Barley Scones with Rhubarb-Ginger Jam

Stranger than fiction

I’m a terrible shopper when traveling. Fortunately, the Gardener is not. Other husbands may bring home gifts of meat. Much like the Will Ferrell character in the movie Stranger than Fiction, mine brings me flours. There was buckwheat flour from a trip to Switzerland, a bag of farro flour from Italy, and barley flour from Iceland. As I recall, each was put to use in making pasta — buckwheat pizzoccheri, farro cavatelli, and barley orecchiette. More recently, delving deeper into baking has expanded my way of thinking about these less common or, as Hank Shaw calls them, alternate flours.

Rhubarb-Ginger Barley Scones

While in Reykjavik this spring, we visited the natural food store that the barley flour had originally come from. We found that they no longer carried it, with the explanation that though the barley flour was locally grown and produced in Iceland, their customers preferred organic, even if it was imported. Still, barley, along with rye, is one of the few cultivated crops that can thrive in Iceland’s rugged climate. In New England, there are few small grower/producers of barley flour to be found, one such is Four Star Farms in Massachusetts. Mostly, I look to Fiddler’s Green Farm, based in Maine; most of the grains are sourced from away, however, they are ground fresh and by the order.

Rhubarb-Ginger Barley SconesRhubarb-Ginger Barley Scones

When confronted with a flour I’m unfamiliar with, I often turn to Kim Boyce’s  Good to the Grain as a start. I’m always searching for ways to use home preserves, and her recipe for Strawberry Barley Scones is easy to adapt to kind of jam. Rhubarb is a traditional ingredient in Icelandic cooking, particularly preserved as a jam, and seemed an apt pairing with the barley flour.

Rhubarb-Ginger Barley Scones

In terms of preserving, rhubarb presents an curious ingredient to make jam from. It’s a vegetable, but acidic enough to be safely processed in a boiling water bath. Though naturally low in pectin, rhubarb’s acidity also allows it to gel without adding more pectin. Macerating the rhubarb with sugar further strengthens the set by drawing water away from the pectin, making room for their molecules to unite.

Rhubarb-Ginger Barley Scones

For a more vibrant hue, choose a red variety of rhubarb, one that will cook up true to color. The ginger is an optional addition, and the next time I may grate it up for more of a flavor punch. Do watch the jam as it simmers; it can become volcanic, as the jam on my kitchen ceiling will attest. It’s not the first time I’ve had to scrape jam off it, and, alas, probably not the last.

As for the barley scones, Boyce’s lovely recipe can be found here, and are exactly as she describes — distinctly sweet and creamy, a contrasting foil to the tang of the rhubarb jam. In addition to the barley flour, some all-purpose flour adds structure. Don’t skimp on the jam; a half cup will seem like a lot, but evens out as the scones bake. I skipped the melted butter at the end and, instead, brushed the tops with buttermilk before baking. For an even more Icelandic touch, use skyr in place of the buttermilk, and serve with whipped cream on the side.

Rhubarb-Ginger Jam

2 pounds rhubarb stalks, chopped into ½ inch pieces
3 cups sugar, up to 4 cups for a sweeter jam
2-inch piece of ginger, cut into 4 to 5 pieces crosswise

– Mix all ingredients together in a non-aluminum bowl, and let sit overnight, 12 to 36 hours, until sugar has dissolved and juices form.
– Drain rhubarb juices into a sauce pan, set the rhubarb aside. Pick out the ginger pieces and add to the saucepan with the juices.
– Bring the juices to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the rhubarb, and continue simmering for 15 minutes, until thickened. Remove ginger pieces before ladling in jars.
– Store in refrigerator or process in jars for 10 minutes, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Makes about 4 cups or half-pints.

Adapted from “The Breakfast Book” by Marion Cunningham.

Local ingredients: Organic barley flour from Fiddler’s Green Farm; organic cultured butter from Casco Bay Butter; homemade buttermilk from Harris Farm milk; egg from Meadow’s Mirth; rhubarb from the garden.

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10 Responses to Barley Scones with Rhubarb-Ginger Jam

  1. Annie says:

    A very wise Gardener he is to bring you flours as he is greatly rewarded with your culinary skills. I’ve enjoyed rhubarb in every possible way except jam. This will be my next food project.

    • leduesorelle says:

      The Gardener supported me through cooking school very many years ago, knowing that exact same thing!

  2. katrina says:

    Oh – this is lovely! I haven’t use barley so much, but it is a tenderizing flour to use in recipes – as well as face washes ( stirring a bit of barley flour into water and massaging into the skin). Love the layering of jam into the scone dough.

    • leduesorelle says:

      Funny how barley flour fell out of favor — hopefully we’ll be seeing more of it as local farmers expand their grain growing!

  3. Christina says:

    Hey! Foods make the best presents!!!!

    • leduesorelle says:

      Absolutely agree with you! Unfortunately, we’ve found that gifts of meat tend to get confiscated at the border…

  4. Thanks for the local shopping options.

    • leduesorelle says:

      Loved the idea that we’ve much the same growing challenges as Iceland, and am intrigued by how easy it is to localize their food to ours.

  5. kate @ bbf. says:

    Mmm… I am behind, have yet to make any rhubarb jams. Might make bluebarb, using up last years frozen blueberries. And thanks for reminding me of Stranger Than Fiction, I love that movie.

  6. Simona says:

    I have been using barley flour for some time as I get it in my grain CSA box. I like adding it here and there to wheat flour. Love the photo of chopped rhubarb. I have a neighbor who gives it to me, but our season starts later. Great looking scones! Skyr is on my to-do list. I like it — though usually I add a bit of yogurt as it is a bit too dense for me.

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