Rainy Day Rhubarb Harvest and Preparation (and Cantaloupe Vanilla Jam, too)

Scrolling through my Facebook wall, I see a lot of complaints about today’s weather.  Dark and gloom, ongoing rain, and a need to turn on the furnace upon waking.  It’s not that I mention them and their sentiments with judgement.  I would have felt the same if I was at the cottage and wanted to be outdoors, if I didn’t need some downtime to crochet, or if I hadn’t been waiting for all the heat to disappear so I could turn on the stove for some canning.  I took Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marissa McClellan out of the book shelf and flipped through it every day this past week, waiting patiently. While I’d like to focus my efforts on either cultivating or wildcrafting the main ingredients for this year’s preserves, how can I say no to “Cantaloupe Jam with Vanilla?”  Especially, when coincidentally, Beege bought a cantaloupe at the grocery store last night.  Besides, the heavy rain prevented me from going out to collect. Cantaloupe is not the first fruit that springs to mind when a canner’s thoughts turn to jam.  However, for the melon lovers in the crowd, I beg you not to skip this one.  When you combine cantaloupe with a bit of sugar and vanilla, it ends up tasting like the best exotic Creamsicle you’ve ever had.  As a Creamsicle lover, I find this feature highly enticing.  By design, this recipe makes a fairly small batch.  I find that one smallish melon or half of an enormous one yields just the right amount. I used an entire enormous one, there was no way I’d be satisfied coming out with only 3 half-pints, and tweaked the rest of the numbers for an increased yield of two jars.  This one is going to be delicious, I can feel it.  One jar will be donated to the Harvest Moon Potluck and Auction event being held later this year and the rest are for ME! Regardless of the rain, I did go out to the garden to pluck ten pounds of rhubarb afterall.  It sometimes seems like a waste to get the water bath going for just one batch. July 7, 2013 - Rainy Day Harvest Let me tell you, it was one thing to have to hold an umbrella while harvesting and removing the leaves from the rhubarb stalks, but it was definitely more challenging to neatly stack ten pounds on a lawn chair and then carry the pile inside the house.  It really makes me wish I had a harvesting basket.  I used to consider it a luxury item.  After today, it’s turned into a need. I thought I’d make a batch of Rhubarb Syrup as an alternative to the gross pancake syrup Beege tends to buy (I always go for actual maple syrup but he doesn’t view things the same way).  It’s still loaded with sugar, but compared to Aunt Jemima’s Original ingredients (corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum, caramel color, salt, sodium benzoate and sorbic acid [preservatives], artificial and natural flavors, sodium hexametaphosphate), the rhuburb syrup will do just fine.  I hope I don’t give off the impression that my eating habits are perfect.  They’re far from perfect.  But I do make an effort and I do know the difference between natural vs Aunt Jemima.  Until I can figure out the whole sugarless jam and jelly thing, there will be some sugar overload involved. I thought I could try the Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam with Earl Grey using one of the boxes of Bernadin N0 Sugar Needed Pectin I bought last week.  Then I thought, if there’s any jam I’d rather have sugar in, it’s a rhubarb flavoured one.  I don’t know how much apple juice would do the trick.  Perhaps it would, it’s worth a shot in the future, or at least some research on the internet, I suppose. I followed the formula to almost a “tea.”  It’s sans Earl Grey.  Get it?  Hehe.  There are 8 half-pints to that batch so surely Harvest Moon will be given one or two of those as well. I’m considering dedicating one of my Etsy shops (either gatheredroots or dreadlocklove) to surplus stock.  It’s just not possible for us to consume everything that’s made.  In fact, I believe we still have some of the rhubarb-mint jam from last year.  Among others…  Not only that but there’s also the I-have-my-eye-on-a-spinning-wheel-and-need-to-raise-some-funds reason.  So is there an interest for homemade preserves? And finally, I can’t be the only one to still have Cantaloupe-Vanilla on the mind, so I almost quite literally froze my ass off outside trying to get a photo. July 7, 2013 - Cantaloupe-Vanilla Jam Take my word for it, it’s even much more stunning in person. Edited to add:  I got nothing else done today.  The dishes are piled sky-high on the counter!

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