Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, it’s summer! At least that is how we have been feeling after this spring that felt more like winter for a while there. I’ve been doing a lot of walking, discovering new parts of Cologne, because what better time than to explore your own city than when the weather is favorable?
I’ve walked from one extreme of the city to the other and must say that after seeing so much of it as a pedestrian, I’m liking it a lot more than before. I think I have better feeling of the spirit that each of our 86 boroughs (known as “Veedel” in the local Kölsch dialect) have and I think I may have to move somewhere where green is more accessible than where I currently live if I end up staying here for longer. I love my Veedel, but sadly it’s not the greenest of all (unless you take into consideration people’s voting preferences, then yes, it’s brightly green).
I’ve also been doing a lot of grocery shopping on the local open-air market, where you can get fruits and vegetables much cheaper than at the supermarket. We’ve been eating strawberries and asparagus galore and loving it so much. After taking a break from it for a while, I also decided to cook my own jam. For one, it’s fun, and you also get to control what’s in it, particularly the amount of sugar and fruit quality.
And now I give you, rhubarb-strawberry-vanilla jam. So easy, so delicious, you’ll want to lather someone or something with it and then lick off every last drop, because you won’t want to waste anything. Promise! By the way, I used a gelling sugar that requires you to use only three parts fruit and just one part sugar, and suggest you follow suit. There is already so much sugar in fruit anyway, no need to overdo it when cooking jam out of it! Plus, these make really great personal gifts, it’s never too early to start planning for Christmas, no? I’m sure I’ll be repeating this process with other fruits as the warm season progresses. I’m thinking of peaches and mangoes, or apples and pumpkins with cinnamon. Yum, yum, yum!
one kilo fresh, ripe strawberries
500g fresh, ripe rhubarb
one or two vanilla bean pods – depending on how much emphasis you want to put on this flavor
1 package gelling sugar (make sure it’s gluten-free! I used one that requires three parts fruits and one part sugar, as opposed to a product that requires a relationship of 1:2 or 1:1 – which means so much more sugar!)
Six or seven glass jam jars with a capacity to hold about 200ml jam
Wash the rhubarb, cut off the stems and chop into even pieces.
Set up a large pot on your stove and add about 50 ml of water (just to make sure the fruit doesn’t stick or burn to the bottom of the stove). Add the fruit (all of it) and bring the pot to a boil. Then let simmer, stirring every once in a while, until the fruit pieces fall apart into a liquid soup. This may take about half an hour to forty-five minutes, depending on the ripeness of your fruit. Finally, cut open the vanilla bean pod from the side, and gently scrape off the seeds using the back of a knife. Stiry the vanilla seeds into the fruit.
Then, add the gelling sugar, whilst constantly stirring and boil for as long as the package specifies. (Mine was about five minutes)
Fill another pot with water and bring to a boil. Take off the lids of all your jam jars. Set up a textile kitchen towel on your kitchen counter, somewhere near the pot with water. Once the water starts boiling, begin disinfecting the jam jars, by immersing them into the water (e.g. using a tablespoon) for about sixty seconds. Still using a tablespoon or another helper, remove jam jar from boiling water and the water within them, and place onto the kitchen towel (upside down is best, so that any excess water can drain from them). Repeat with the remainder of your jam jars and their lids.
Then (while the jam jars are still hot), using a second textile kitchen towel or an oven mitt, begin filling the jars with jam. Screw on the lid tightly and turn the jam jar upside down and place back on the kitchen towel, where you should leave it until it is entirely cooled down prior to turning over one final time.Once the jam jars have cooled down, you can store them in a cold, dry and dark place for up to one year! Or just eat it right away. Because, you know, you’ve kinda been waiting for this moment all along, go!