Do you know what media training is? If you don’t, it’s when they teach people to behave on television and radio. They work with politicians, business executives, and, of course, in this day and age, they work with a lot people (and I mean, a lot…) that are involved in corporate and celebrity crisis control. But there’s a special group of media trainers that teach you how to cook on television, which is trickier than just sitting there getting grilled by Stephen Colbert, I’m sure of that.
Cooking on tv is much harder, because instead of just sitting there having a casual chat, you need to be fielding all sorts of goofy questions at the same time as measuring out and explaining fourteen different ingredients to the weatherman, wondering where that damn spatula is and how you’re going to fold egg whites without one, cursing yourself because you forgot to turn off your cell which is vibrating like mad in your back pocket, trying to get the name of the book you’re supposed to be promoting into the conversation when the seriously-skinny host only wants to talk about her diet, and watching out of the corner of your eye because the camera crew is impatiently waiting for you to finish so they can pounce on your brownies.
About ten years ago I had media training, a one-on-one weekend where it was just me and the media trainer—who basically yelled at me for 48 hours, non-stop.
In fact, I think he blew out my left eardrum.
He wasn’t doing it to be mean: think of it like boot camp. Because when you have five minutes at the end of the morning news program to make two desserts, which gets cut down to 84 seconds at the last moment because some war broke out or a local kid got his head stuck in a sewer grill down on Main Street (which, for some reason, they seem to think is far more news-worthy than your chocolate cake or pumpkin cookies), you’d better be prepared.
On television, you need to be ready for the worst because no matter how prepared you are, it’s going to happen and you’re going to be asked the questions that you least want to be asked. They have an instinct for finding them, then lobbying it at you at 6:45am. And when 7.3 million viewers are watching you, if you don’t have an instant answer ready while frosting that cake or trying to figure out where the chocolate sauce is (you left it in the green room, and the staff is surely attacking it), you’re sunk.
To prove the point, the media trainer showed me a tape of a woman about to make a rhubarb pie on a morning news show. She’s confident and well-prepared and just as she’s about to start, the host with the pancake make-up, gleaming-white teeth and the cheap suit looks at her, looks at her table of perfectly-prepped ingredients, and says; “Rhubarb?! I hate rhubarb! I once tasted it and…bleech!….it was the worse thing I ever put in my mouth. It was disgusting! God, I hate rhubarb…”
Yet for the next 3:30 excruciating minutes, the poor dear has to make a rhubarb pie and promote her book while the host makes faces and jokes about what she was making. (Me? I would’ve told the dude to beat it and grabbed the pert, always-ready-with-a-quip weather gal with the nice gazongas.) But there you are, and you’re kind of trapped and have to make the best of it.
So here’s a recipe for Rhubarb-Berry Jam. If you don’t like rhubarb, I’m not going to convince you to make it. (And it doesn’t matter anyway, since I can’t see you. So if you want to make faces or annoying noises, knock yourself out.) But it’s very easy to make and economical; one big bunch of rhubarb and a couple of handfuls of berries and voilà, you’ve got jam.
Although typically strawberries get paired with rhubarb, I think it’s more interesting to add stronger-flavored and darker-colored berries, which I did here. And who knows? The bright red color might turn the tide for rhubarb-haters, and perhaps this jam can train them to do otherwise.
5 one cup (250ml) jars
Even though strawberries are the classic accompaniment with rhubarb, I find more assertive berries, like raspberries, to be better. I used a mix of many this time around, with black and red currants, raspberries, blackberries, and diced strawberries, just because I had some on hand. So use whatever you wish, and frozen berries work just as well.
Because rhubarb doesn’t have much pectin, and I don’t use commercial pectin, I’ll often add apple juice which helps the jam to set nicely.
- 3 pounds (1.25kg) rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch (2cm) pieces
- 2 cups (250g) packed mixed berries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup (250ml) water or apple juice
- 5 1/2 cups (1kg, plus 100g) sugar
- juice of one lemon
- pinch of salt
- optional: 1 tablespoon kirsch
1. In a large pot, mix the rhubarb, berries, and the water or apple juice. Cook, covered, stirring frequently over moderate heat, until the rhubarb is cooked through and thoroughly tender. It should take about 15 minutes.
Put a small plate in the freezer.
2. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and salt, and cook, uncovered, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface, until the jam is thick and passes the wrinkle test.
To do so, place a small spoonful of the jam on the frozen plate. Return it to the freezer and check it a few minutes later; if the jam wrinkles when nudged, it’s done. You can also use a candy thermometer; jam jells at approximately 220F (104C).
3. Stir in the kirsch, if using, then ladle the jam into clean jars, cover, and store in the refrigerator.
Note: I don’t process most jams since I eat them within a few months and keep them in the refrigerator. If you wish to process them, check out Practical Canning Tips.
Related Posts and Recipes:
Roasted Rhubarb (Wednesday Chef)
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pâte de Fruit (Tartlette)
Rhubarb Pie with Lattice Crust (Michael Ruhlman)
Rhubarb-Grapefruit Preserves (Wednesday Chef)
Rhubarb Tart (Amateur Gourmet)
Rhubarb Jam & Jelly (Kitchen Parade)
Rhubarb Cobbler (Smitten Kitchen)
Rhubarb Sorbet (Simply Recipes)