I didn’t know anything about agar when I first made this jam after a week’s holiday at l’Ile aux Coudres in Quebec, Canada. I had never lived by the sea and knew nothing about seaweed.
Ile aux Coudres is a charming little island in the Gulf of St-Lawrence, 6km from the main land. It is home to about 1200 people, all French speaking. Formerly, porpoise fishing was practiced on a broad basis, supplemented by some boat construction. Today tourism is the main industry, and the place is known for its historical sites, tourist accommodations, and craftsmen.
(Pictures from www.tourisme-charlevois.com)
L’Ile aux Coudres is also a popular destination for cyclists. The scenery is really picturesque with old wooden boats beached years ago, century old houses & farm buildings, and loads of wild roses growing everywhere ! I have found heritage roses that look similar in nurseries but I was never able to find a variety that equals them in perfume !
(Pictures from www.tourisme-charlevois.com)
To get to l’Ile aux Coudres, one needs to take the ferry from St-Joseph de la Rive (a small locality on the mainland). This is where I had my first taste (and obtained the recipe) of the jam. We stayed overnight in a very comfortable and quaint B & B decorated with all things maritime and in the morning, a scrumptious breakfast of fruits, breads, jams & cheese with lovely juices & coffee was served. The rhubarb jam was delicious: a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, the crunchiness of the nuts and the golden colour of the peels & ginger. It was the perfect garnish for a warm croissant or French stick !
I transformed the original recipe a bit as I wanted to reduce the sugar and keep the colour vibrant. I didn’t want to cook it long because the rhubarb breaks down and looses its colour. Agar, a natural red seaweed extract, made it possible to get the right texture even though rhubarb is low in natural pectin. I also reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe. Agar is flavourless and becomes gelatinous when it’s dissolved in liquid, heated, and then cooled. Agar gels more firmly than gelatine, and generally sets at room temperature. Click the link for tips about using agar.
Here’s the recipe for the marmalade:
RHUBARB,ORANGE & GINGER MARMALADE
(Makes 4 x 150ml jars)
450g of fresh rhubarb cut into 3cm pieces
300ml orange juice (without pulp)
300g caster sugar
2g Pacific Harvest Agar powder (1 flat tbsp)
50g store bought glace citrus peels (or the finely grated zest of one orange)
3cm piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
30g chopped macadamia nuts
First, mix the juice and the sugar in a pot and sprinkle with the agar. Stir to combine with a whisk and let stand for 10 minutes for the agar to re-hydrate. This is a very important step, because it activates the agar’s gelling capabilities.
Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook gently until the sugar and the agar have dissolved.
Add the grated ginger and citrus peel/zest.
Continue to cook for 25 minutes to increase the syrup density.
While the syrup is simmering, chop the macadamia nuts and slowly roast them in a pan. Careful ! Macadamia nuts burn easily…but roasting them to a nice golden brown releases their flavour. If you live in New Zealand, call on Cathedral Cove Macadamia near Hahei in Coromandel, they have their own orchard.
Add the cut rhubarb and the nuts to the syrup and continue simmering for another 5 minutes, just long enough for the rhubarb to soften and get bright colours.
Ladle into hot canning jars, seal and cool down. You may have to turn the jars a few times during the cooling process so the ingredients disperse evenly. The marmalade will set at room temperature.
Now…time to taste ! Enjoy 🙂
Click the link to read about Pacific Harvest’s Agar.
Agar is a positive alternative to gelatine and has 10 times the gelling power of its animal counterpart. Do not worry if you find that you need to adjust your recipe when you make it for the first time. Agar is different to gelatine in that you can put everything back in the pot and adjust the quantities – a little more agar if the mixture is not thick enough, or more liquid if it is too solid ! Also, like gelatine, agar will break down and not set if exposed to the enzymes of certain raw fruits, such as kiwi fruit, papayas, pineapple, peaches, mangos, guavas, and figs. These fruits can still be used in agar recipes but must be cooked first.
Agar is considered to be a functional food in term of its beneficial contribution to balanced nutrition. It has virtually no calories and is fat free, is very high in fibre (75-80%) and has a beneficial effect on digestion. Being a seaweed extract, it contains minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin Bs, while being very low sodium. It has a good satiating ability (as agar’s indigestible fibre absorbs and retains water resulting in a feeling of fullness) and a purifying action on the body, making it great for weight reduction. Agar also has a mild laxative effect.