Thursday 10 July 2014

Mango Rhubarb Jam

Jam, jelly, conserves, and frankly all other preserves hold a special place in my heart. There is something about taking the flavours of the season, boiling them down and bottling them that seems absolutely surreal to me. Given that we live in an age of effortless modernity, where freezing is a foot away and preservatives are ready to hand, old-fashioned preservation allows us to harken back to a time where this labour-intensive process was not a hobby, but a necessity. While jams are relatively recent, made possible only following the mainstream adoption of sugar, preservation via fermentation, salting or pickling has been around far far longer. Maybe because of this, making jam has a deep fulfilling cachet for me, one which I know many people share. Beyond this somewhat abstract historical narrative I see myself partaking in when I make jam (oh-ho yes I just went there), and this notion of trapping seasons, there is also on a far more immersive level to jam-making, one which I think the most people relate to, nostalgia. We’re reminded of this on a personal level, often when we think of family members. In my case, my mother makes jam, my grandmother made it before her, the story is one you’ve surely heard before, likely one you can even relate to in some form or another. Because of these emotions, making jam and preserving foods feels natural, domestic and homey. As I consider my upcoming move to Toronto I know that even once I’ve unpacked all of my furniture and books and hung my prints on the wall, home won’t be home until I’ve made preserves there.

Sounds crazy?

Well to me, there is nothing more natural about this. Jam is the smell of nana’s kitchen; it’s the taste of mom’s raspberry jam, which I’d eat by the spoonful at the table in my Oma’s kitchen when I wasn’t even knee-high. Simply? Jam is cozyness in a jar; it is a culture in itself, something we all share in and can relate to (there’s a PHD essay topic in here somewhere).  Even beyond this saccharine nostalgia making jam is not only a cue for past memories, it’s also the promise of new memories to be made. Making jam in a new home, means new friends to share it with, a new place to eat it in and sometimes even new recipes!

Ah, new recipes, right! That’s what this is about. Bellow I’ve included a recipe for my newest preserve yet, mango rhubarb jam. Sounds strange? Don’t knock it until you try it! I mean you’re clearly here because your intrigued/perplexed/interested/terrified right? You clicked on this link, you knew what you were getting yourself into! It might seem to be a bit of an odd combination, but the flavours work fantastically (if-I-may-say-so-myself) and it spreads oh so well! 

Jam is a journey!  This recipe was the rebirth of a phoenix: while I at least knew the origins of the two-day old rhubarb that sat impatiently on my counter (courtesy of my generous friend Wanda), this cannot be said for the case of dubious quality mangos procured from Montreal’s Jean Talon market—a cornucopia of produce ranging from fresh to freighting.  But, hey, when life gives you lemons (or in this case lumpy mangos), you make lemonade…or jam…ok, that didn’t really work, did it? Hush you.

Some might ask where does this jam fit into my big ramble up there? How does it fit into my narrative? Well, it’s a recipe I came up with while living in my strange Montreal apartment and I think its quirky nature just about fits with my quirky MA year! So on that note, I dedicate it to my lovely roommates Elias and Tyson (in succession) and also to Sean, a dear friend from out West, who happened to be floating about when I made.
Introspective rant over, happy jamming!


-3cups Mango, cubed
-7cups Rhubarb, chopped into about 1.5 cm lengths
-5cups granulated sugar
-1 package of pectin (I used certo, it weighed in at 57 grams) 
-2 tablespoons of lime juice (fresh)

**As usual with preserving I begin this with a disclaimer: Please always sterilize everything and be careful when preserving. USDA guidelines can be found here

1) Add fruit and granulated sugar to the pot, cook until mushy (about 10 minutes) and attack mercilessly with either a potato masher or an immersion blender. I chose to use the later for a really smooth jam.
2) Cook for another few minutes until it thickens a tad
3) Bring to a boil, add certo and cook for a further five minutes
4) Pour into prepared jars, sterilize and store!