Thursday, 6 June 2013

Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam

This was one of those joyful kitchen moments when I had an idea of what something should be and it all turned out just as I had hoped. I am very much an everyday cook, learning as I go, and not given to moments of culinary genius. But oh this jam is good. I don't mean to blow my own trumpet, but really it is. 

My father in law gave me 2 kg of rhubarb from his allotment (it was just going to waste!) and so my first thought was jam and my second was pie. I've made rhubarb and ginger jam before, and rhubarb and strawberry but wanted something different. Then I remembered how well custard goes with rhubarb and thought about adding some vanilla to the fruit. The sweet vanilla, which can be a little sickly when paired with other less sharp fruits, is perfect with the rhubarb's tartness. It's a very happy mixture of flavours. I used 1 kg of the fruit to make the jam (my stock pot won't really hold more - I think I need to invest in a proper jam making pan) and chopped and froze the other half for future pies and crumbles. I love to see lots of little bags of fruit in my freezer, all lined up, labelled and ready to go.

To make the jam I used:

1 kg rhubarb
1 kg preserving or jam sugar
2 vanilla pods or two generous teaspoons of vanilla paste

I prefer to use jam or preserving sugar - which is just white sugar with added pectin - but you might prefer to use ordinary sugar and add your own pectin, or not add the pectin at all. I have had too many cross moments in the kitchen with jam that refuses to set so I like to use jam sugar. Also, I found vanilla paste much easier to use than fresh vanilla pods as the liquid surrounding the seeds helped them distribute more evenly throughout the fruit.

This amount of fruit filled about five standard size 275 ml or half pint jam jars.

To make:
  • Make sure your jars are sterilised and ready to go.*
  • Put a saucer in the freezer.
  • If you are using vanilla pods, split them and scrape out the seeds and put to one side.
  • Wash and chop the rhubarb into 2 cm or 1 inch pieces. 
  • Put the fruit, sugar and vanilla into the jam pan and stir it really well so that all the rhubarb is covered in sugar and vanilla. Ideally you want to leave this for a few hours so that all the flavours have a chance to get to know each other, but you could just start cooking if you have less time.
  • Slowly bring the mixture to the boil then let it bubble away. 
  • After 15 or 20 minutes, start to check for setting point. Take your saucer from the freezer and put a small dollop of jam on the saucer. Give it a few moments to cool and set, then push your finger through it. If it wrinkles, then it's ready. If it's still runny then it needs longer.
  • When you are satisfied that your jam is ready, remove it from the heat and leave it to cool slightly, say 10 minutes. Skim off any scum and then pour into your waiting jars. A jam funnel helps enormously here!
It's pleasing to look at too, a soft pinky-peach colour with tiny black flecks. Then my favourite bit - jam tops and labels. The fabric jar toppers let me indulge my country kitchen fantasies of AGAs and Welsh dressers. I experimented with a butterfly hole punch here - it would be great if I could find a fruity themed hole punch, I wonder if you can buy them.

I was also hoping to pick your brains; I want to make a gift each for Angus and Bella' s teachers. We have seven weeks until the end of term so I think I've got time. They are both women, in their early thirties I would guess, and I don't think the whole country/granny chic thing would really be to their taste. What could I make them that they would like and wouldn't go in the crazy handmade parent gift pile for the charity shop? Edibles like jam, fudge, cakes? Something crocheted or knitted? Something sewn? Any ideas would be very gratefully received. Thank you!

* I wrote about sterilising your jars here should you want more information.


  1. Looks and sounds delicious - genius! Jane

  2. When I was a teacher, the best gift I ever received from a family was a bag full of different kinds of berries in their containers from the store. We ate them for days. Your jam sounds really good, I would enjoy that combination of flavors.

  3. I have yet to actually get jam to set, might try it again as rhubarb is on offer at Aldi.

    Teacher gifts that are homemade always go down well. I have made candles in tea cups, the boys decorated mugs and we have apple printed bags too in the past. Anything that you make will be well received. Mini has a male teacher this year, so I think it will be mugs again for us.

  4. Your jam sounds delicious! I think that would make a very good present, original and useful!
    Homemade is a bit tricky, some people love it but for some others, it's just not their thing..
    I have just received a pile of crocheted coasters from a friend and I love those, they will come in handy and I think they would make a good gift too..

  5. This sounds amazing! we've got an abundance of rhubarb at the moment, I'll have to see what I can make

  6. Ooooh that jam looks and sounds divine .... I could very easily eat that jammy crumpet right now :o)
    love jooles xxx

  7. Yum.

    I've only made marmalade, and it was handsome. I like the idea of rhubarb and vanilla together. I have tried in vain to get rhubarb to grow in the garden. I don't quite know what I'm doing wrong. My nieghbour has bountiful amounts. I'm tempted to propose a swap - eggs for those gorgeous red stalks.

    Presents for teachers - we always make biscuits, sweets or cakes for them. They seem to go down well.

  8. Rhubarb and vanilla... Sounds a marriage made in heaven! Must try it when my rhubarb has recovered from my latest depredations on it! E x

  9. how about a fabric covered note book?! a teacher would like that wouldn't they. And a fabric covered pen or pencil!! have fun! Heather x

  10. Mmm...what a combo! I bet it tastes scrumptious!

  11. Now that sounds like the perfect combination. In years gone by (when I was still eating dairy) I loved the rhubarb and vanilla yoghurt you could buy, so the idea of jam is just perfect!! I look forward to trying this out when we can get our hands on some more rhubarb (it doesn't last long in our house). Thanks for sharing xo

  12. Mmm, that jam sounds wonderful. My rhubarb has wilted a bit at the allotment; if it recovers I shall try and make some jam. For the teachers - how about a pencil case or zip pouch, or maybe some chocolate truffles, although I think they tend to get quite a bit of chocolate on the last day of term! I have also done lavender hearts for hanging in the wardrobe, with lace and some machine embroidered text on them. In fact you have reminded me, I should probably be thinking about things for teachers too...

  13. The jam sounds and looks lovely. I've not tried vanilla paste before so I'll have to look out for some. I like your lable idea too. Thankfully gifts for teachers hadn't taken off when my daughter was at school - how about a jar of your jam - it will keep better than cakes or biscuits. x

  14. I'm been raiding pinterst for teacher gift ideas. I'm probably going down the edibles route with brownies or similar that she can help make but maybe presented in a kilner jar with a rainbow of coloured pencils around it. I know from my MIL that teachers spend a lot of their own money on stuff like that for the class room and thought it would be nice to give something for her and for her next class of kids. Something like this

  15. Oh and the jam sounds amazing x allotment has 3 crowns of rooob

  16. That jam sounds deelish and it could make a great present for the teachers.
    My blog reading this morning has included another lot of rhubarb, but it was chutney over at Anne's. Have a lovely weekend.

  17. Your jam sounds lovely. I might try - I've got loads of rhubarb in the garden. Just not enough time to do anything with it. I love the plant too!
    I wonder if crocheted coasters or pot holders would be good presents? Scrap books can be nice too - a few photos and words from choldren in the class as memento of the year? Have fun! x

  18. My husband is crazy for rhubarb--I've been going to make him a pie all week as his belated birthday "cake." I think he would also love it if I tried your recipe!
    For teacher gifts any food thing is good, I think. I have also given and received tea towels--you can never really have too many of those. Something stenciled maybe with a kind of modern design?

  19. Hi Gillian, That combinations sounds very yummy!!!My kids always took a little cactus because they don't need a lot of attention and Miss Molly's grade 1 teacher, still has that very same cactus!!! Have a very happy weekend!!

  20. Haven't eaten rhubarb in any shape or form this year but I'm now craving some of your jam on a toasted crumpet. Sorry, no suggestions about teacher gifts (I was a university lecturer and students didn't tend to give presents) but I'm sure whatever you decide on will be well received.

  21. This looks really lovely. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I love how you have made the jars all pretty too. For teachers's gifts maybe some nice homemade fudge or the likes in a pretty box?
    M x

  22. What a delicious idea ... and what better place to put it than on a crumpet ...yummy x

  23. I have rhubarb in the fridge, you know! Thank you x (Give the teachers a jar each of the jam!)

  24. The rhubarb jam with a hint of vanilla looks just delicious! I love the fabric you used for the the jar toppers... it's lovely! Yes, give the teachers a beautiful jar of this jam with a loaf of freshly baked bread!

  25. Ooh- I might make jam this weekend, you've inspired me! Our rhubarb isn't quite ready...but I'm going into Leeds tomorrow, already going to the market so I might investigate what fruit looks interesting :)

  26. Oh Gillian your jam looks amazing ... it would be so lovely with soda bread ... you should try it ... I think you would love it with the jam ... and for the teachers gift I'm not sure ... I am in the same predicament but I only have three weeks left ... Bee xx

  27. For the last I don't know how many years I have given teachers a bag full of goodies to be enjoyed the first day of the school break. Jam/juice/croissants for a relaxing breakfast and then some lovely bath foam and maybe a candle to help them unwind a bit more.
    My sister in law was a teacher for many years and always appreciated ones that were useable/disposable as there are only so many mugs etc you need.
    Lisa x

  28. Please move to London and be a parent at my new school! The lovely suggestions that you made would be much appreciated and sound absolutely delightful.

    Although people are so kind and generous, I am dreading the thought of 78 boxes of chocolates at Christmas (Last year as a TA I ended up with so much, including a giant bar of Dairy Milk). I'm very tempted to ask parents to make a donation to the book corner instead if the school will allow it. If not then I'll donate lots of the presents to the local homeless project or the hampers the mayor sends to the elderly in our area. I'm not ungrateful I just can't eat so much chocolate and would worry that I would end up so fat I wouldn't be able to leave the house until the following Christmas!

    I am dying to try out that jam recipe. It sounds delicious. Something I can make with 30 five year olds? x

  29. oh that sounds delicious, thanks for the recipe! I don't remember really giving teachers gifts (though it was a long time ago!)... I would vote for an edible... perhaps a pot of jam?! x

  30. Oh Gillian , why didn't I think to look here first for another use for all my rhubarb?! ; )
    Well I guess that's what I get for ducking out of the blog world for a while! Guess what I'll be doing this week then? Thanks for the inspiration (again!) x

  31. Hello.... I've just come across your blog and thought I'd comment on the teacher present dilemma. When my boys were at school I always crafted a gift and they were so well received. Have you thought of a small cushion? You could do an envelope style in a lovely fabric, patchwork, knitted or crochet. IKEA do a small cushion for £1:25, I always have a stash of them ready for gifts.
    On the 'other side', my son is now a primary school teacher and he gets lots of chocolate (he doesn't have a sweet tooth), wine (he doesn't drink) and numerous mugs. He's always very grateful for the gifts and the kindness of his pupils and their parents. I know everyone has different interests but a few well received gifts included a plant in a pot which the pupil had decorated - still thriving 3 years later! Open cinema tickets with a voucher for drinks and popcorn and a personalised note book, see:
    I hope this has been a help to someone!

  32. Thank you for all these brilliant suggestions. I wish I could do all of them!


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