Rhubarb and ginger jam

Rhubarb and ginger jam on a cracker. Rhubarb from our garden is green, and so is the jam made from it.

Rhubarb from our garden is green, and so is the jam made from it.

I have a lot on my mind right now with changes coming at work that are likely to affect G.’s and my lifestyle. It’s odd, you would think that I couldn’t have a worse schedule. I work Friday to Tuesday and most holidays. Typically, I go to Wisconsin on Tuesday nights and then return to Chicago on Friday mornings.

That’s actually not so bad. But, on Sunday afternoon, as soon as I get off work, I hop on a train that takes me part-way to Milwaukee, G. picks me up at the station and then we drive the rest of the way so that we can get to our dance class that night. After class, we turn around and drive 45 minutes back to G.’s. I spend the night there, and then in the morning, I get the train back to Chicago. So, on Sundays, I spend three hours on a train and in a car to get to dance. On Monday mornings, I spend another two hours on the train. That sucks.

But, I am afraid to give it up. We dance at a bar in Milwaukee every other Wednesday, and we have dance class. If we lost class, how much would we dance?

In theory, we should be practicing a lot at home because G. built the dance floor in the barn, but we haven’t. I think that’s partly because he was sick for almost a year with sinus infections. Finally, he seems to be doing better after this second surgery. It’s also because we often have errands we have to run together at night because I don’t have a car to run them during the day. I think I need to get a car. It’s been three years since I sold mine, and I don’t need one at all in Chicago, but being in Wisconsin without one is a pain in the ass.

The other issue is that we need dance lessons to get better. If we scrap group lessons, we will need private ones, and our teacher has been doing less and less of those. We will have to convince her that she needs to work us into her schedule.

I also worry we will no longer be able to go to Saturday dances in Wisconsin. We initially gave those up when I moved to Chicago, but then we were so sad after a year, that we started going again. Getting there also involves crazy commuting: I get off work on Saturday afternoon and hop a different train, Amtrak, to Milwaukee. G. picks me up there, and we drive west to the dance. After the dance, he drives me back to Chicago so I can be at work at  7 a.m.

The thing is, though, there’s only six of those dances a year, and we can get to them. If my schedule changes, we might not be able to. And I worry we will be sad like we were the first year.

And so, with all of this on my mind, I spent yesterday morning making rhubarb and ginger jam. Cooking is good when you’re worried because you can think while doing something, so it doesn’t seem like you are obsessing, even though you are. Rice pudding is a great thing to make during fretful times because it involves a lot of stirring, which provides plenty of thinking time.

Jam is a little more complicated, but I had rhubarb to use, and there was a decent amount of stirring and waiting to be done while it cooked down and got ready to set. If  you are worried and need to spend some time in the kitchen, here’s the recipe, slightly adapted, from Sally Cameron’s Grow It, Cook It:

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

1.5 kilograms rhubarb, chopped
1.5 kilograms sugar
juice of 2 lemons
60 grams ginger, peeled and chopped
25 grams butter

Combine rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice in a stock pan and bring to a slow boil. Cook, stirring until the fruit releases its liquid and begins to break down.

Add ginger. Continue to cook over medium to low heat until the jam has cooked down, stirring as needed.

Test to see if jam has set. I do this by stick a dollop on a plate and setting it briefly in the freezer. If the jam then wrinkles when you touch it, it’s done.

Stir in butter. Skim any foam off the top.

Seal in a rolling water bath, leaving 1/4-inch head space in the jars and boiling for 15 minutes. This makes 9 half-pints with some leftover.

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