The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Racy thoughts on rhubarb jam

Rachael Conlin Levy

The rhubarb keeps growing, its dark leaves nearing the size of cafeteria trays as its stalks thicken and redden, reminding me of stiff penises.  I slice them off, smiling in amusement at the connection, one that I cannot share with my husband nor sons unless I wish to see them cringe and clutch themselves. But still I smile, this time a bit wickedly as the sun slips in the sky and the yard glows green and glitters, imagining I am the wicked witch in Oz.


I have given bags of rhubarb to neighbors, frozen some, converted more into compote, and processed another five pounds into jam, a grapefruit-and-rhubarb combination that tastes like a sunny morning. This weekend I plan to challenge the family with a new recipe of braising brisket with honey and rhubarb. But despite my aggressive harvesting the rhubarb is endless, the thick rhizomes thriving under the hills of mulch and manure I unwittingly piled on top of them in the fall. Oh, well, at least this part of the yard is growing while the front’s conversion from lawn to vegetables has me chewing my lip over seedlings that sprout and then yellow.


Though I fret, I am enjoying this discovery of my new house, the secrets being revealed outside and in. I have delighted at the apple tree blossoms’ change from pink to white before falling like snow, and I have heard others’ voices echoing in small, dark corners as I discover handwritten notes that share the home’s history.



In the late afternoon the backyard beckons, and I decide dinner will be late so that I may spend time on the stoop, drinking a glass of wine and eating a bagel slathered with jam made from ruby-red stalks grown right here, because, you know, there is no place like home.


Rhubarb Grapefruit Preserves
Adapted from “Chez Panisse Fruit” by Alice Waters.

2 pounds rhubarb
2 grapefruit
4 cups sugar

Wash the rhubarb and cut it into 1/2 inch chunks. Zest the grapefruit’s rind, or peel and then chop finely. Put the rhubarb, zest and sugar in a pot, and juice the grapefruits over it. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve and the rhubarb to release its juice.

Sterilize 5 8-ounce canning jars and lids, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Put a small plate in the freezer to be used later to test the consistency of the jam.

Bring the pot of fruit to a boil over high heat, stirring to prevent it from sticking. Skim off any foam. Cook the jam, stirring often as it thickens. Begin testing its consistency by putting small spoonfuls of jam on the cold plate, which allows it to cool quickly in order to determine its thickness. When the jam has cooked to your preference, turn off the heat and ladle the jam into the prepared canning jars, allowing at least 1/4 inch of headroom. Seal with the lids according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Makes 5 cups.

2 responses to “Racy thoughts on rhubarb jam”

  1. anno says:

    Maybe you haven’t tamed the beast, but it does sound as if you’ve come to terms with it. That grapefruit-rhubarb preserve sounds amazing; might even convert the haters out there…

  2. I agree, there is no place like home. Cheers to you for taking that time on the stoop. It seems pretty close to perfect.

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