The French almost spoiled rhubarb for me forever. There are very few foods on my “do not eat” list, and rhubarb was on there. I couldn’t fathom why anyone wanted to eat what I perceived to be a tart version of celery. I only eat that when it is chopped finely like a mirepoix. No ants on log in this house.
But I like to test my dislikes every now and again. So on a trip to Paris a few years ago, I gave it a try as a dessert choice during prix fixe three-course meal. Stewed. That should have given it away. It tasted like tart limp celery.
Fortunately, the relentless press of rhubarb recipes in the late spring caught my eye a year ago and I gave it a try again – chopped finely and paired with strawberries in a crisp or crumble. The fine chop eliminates my texture issue, while the tart flavor pairs deliciously with strawberries.
Now, when it comes into season I buy it. I don’t always know how I am going to prepare it, but I buy it anyway. It keeps for a bit, like celery, so you can wait for inspiration. In my case, it came in the form of Tuesday night dinner. My beau was coming over and he has a sweet tooth (as do both my daughter and I). I temporarily exhausted the chocolate category for his birthday.
Borrowing a recipe from Food52, I chopped up 1 pound rhubarb, 1 pound strawberries and added them to a pot with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and let it sit for an hour. Then I brought it to a boil and simmered for about 20 minutes, until it was nice and thick. I put into into jars, add lids, and refrigerate until ready to use. I dollop spoonfuls in my yogurt in the morning and put it on ice cream at night. It’s strawberry jam at the next level.
For our dessert, the strawberry rhubarb jam topped a fluffy cheesecake baked in a Mason jar, a recipe I adapted from Martha Stewart. I made a few minor alterations.
I can tell you I converted two rhubarb haters into lovers, both asking for some extra jam to top their cheesecakes as they dug in.Cheesecake an a Jar
This seems like a lot of eggs compared to my normal cheesecake recipe, which calls for 1 egg per 8 ounces of cream cheese. The eggs make it fluffy instead of dense, which is perfect in these jars.
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 4 ounces mascarpone or sour cream (1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon fruit preserves or jam
- 6 6-ounce jars
- 4 chocolate or regular graham crackers
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Fill a small pot or a teakettle with water and get it ready to boil. You are going to bake these cheesecakes in a bain marie (water bath) to keep the temperature even.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and mascarpone (or sour cream) until smooth with an electric mixer. Add sugar and beat until it is fully incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Mix in salt (1/4 teaspoon), lemon juice and vanilla.
Divide batter among six 6-ounce jars, filling each about half full first then using any remaining batter to even them out.
Put a baking dish large enough to hold the jars, a 9×9 square dish will work, on the middle rack in the heated oven. Place jars in the baking dish. Fill the dish with boiling water until about halfway up the side of the jars.
Cover with foil that has had 4-6 large slits cut into it to vent. Bake until set in the center, about 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool. Refrigerate overnight to set.
You can serve these the same day, as I did, by gradually changing the hot water to cold once the cheesecakes are baked. When you remove them from the oven, place the hot pan in the sink. Remove foil. Add tepid water to the dish to gradually lower the temperature. Once the dish has the tepid water in it, gradually add ice cubes to chill down the cheesecakes. Go slowly – don’t dump a bunch of ice all in at one time, or you risk cracking the baking dish and the cheesecake jars. Add ice as it melts. They should be ready to eat in about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, turn graham crackers into crumbs in either a blender or food processor (or buy crumbs). Add sugar and pulse several times to combine. Then add melted butter and process until just incorporated. Spread onto a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.
When cheesecakes are ready to serve, spoon some preserves on top and sprinkle with graham topping. Place any extra preserves and topping in separate bowls and serve along with the cheesecakes so guests can replenish as they scoop out the cheesecake.
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