Rhubarb Jam and Semolina Crackers

These are the first two recipes we’ve tried from the Di Bruno Bros House of Cheese book. I’ll summarize the recipes here, but for full versions, I recommend consulting the book.

Semolina crackers with sea salt

We started with the semolina crackers because it just seemed practical to have our own crackers around rather than needing to buy them at the store. Not to mention, it’s gratifying making our own so that we know exactly what the ingredients are.

Per the recipe, I mixed 1 1/2 cup semonlina flour, 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour, and 1 tsp kosher salt, then added 1 cup warm water and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. I used the bread hook attachment on a stand mixer to knead for about 7 minutes, then divided the dough into 4 pieces and refrigerated it for about an hour.

Since the dough is half semolina flour and half all-purpose flour, it makes for a great, stretchy texture. I rolled each piece of dough as thin as I could get it, poked holes in it with a fork, brushed it with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt (and/or other seasonings), and baked it on a cookie sheet at 350˚F for 20 minutes (rotating once after 10 minutes).

The recipe made enough for four cookie sheets worth, so I made them a little differently each time. One was topped with just sea salt, another with both salt and black pepper, one was with salt and cayenne pepper, and one was with salt and rosemary.

Mine were kind of unevenly shaped, but once you break them into pieces it doesn’t matter much what they look like. We end up going through these pretty quickly, so I find myself making these several times per month, trying new toppings each time.

Semolina crackers in progress

As for the rhubarb jam, we thought we’d try it  while rhubarb was in season. One of the ingredients is grenadine, and it turns out we just made our own homemade grenadine.

Our grenadine recipe is from Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails by Katie Loeb, a Philadelphia local. We used the “cold process” method and halved the recipe, which basically involved mixing 1 cup of pomegranate juice (we used POM) and 1 1/4 cups raw sugar, shaking the heck out of it until all the sugar was dissolved, and adding 1/2 tablespoon of orange blossom water. (It also has 1/2 oz high proof vodka to make it shelf-stable.) The orange blossom water is key to its fantastic flavor. Since our homemade grenadine doesn’t use any artificial colors, it’s not as bright red as store-bought grenadine, so it doesn’t quite produce the same color effect, but it tastes way better.

For the jam, I used one stalk of fresh rhubarb from Rineer Farm via Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market, which yielded about 1 cup of rhubarb, chopped. I cut the original recipe into a third, so I used 1/3 cup raw sugar and 1 tablespoon grenadine. The whole mixture cooks at low heat for 20 minutes, at which point the sugar is dissolved and the rhubarb is mushy. After that I blended the mixture with a stick immersion blender, poured it into a jar, and put it in the refrigerator. With my reduced portions, it only yielded about 1/2 cup, but that’s just right for me & Tom.

Madame Fromage recommends pairing this rhubarb jam with goat cheese. So far we’ve tried it with a variety of cheeses as well as just on its own with toast and we love it. Again, that orange blossom water from the grenadine just imparts such a wonderful flavor. I didn’t use any gelatin, yet the jam still has some structure and is not too saucy. Nor is it too sweet, it’s just right. I highly recommend it as an easy refrigerator jam.

It’s been fun to start trying the recipes from the House of Cheese book, in addition to regularly consulting the book for cheese suggestions and wine pairings.