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Bebop-a-rebop, Rhubarb…Jam!

Mama’s little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb.

Mama’s little baby loves rhubarb jam!

(With apologies to A Prarie Home Companion, the closest thing we have to a real 1930s-style radio show. It’s awfully hard to come up with a song title featuring rhubarb!)

Anyway, I had a real adventure in Depression-era cooking the other day. I made rhubarb jam and rosemary-olive oil sourdough bread from scratch.

I have an abundance of rhubarb this year- every couple of weeks I cut about 10 pounds of it from our established patch at the cabin, plus I have a young plant here at the house that is producing a bit this year. I have used it fresh, frozen it, canned it- you name it, I have done it this year.

The one thing I did want to try was making rhubarb jam. I haven’t bought supermarket jam in years; it is so easy to make your own. If you have never done any canning, this is probably the easiest way to start. Last summer I made peach jam and a bushel of peaches made close to a dozen pints, so I knew I would get plenty out of the rhubarb. Here’s a tutorial on raspberry jam as well.

I was hoping to find a recipe that was a little different than straight rhubarb jam, so I looked to one of my fave food bloggers and found this one: http://www.foodinjars.com/2010/04/april-can-jam-rosemary-rhubarb-jam/ with rosemary and lemon zest. I love rosemary and always have some fresh on hand, so that sounded good to me.

Her yield was 3 half pints from 4 cups chopped rhubarb. Since my 10 pounds would yield substantially more than 4 cups, I had to increase the proportions. This can be very problematic with jams and jellies, because the larger the batch, the more difficult it is to get a good set. I was originally hoping to find a recipe without added pectin, but once I saw the proportions I figured I should add some to make sure.

I ended up with close to 12 cups chopped rhubarb, so added about 7 cups sugar (just thinking about it makes my teeth hurt, but rhubarb always needs a lot of sugar) one lemon’s worth of zest, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Chop the rhubarb. Make sure you use only the stems, as the leaves of the plant are poisonous. 

Put the rhubarb in a stock pot with the sugar. Allow it to sit (without turning it on) for about half an hour until the sugar starts to liquefy.

Add rosemary sprigs and any other seasoning (I also threw in some whole coriander). 

Cook for 30-45 mins until the mixture begins to look like jam, but not real thick.

Add one envelope of pectin and stir while boiling for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon zest.

Fill clean warm jars, leaving about a half inch of headspace. I removed the large sprigs of rosemary, but didn’t go to any great lengths to remove the smaller bits. (My family will no doubt complain about “pine needles” in the jam, LOL)

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Remove from the water and listen for the seals to set. My yield was 5 pints, plus two smaller jars for gift giving.

I spread it on some fresh rosemary-olive oil sourdough bread I made the same day. I was really busy in the kitchen that day, but it was so worth it! The jam came out really well- the rosemary flavor is very subtle and the lemon zest very bright. If I make this again, I might use only half the lemon zest. Rhubarb has a very citrus-y flavor as it is, so I’m not sure it’s even necessary to add the lemon.


Background Reading: The Depression and 2012

As we begin the1930sproject, here is a great article that recently appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It has a lot of background information on the Depression, including some first person accounts. (Like all first person remembrances, however, please be sure to view them through the lens of time, and know that they may not be an accurate portrayal of historical fact.) That said, there are also some interesting parallels to the present day which makes this project very relevant for out time.



Just a quick update to announce that the project will begin in August of 2012, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise! (Because life and such got in the way last summer, including a flood…)

I have not forgotten about the 1930sproject, nor have I stopped thinking about the past and our perspectives on it. Beginning in January 2012, I will begin a series of background posts exploring many aspects of Depression-era life. These topics will include social history, entertainment, economics and homemaking. All will lead up to the true beginning of the project, living a Depression-era lifestyle, in late summer.

Please join me for the adventure!

Begin the Beguine

Hello, welcome to The 1930s Project.

This is the beginning of my journey home.

I have always admired my Grandparents’ generation. They were born in the first decades of the 20th Century, were children during the Great War, came of age in the Jazz-era 1920s and began families in the depths of the Depression of the 1930s. They survived WWII and the Cold War, living their American lives, with families, careers and hobbies just like most others of their time.

I am struck with how different the 21st Century is, and what it is shaping up to be. Just two generations removed from living off the land, we are more familiar with computers, cell phones, hybrid vehicles and 1080p HDTV than the life cycles of birth and death, spring and fall, renewal and decay.

The question for me has always been: How can I recapture the lessons of the past, and live a life that honors those values, captures the essence of my history and still be relevant to a modern world.

I don’t know how to answer that until I have lived in the past, as fully as possible.

So for two weeks in August, 2011, I will attempt to live a life based in the Depression-era times of the 1930s. I will undertake a journey to understand what a woman in my position in 2011 would feel as a woman of 1936. I am going to base my experiences largely on what I have learned about my grandmothers, and what would have been fairly common experiences for most lower-middle class wives and mothers at the time. 

The posts leading up to the experiment will explore the background research I am doing, my own personal history, and some of the resources I have found to help make this project as authentic as possible.

I do not harbor any romanticized notions at the outset. I am well aware that there were, and are, significant struggles underlying much of what flotsam of history we choose to view through the lens of nostalgia. I am searching for the truth, the hard reality of the time and whether I could have made it.