14th February 2017
In the otherwise fairly grey and gloomy months of January and February, before daffodils, rhubarb is the first sign of spring.
Rhubarb is grown in two crops. Forced, grown in the earlier months of the year, is tenderer and more understated in its tartness than its more burly and punchy sibling, maincrop rhubarb, which is grown from mid March to June. While maincrop is grown outdoors, forced rhubarb requires a little bit more attention and care as it is grown commercially in dimly lit sheds and picked in candlelight, so as not to wash out its lively, green leaves to a duller shade. 90% of the world’s forced rhubarb is grown in what is known as, “The Rhubarb Triangle.” This is the stretch of land in West Yorkshire between Morley, Wakefield and Rothwell. All our rhubarb is sourced from this area as we know this is where we will find the most tender and rosy crop.
Super versatile, it can be stewed, poached or roasted, lightly sweetened for sweet dishes or left as a bittersweet accompaniment to savoury dishes like mackerel and pork. When cooked perfectly, the skin of the rhubarb turns a brighter, almost fluorescent, shade of pink, which bleeds into the white interior to form a beautifully pale pastel. It becomes the star of any dish: the crown on top of a humble and hearty bowl of porridge or a beautiful blushing surprise under an oaty crumble.
The window in which you can find forced rhubarb is limited but this makes it all the more special.
Bella makes this delicious jam to preserve our favourite rhubarb beyond it’s short season. The recipe is below… or pick some up at our Columbia Road Pop up in March.
2kg forced rhubarb, trimmed
2kg jam sugar
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
10cm piece ginger, fresh, peeled and finely diced
120g stem ginger, finely diced
Makes 10 x 300ml jars
Chop the rhubarb into inch long pieces and tumble into a large bowl. Pour over the sugar, lemon juice and zest and the gingers. Cover the bowl and leave somewhere cool overnight ideally but for at least a couple of hours to macerate. The sugars will begin to dissolve and start the jam making process.
The next day wash your jars, a ladle and a jam funnel if you have one in hot soapy water and then place in a low oven to sterilise (160C). The jars need to sterilise for 10-15 min to ensure they are bacteria free and that your jam will be preserved safely.