It is clear that there is enormous satisfaction and a sense of wellbeing to be gained from shelves full of neatly labelled jars filled with a range of jewel-coloured jams, jellies, chutneys and sauces. Home-made jams and preserves are a defence against the dark fruitless days of winter, a taste of summer and a great gift for friends and family all year round.
Our new Vintage Words of Wisdom title is Mrs Beeton’s Jam-making and Preserves. This book includes many recipes that my mother has made over the years, including sloe gin, marmalade, pickled pears (my Dad’s favourite – fantastic with cold meats) and blackberry (bramble) jelly (my favourite – perfect with scones and clotted cream). However, Mrs Beeton seems to have missed out one of our all-time family favourites (one could say it is a family addiction) – Mum’s famous rhubarb sauce. Therefore, I have included the recipe here.
Rhubarb sauce (this recipe was originally taken from a ‘cut-out and keep’ leaflet in Woman magazine, 17 June 1972, but we have never seen it since and Mum has adapted it over the years).
Makes about 4 pints:
3 lb of rhubarb;
1 lb of raisins (using fewer raisins makes the recipe more savoury if you find it too sweet);
2 lb of brown sugar (you can use white sugar but brown sugar improves the colour);
½ pint of spiced vinegar (there is a recipe for spiced vinegar in our Mrs Beeton book but you can also buy it ready-made these days);
½ lb of red onions (optional but they make a more savoury sauce. Also, white onions are fine but red onions improve the colour).
Wash the rhubarb, trim off and discard the ends. Cut the rhubarb flesh into 1 inch lengths. Stone the raisins (seedless may be used if preferred). Dissolve the sugar in the spiced vinegar over a gentle heat, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the prepared rhubarb, raisins and onions (if you are using them) and cook gently until the mixture is thick. Put into a liquidiser and blend or pass through a sieve to form a smooth purée. Pour into warm, dry bottles or jars. Seal when cold. This sauce improves with age so resist the temptation to try it until it has sat on the shelf for a couple of months or more. If you like to re-use jam jars remember to use a jam pot cover (waxed paper or transparent) each time as, if you don’t, the acid in pickles, chutneys and sauces will gradually eat away holes in a tin jam-jar lid if it is used regularly with vinegar-based contents!
Rhubarb sauce is great with meat pies (for example, corned beef tart or Cornish pasties), lovely with quiche and other cheese dishes, and it makes a fantastic sandwich with some liver sausage or other cold meat. It even works with smoked mackerel or other strongly flavoured fish. It is very brown but absolutely delicious!
Image attributions: Marmalade by Amanda Slater [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Rhubarb sauce: poster’s own image.