifer said...

What a great job - a little tenacity is all a good jar of jam requires, apparently.

Thanks so much for sharing the recipe and the story!

Alice said...

Jennifer,

Rescueing a failed experiment is part of the fun, I guess!

Thanks for visiting!