I find this story delightful. Gentlemen in the early 1800s vying for the bragging rights to being the inventor of rhubarb jam.
1837 -The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement Volume 13
1838 - The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement Volume 14
Rhubarb Jelly and Jam. (p. 395.)—I see, by the last Number of the Gardener's Magazine, that Mr. Joseph Johnson of Northenden, Cheshire, is giving himself much uneasiness about the rhubarb jelly, and evidently wishes to be considered the original inventor of it. He may be; but I do not see what right he has to say that I got the hint at Manchester. Such was not the case. Indeed, I never heard of such an article till June, 1837, when we were making a trial of a tart of Buck's new early scarlet rhubarb, the juice of which was quite as high-coloured as that of red currants. Finding this, I suggested the making a trial of it as jelly, which was done on the 16th of June, 1837. Afterwards, it was tried in the form of jam; and both turned out uncommonly well, and in both instances the colour was preserved fully as rich and clear as that made from red currants. On the 20th of October, 1837 (three months after the date of the paper noticed in your Magazine, July 19. 1837), I visited Manchester; and some rhubarb jelly was then shown me by Mr. Campbell, probably the remains of the jar given him by Mr. Johnson. The sample shown was made with green rhubarb and brown sugar; and I suppose it was from this frightful specimen that Mr. Johnson supposes that I was led to the making of it. If so, I beg to inform him that he was never more mistaken. I was lately informed by a gentlemen from Shetland, and which I state for Mr. Johnson's information, that the practice of making jelly from green rhubarb has been carried on there for many years; as, unless the seasons are fine, no other preserve can be made. — J.M'Nab, Edinburgh, Aug. 20, 1838.
[Mr. M'Nab sent us, with this communication, pots of both the jelly and the jam. The latter was most excellent, having a beautiful colour, and a fine flavour: the former was equally good in colour and flavour, but it had not formed a jelly, being of the consistence of rich syrup.— Cond.]
1839 -The Gardener's Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement Volume 15
Rhubarb Jam. (Vol. XIV. p. 541.) —
Rhubarb Jam. (Vol. XIV. p. 541.) —
In the last Number of the Gardener's Magazine (p. 541.), we are favoured with a fresh illustration of the stale subject, rhubarb jam, which we thought had gone quietly to rest; but opinions run counter, and the candour of your correspondent has laid us under the necessity of showing the credence of his statement, and the degree of consistency on which his pretensions to the discovery are founded. I am cognisant of the facts, and will, with your permission, lay them before your readers.
It is true that Mr. Johnson sent me a jar of rhubarb jam in the summer of 1836, also a verbal statement of the manner in which it was prepared. It was the first sample of the kind I had seen, and I requested he would have the goodness to send you the particulars for the Gardener's Magazine. It was his wish that so desirable an article should have publicity; but he had some intentions that summer to visit London, and meant to present you with a sample.
Mr. J. M'Nab paid us a visit in the autumn of 1837, and the " frightful composition of green rhubarb and brown sugar" which he experimented on, was none of Mr. Johnson's, but ours. He was informed of this fact at the time, though he found it convenient to state the contrary; and, as we see no particular reason why Mr. Johnson should monopolize the credit which is due to us for that delightful specimen, we invite any of your readers who take an interest in such matters to a fair trial of the ingredients; the result will not disappoint them.
In Vol. XIII. p. 460., Mr. M'Nab has the " sole merit of introducing this novelty." Mr. Johnson allows (Vol. XIV. p. 395.) " that he might have the credit of introducing the jam into Scotland, but that the suggestion which led to his making the trial was his, for "I had informed him ;" a positive fact on the part of Mr. Johnson, though Mr. J. M'Nab declares he never heard of any thing of the kind, till the blushing virtues of his tart demonstration of 1837 furnished him a clue to the invention; but let it not be lost sight of, that he is silent as the grave respecting his visit to this place on his return from the Sheffield exhibition in the autumn of 1836.
Why, let us ask, could he not favour the public with a portion of his gleanings on that occasion? It was inconvenient to hint at the subject, and we appreciate the motive; for it was on that visit I informed him of the sample of rhubarb jam which was sent me that summer, and of the manner in which (I was told) it was prepared. Will he deny this fact, of which he made a memorandum on the spot?
I refer him to his note-book; and, if farther proof be necessary, I will verify my statement on oath. Mr. Johnson's receipt is simply this: To one pound of rhubarb stalks, cut as if for a tart, add one pound of lump or brown sugar, boil till the ingredients are well blended, and acquire the proper consistence. We need not trouble your readers with the details necessary in making jelly; but may remark that ginger (not ground) and candied lemon, boiled in the jelly or jam, is a decided improvement. Jelly of a superior quality has been made in this neighbourhood in this manner. Buck's rhubarb has the preference in point of colour, but in no other quality that we are aware of. — Alexander Campbell, BotanicGarden, Manchester, Nov. 19. 1838.
1858 (an American Publication)
The Practical Fruit, Flower and Vegetable Gardener's Companion: With Calendar
The stalks of Buck's Early and the Elford are of a bright scarlet color, which they retain even when forced in the dark; and they are at the same time tender and of delicate flavor. Excellent jam and jelly have been made from these by Mr. James M'Nab, of the Horticultural Society's Garden, Edinburgh.
Below are recipes for rhubarb jam from before the men invented it...
The Cottager's monthly visitor
Something tells me the gentlemen having the discussion about who was first with a rhubarb jam would get an amused glance from many cooks!
The Cook and Housekeeper's Complete and Universal Dictionary: Including a System of Modern Cookery, in All Its Various Branches, Adapted to the Use of Private Families : Also a Variety of Original and Valuable Information, Relative to Baking, Brewing, Carving ... and Every Other Subject Connected with Domestic Economy
RHUBARB PIE. Peel the stalks of the plant, cut them about an inch long, put them into a dish with moist sugar, a little water and lemon peel. Put on the crust, and bake it in a moderate oven.
RHUBARB PUDDING. Put four dozen clean sticks of rhubarb into a stewpan, with the peel of a lemon, a bit of cinnamon, two cloves, and as much moist sugar as will sweeten it. Set it over the fire, and reduce it to a marmalade. Pass it through a hair sieve, then add the peel of a lemon, half a nutmeg grated, a quarter of a pound of good butter, the yolks of four eggs, and one white, and mix all well together. Line a pie dish with good puff paste, put in the mixture, and bake it half an hour. This will make a good spring pudding.
RHUBARB SAUCE. To make a mock gooseberry-sauce for mackarel, reduce three dozen sticks of rhubarb to a marmalade, and sweeten it with moist sugar. Pass it through a hair sieve, and serve it up in a boat.
—Mock gooseberry-fool is made of rhubarb marmalade, prepared as for a pudding. Add a pint of good thick cream, serve it up in glasses, or in a deep dish. If wanted in a shape, dissolve two ounces of isinglass in a little water, strain it through a tammis, and when nearly cold put it to the cream. Pour it into a jelly mould, and when set, turn it out into a dish, and serve it up plain.
RHUBARB SHERBET. Boil six or eight sticks of clean rhubarb in a quart of water, ten minutes. Strain the liquor through a tammis into a jug, with the peel of a lemon cut very thin, and two table-spoonfuls of clarified sugar. Let it stand five • or six hours, and it will be fit to drink.
RHUBARB SOUP. There are various ways of dressing garden rhubarb, which serves as an excellent substitute for spring fruit. Peel and well wash four dozen sticks of rhubarb, blanch it in water three or four minutes, drain it on a sieve, and put it into a stewpan with two sliced onions, a carrot, an ounce of lean ham, and a good bit of butter. Let it stew gently over a slow fire till tender, then put in two quarts of rich soup, to which add two or three ounces of bread crumbs, and boil it about fifteen minutes. Skim off all the fat, season with salt and cayenne, pass it through a tammis, and serve it up with fried bread. (Tamis is the modern spelling: a drum sieve)
RHUBARB TART. Cut the stalks in lengths of four or five inches, and take off the thin skin. Lay them in a dish, pour on a thin syrup of sugar and water, cover them with another dish, and let it simmer very slowly for an hour on a hot hearth; or put the rhubarb into a block-tin saucepan, and simmer it over the fire. When cold, make it into a tart; the baking of the crust will be sufficient, if the rhubarb be quite tender.