The dashing Mountie found a charming chalet where they, their loyal Woodle, and their
It was time to search for their castle.
They searched duplexes and condos, houses and apartments and were beginning to lose hope that they would never find a home for themselves and their pack of beasties. And then, they saw it...not a castle or even a manor, but instead a charming little cottage, appearing through the mist. Flowering shrubs gently hugged the front walkway, guiding the weary travelers inside to bright whitewashed walls and plenty of big windows to bring in the light. A picture window in the
A rhubarb patch!!!!!!
It reappeared quite early, actually. The winter in Kitimat this year was mild, and we accidentally put a patio table over the patch, which we removed when the snow started to melt. I personally think this acted like a greenhouse of sorts because my rhubarb was popping up through the dirt even earlier than expected. Every time I took the dogs out I would have a look at its progress. It grew steadily, and by late March I was counting my mason jars and looking up recipes.
And then we moved.
It's hard to admit this, but two things swayed me to stay in that little house. One was the view of the mountains from my living room. During the last year, when I would feel the occasional twinges of homesickness and the voice in my head would ask "tell me again why we're here?" I would look up at those mountains and remember that I did in fact love Northern BC. The second thing was that rhubarb patch. Silly, I know, but it was like a little patch of home in my backyard. I watched for those sprouts the way most people watch for tulips and crocuses.
I got over the issue of the view rather quickly as my new patio has a fabulous view not only of the same mountain I could see from my old house, but of many of the other mountains as well. And the smart girl in me who knew the new house was better for us reasoned that a rhubarb patch was not a reason to stay put. And so we moved. I didn't forget it though and one evening as I was looking through recipes, I remarked to my husband again how sorry I was that I wouldn't be able to make rhubarb jam. He then pointed out something I had completely forgotten. We held the lease on our old house until April 30. The rhubarb was mine for a month.
Rhubarb Watch was on! Whenever I visited the house I would peek at it, growing away in the backyard. It was doing well and I was hopeful that it would flourish in time for me to pick some. Please, just one jar of jam, I silently begged of the tough leaves and sprouts growing away in the patch. Toward the end of the month my husband had to go home suddenly and in the rush to get him ready I forgot about preserving for awhile. Then, the other day as I was going through papers making sure all loose ends were tied up at our old house, I remembered I had one piece of unfinished business there. The lease on my rhubarb was about to run out!
It was a cold, miserable, rainy day, not a harvesting day at all. But I had to check. After all, whoever lived there next may not appreciate it, and the patch might not last if not cared for. This could be the last jam made from the rhubarb that was no doubt planted by the home's original owners! And so off I went, armed with plastic bags and a sturdy kitchen knife. I held my breath as I made my way into the backyard. We hadn't harvested any last year until late May...I knew I was being optimistic but the winter had been so mild and the Spring quite sunny so far...
It was ready!!!! Giant green leaves were growing luxuriantly in the mist and rain, and the stalks beneath were pink and gorgeous!!!! I harvested quickly and efficiently, trying to thin out the patch so that the younger stalks would have a chance to grow (I still foster a hope that the next tenant will love rhubarb, too). Truth be told, after I finished you could barely tell I'd taken any. I lugged my bounty out to the truck and whispered a final thank you and good bye to the little house that had been our home during our first year in this new land.
I took some time going through the jars and choosing the prettiest (since strawberry rhubarb is such a lovely colour) for this batch of jam. I had prepared my rhubarb so I would know how much I had to work with and after much deliberation I had decided on two recipes. The first was Bernardin's Rhubarb Strawberry Pie Filling, and the second was the recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Jam found inside the package of Certo pectin. I couldn't find the same recipe for the jam online; this one from Certo and Kraft Canada is is similar, but it uses butter. However, if you preserve you almost definitely have that Certo chart stuck in a cookbook, and if not your mother or grandmother certainly does!
With home canning, preparation and planning is everything. It's not exactly difficult, but it is time-sensitive and requires you to do a number of things all at once. As well, sterilization is imperative to prevent food spoilage. All that being said, preserving is fun and satisfying and I wholeheartedly encourage you try it. (If boiling kettles of goo scares you, start out with freezer jam; nothing could be easier.) I recommend that you read your recipe through several times, clean everything you're going to use and have it laid out before you begin, and prep and pre-measure your ingredients. When you are boiling that much fruit and sugar, even a few seconds can be the difference between whether or not it burns. My suggestion is to pick up a book on home canning basics (Bernardin's is good) and read through the methods before you get started. If, like myself, you've been helping out with preserving since you were a child, this will all be second nature, but it can be overwhelming to a beginner.
I started out with the pie filling. I was pleased with the results, although I didn't have a photo to reference as I was making it. My filling looks different than the filling in the picture shown in the link, but it tastes delicious and looks beautiful. My batch only yielded 4 500 ml jars, with a little bit left over. However, mine is quite rendered down, so if it were chunkier it may have filled 5. I am going to try it in a pie, however I can also see me using it as a dessert topping and in turn-overs. I loved how this recipe tasted as well, with only 2 cups of sugar it had a great "sweet and sour" flavour. If you like your strawberry rhubarb pie a little tart, this is the recipe for you.
Next came the jam. This was an "old-school" jam recipe with just fruit, pectin, and a whopping 6 1/2 cups of sugar. But it is delicious and it set up beautifully. In the picture you can see the difference in colour between the two recipes. This recipe yielded 7 250 ml jelly jars after skimming, so I was quite pleased.
|Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling (l) and Jam (r)|
I find preserving to be addictive; currently I'm searching for other recipes I can make now, since it will be a little while before there's anything else local to put up! Bernardin has a recipe for Strawberry Banana Jam that I've made in the past so if berries are still on special next week that may be my next project!
Thanks for reading; this was a longer post but it's one I've been looking forward to writing for a while! Have a wonderful week and stay tuned for more strawberry rhubarb creations!