May 18, 2011

vanilla orange rhubarb jam

It's been a rainy, windy, blustery, crazy-weathered week in New York. The last few days I've awakened in the early morning to the sound of raindrops crashing down upon the back of my bedroom air conditioner, like a thousand tiny hammers. I pull the covers over my head and consider the possibility of staying in bed all day. 

But jury duty beckons. So along comes strong-brewed coffee, application of rain boots and slicker, and then I'm on my way out to navigate the city's puddly streets and slick-floored subways.

I'm craving the warmth of sunshine on my face, looking at that photo above and reminiscing about sitting out in my parents' backyard a couple of weekends ago, gazing up through verdant branches towards a blue sky and brilliant, pleasantly blinding sun. And since the sunshine seems a distant memory right now -- and the forecast straight through this weekend looks less than promising -- I decided to make a potful of sunshine on the stovetop instead. Sweet-tart rhubarb jam, shot through with flecks of vanilla bean and bright, sun-shiny orange zest and juice

I cannot claim this is a jam, technically speaking -- I did not use packaged pectin -- but I simmered the mixture with a diced apple {skin left on}, which contributed enough natural pectin to give extra body to the preserves. Using unrefined, golden-brown coconut palm sugar {my current favorite granular sweetener for cooking and baking, with a lower glycemic index compared with cane sugar} gives the jam a darker hue, but it also provides a deeper and more substantial flavor than white sugar ever could. 

And there you go -- a potful of sunshine in about 30 minutes. Not too sweet, the jam is a perfect breakfast mix-in for plain whole-milk yogurt, with a handful of homemade granola sprinkled on top for crunch. It's also delicious slathered over almond butter on rye flatbreads. And, though I haven't tried it just yet, I'm pretty certain it would be spectacular warmed and spooned over vanilla ice cream for a quick and memorable dessert. 

vanilla orange rhubarb jam

yields 1 pint jar {16 ounces/2 cups} of jam, plus another 4 ounces or so to eat immediately {see ice cream suggestion above!}
  • 1-1/2 pounds rhubarb stems, roughly chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 1 small apple, cored and diced (skin left on)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • two ~1x3 inch strips of zest and juice from one orange
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a medium pot (start with 1/2 cup of the sugar). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is thick and jammy, 20 to 30 minutes. Taste about halfway through and add the remaining (1/4 cup) sugar if the mixture is too tart (I used 3/4 cup of sugar total).

Transfer jam to a jar(s), seal tightly, and store in the refrigerator. (I left the vanilla bean and strips of zest in there so their flavors can continue to permeate the jam as it chills.) Eat within 7 to 10 days.


  1. despite jury duty, you have been busy! wonderful jam. I rarely use pectin, and prefer the apple-natural way. sunshine in a jar, for sure!

  2. This looks lovely with lots of flavour. Unfortunately it probably won't last as long as jam in the fridge!

    It reminds me of a baked rhubarb dish I made last year with Earl Grey, orange and cardamom. Sheer bliss! :)

  3. This looks wonderful. I much prefer refrigerator jams as they can be made with far less sweetener- I love that you've used palm sugar in here :)

  4. I love rhubarb! I make something similar (playing around with the basic recipe all of the time), but in the oven versus stove top. I'm not familiar with coconut palm sugar. Thanks for mentioning it here. I think I'll try it.

  5. I'm a huge fan of rhubarb, this jam sounds delicious!

  6. Hi Nancy, I love rhubarb, but never made my own jam-Great combination of flavors! This is a must try recipe :)

    Have a great day,


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  8. Hi Nancy -jury duty is over now, thank goodness, and I was not chosen for anything!

    thanks Janet! Wow, the Earl Gray, orange, and cardamom combination sounds fantastic.

    thanks, Winnie!

    Hi Denise - I first started using palm sugar after interning at Three Stone Hearth since it's one of their sweeteners of choice. Great flavor.

    thanks, Maria!

    Al Dente - thanks for stopping by!

    Uhooi - thank you!

  9. had me at the title of the post! And I love the shot of the jam!