A few days ago, I noticed that our rhubarb plant had grown a lot since I harvested about half of the stalks in the spring. I knew that I was supposed to leave some of the stalks as they were so that it would be a strong plant next year (I do not know why, but I read that somewhere!), so I cut about half, determined to make my first batch of jam.
Part of this was because I made a bit of a resolution to myself to try to cook one thing new each week in my kitchen—to both expand my repertoire when we're eating a lot of the same produce (cucumbers, squash, tomatoes), but also to keep things interesting. The other part of my jam-making motivation was because I was feeling a little left out of the canning that was happening in my house. Josh is a professor which means he gets his summer days at home, so he has already put up 12 quarts of pickles, 12 half pints of relish, and 6 quarts of pickled beets. I wanted in on the fun!
Also, for the record, if ever you should make relish, do yourself a favor and open the windows—otherwise you will feel like you are living in a vat of brine.
Okay, back to the point.
Armed with my fresh rhubarb, plus some that I had frozen in the spring, I went in search of strawberries. Obviously, the main reason to can is to put up fresh local produce. But since strawberries are out of season around here, and I had my heart set on strawberry rhubarb jam, I compromised with organic berries (that were on sale!) from Trader Joes. Blasphemy, I know.
I adapted the Strawberry Rhubarb Jam from the lovely book, Tart and Sweet, because it was simple, straight forward, and it didn't call for the whopping amount of sugar that so many jam recipes do. I didn't have the quantity of fruit that the recipe called for so I simply cut it in half.
I have to say that if you're in the market for a canning book, I highly recommend Tart and Sweet: 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen. The recipes are organized by season and there is a lovely assortment of recipes that range from classic (Strawberry Rhubarb) to unique (Ginger Cardamom Nectarine Jam) and practical (Canned Whole Berries). And as I mentioned, the recipes don't rely on sugar for sweetness, but on the fruit and herbs and spices, which sounds about right to me.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Adapted from Tart and Sweet
Canning is a little intimidating so I recommend reading through the steps from a reliable source (the two links below are very comprehensive, as is the cookbook) a few times before you get started. You can also make this and freeze it or simply use it fresh. I highly recommend it as a topping for vanilla ice cream!
Makes 6 (ish) half pints
2 quarts strawberries
1.5 lbs rhubarb
1.5 cups of sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1. Hull and chop your strawberries and chop your rhubarb into thin slices. Place into a large pot with the sugar and the lemon juice. Place three spoons into the freezer.
2. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer for about an hour. Stir regularly to prevent scorching and try to skim off as much foam as you can (it's a little hard, but do your best).
3. Meanwhile, bring your large canning pot filled with water to a boil and prepare your jars.
4. After about an hour, start testing your jam using your spoons.
5. When it's done, ladle into your prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, wipe and tighten the lids. If there is any that doesn't fill up a jar completely, store it in the fridge and plan to use it within a week or so.
6. Process the jars for ten minutes, then let cool before storing.