Beer and I have a pretty great relationship. If we are spending the evening together I promise not to cheat on it with a glass of wine or a cocktail and it promises to not make me feel seasick the day after. It is the perfect accompaniment to a football match, a night of Indian food, or to an early evening spent on a dock up at a cottage.
If I get tired of a certain brew, it offers me different options. Here in Munich the options are mostly local and although Helles dominates the Biergarten scene, I can always switch to Pils, Weissbier, Dunkel and, during Munich's most infamous time of year, Oktoberfestbier. When I am outside of Germany I make a point of drinking ales instead of lagers. I'll be heading home to Canada this summer where I'll be drinking pale ales, bitters and - a favourite that most Bavarians would dismiss as just not beer - St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale.
At first our relationship was more about having a cold glass of beer as opposed to cooking with it, but then I made mussels in white Belgian beer instead of white wine and I realized that beer is good for so much more than just drinking. This was a few years ago and now I almost always make mussels with white beer (with the exception of some good cidre brut from Normandy now and then). However, I am still taking baby steps when it comes to cooking sweets or baking with beer. Heidi Swanson taught me to use beer instead of water when making a pie crust and Katie Quinn Davies taught me to use Guinness when baking a chocolate cake.
Now Paul Virant has taught me to use beer when making jam - rhubarb jam to be more precise. Based on the name along - Rhubarb-Beer Jam - my expectations were high (hello, two things I love dearly). The recipe, however, delivered. I am assuming that there is some kind of magical/chemical reaction that takes place with the beer and the rhubarb as after you bring the two to a simmer you leave the mixture to hang-out in your fridge anywhere from overnight to 5 days. I halved the original recipe as our pantry can only hold so many preserves, but use the original if you want a larger batch.
So far I have mostly been eating the jam with its classic match: toast. It tastes wonderful with some pecorino romano slivered on top and I bet it would easily befriend some barbecued lamb.
adapted from Paul Virant's 'The Preservation Kitchen' via the Tasting Table
makes about 3 1/2 pint jars
1 1/2 pounds (680 grams, about 4 1/2 cups) rhubarb
1 1/2 cups (375ml) wheat beer
3/4 cup (170 grams) sugar
zest and juice of half a lemon
Wash the rhubarb and cut it into small to medium chunks.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot combine all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least overnight or up to 5 days.
Using a sieve, pour the rhubarb liquid into a pot. Set aside the chunks of rhubarb. Bring the rhubarb liquid to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until it reaches 215F (102C), about 12 minutes. Add the reserved chunks of rhubarb and continue to cook until the mixture returns to 215F (102C), about 10 minutes.
While the jam cooks, sterilize three clean jars for canning in a large pot of boiling water. When the jam is just about ready, remove the jars from the water with tongs and place upside down on a tea towel to drain. Throw the lids into the hot water in the meantime. Fill the jars with jam, leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Wipe the jar clean, remove the lids from the hot water, dry them and then secure the lids on the jars.
Return jars to a pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let the jars rest in the hot water for 5 minutes. Remove and place the jars on the counter to cool undisturbed.