Twelve pies and counting: storing a spring harvest

Overwhelmed by the 15 pounds of rhubarb I had so excitedly purchased at the farmers' market on Saturday, I put down my rolling pin last night. After 7 pies (5 of which I sold at Mac's Seafood in Truro, the other 2 of which I tucked into the freezer), I could not face the prospect of another round of homemade dough.

I turned instead to my trusted canning book. A clear product of the eighties, it features the bouffant hairdos and tasty recipes of Sue Deeming and her husband Bill. Canning is a compendium of both techniques and recipes for everything from cinnamon rings to piccalilli.

Rhubarb is not left out. While I was planning to make jam, the index yielded something even better: pie filling. The happy couple recommends giving it as a gift, but judging by the appetite for pie in my house, it seems unlikely the jars will make it out.

This morning, 5 red tinged jars greeted me, sitting upside down to seal on the kitchen counter. After testing the seal, I tucked them into the basement pantry alongside the beach plum jelly and strawberry jam. Come November, I'm sure it will seem like quite a treat to crack one open and roll out another round of crust.


Makes 5 pints

Follow basic canning sterilization procedures for 5 pint jars. Cut up 12 cups rhubarb (about 5 pounds) and mix in a large sauce pot with 2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup orange juice (optional). Let stand for 15 minutes, or until juices begin to run.

Heat on medium, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to boil. Insert a candy thermometer, and continue boiling until the mixture reaches about 212 degrees (be patient; this can take a while).

Turn off heat and add 1 cup sugar mixed well with 1/4 - 1/2 cup cornstarch (the recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but I think this makes it too thick once it has set). Turn on heat again until the mixture returns to 212 degrees. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Label and store.


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