On Pentecost I am reminded that the Holy Spirit often comes like a mighty rushing wind, a burning fire of conviction, blowing up my assumptions daily, telling me to walk beyond my experiences and understanding of the world, to meet people where they are, as they are—to listen and speak with an open and tender heart instead of an insecure and arrogant one, forsaking my comfort for the benefit of others, speaking in ways that they can understand, instead of the other way around. – from A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together
Just about every year, around the time of Pentecost Sunday, my friend Nancy in Alaska sends out a message that her Rhubarb is ready for pickin and who would like some?
And just about every year, if I remember, I raise my hand and jump up and down and say Me! Me! Me!
Which makes me giggle a bit because many moons ago, I HATED rhubarb.
The year I began sixth grade my family moved to Juneau Alaska, lock, stock, southern roots and all.
Now, we all know that adolescence is hard enough without throwing a cross-culture move into the mix.
And if you don’t think that moving from Florida to Alaska in the mid-80’s was a cross-cultural, well come over for coffee sometime and let me fill you in.
Because to my little 12-year-old heart and mind, we might have well just moved to the moon.
And I HATED it.
And I HATED everything that was the least bit “Southeast Alaska.”
Glaciers, Bald Eagles, Hiking, Salmon, Snow Boots, Gold Mining, Rain, Totem Poles, and Rhubarb.
When we first moved it seemed as if rhubarb was in every coffee cake, every pie, every piece of everything that the people in our church served us, and I was sick to death of it.
Of course I eventually grew to love Juneau and lots of things “Southeast Alaska” (though I am still not a huge of salmon or hiking) and I am so proud of how the culture there shaped and changed me, how it opened my eyes and then my heart to different ways of living, different streams of faith, different ideas of what “success” looks like.
And I eventually learned to love rhubarb.
When I was writing the chapter on Pentecost in my first book A Homemade Year, I knew that I wanted to do something to bring both my Southern and my Alaskan roots together. After all Pentecost is a celebration of this very thing – of the ways in the which the Holy Spirit unites us all, falling into our lives and stirring us together like kitchen sink soup.
One of the traditional symbols of Pentecost is the Tongues of Fire from Acts 2, so as a little play on words I decided to create a pepper jelly (a favorite condiment here in the south,) using rhubarb as the base.
I adore how this recipe came out – it is such the perfect mix of tangy and sweet with just enough heat.
Rumor has it that there is a package of fresh rhubarb on its way to me right now.. Maybe I will whip myself up a batch this weekend just in time for Pentecost on Sunday…
Rhubarb Pepper Jelly
To sterilize jelly jars, lids, and screw bands, begin by bathing them in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water and set aside to dry. Prepare your work surface. You will need a large-mouthed funnel, a pair of tongs, at least 1 hot pad and 1 kitchen towel and 2 trivets to set the hot pans on.
Next, fill a small saucepan with ½ cup of water. Place on burner. Layer lid inserts, bottoms facing up in saucepan, and turn heat onto medium heat. When your pot of lids has begun to boil, you can remove it from the heat at this point and place it near your washed and dried jars. You will need tongs to remove lids from the hot water individually when the time comes.
8 small to medium jalapeño peppers (stems and seeds removed), rinsed
1 small red or green bell pepper with seeds removed (optional)
4 cups chopped rhubarb stalks
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup white grape juice
6 cups sugar
1 1.75-ounce box of dry pectin ( I prefer Sure-Jell®)
Chop rhubarb into ½-inch thick pieces.
Dice bell pepper into very small pieces and set aside.
Mince jalapenos using food processor (you should have about ½ cup of chopped jalapenos).
Add jalapenos and rhubarb to a large non-stick stock pot.
Over medium heat bring rhubarb and peppers to a boil, stirring continuously (the water in the rhubarb will create a liquid that will boil).
Cook until peppers and rhubarb are completely broken down, resembling the consistency of applesauce.
Add in liquid ingredients, bell pepper, and then pectin; bring back to a boil over high heat.
Quickly add sugar, stirring to dissolve.
Bring to a full heavy rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring continuously.
Remove from heat; quickly skim off any foam.
Fill sterile jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids and rings.
If the jelly is hot enough the lids will seal, but to be safe, immerse them in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.
Use tongs to carefully lift finished jars from water and let the jars rest on a towel until cool.
(If you are new to the canning process, I strongly suggest visiting the website PickYourOwn.Com, which has wonderful tips, conversion charts, and repair tricks for when things don’t quite gel. In my experience jelly making is as temperamental as baking and it never hurts to have a good resource to turn to for help.)
Rhubarb Pepper Jelly served her with Jamaican Hard Bread and Spicy Cajun Breakfast Casserole, are additional recipes are in A Homemade Year and would make a great Pentecost Brunch.
Here is to learning to opening our hearts and minds (and taste buds!) to things outside our comfort zone this Pentecost –