Taste of Spring Jam

I made jam again today. I know I did a post on jam a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t resist the strawberries and rhubarb at the local produce farm. I have been wanting to do something with rhubarb for a while, but I wasn’t sure I really even liked it. So I combined it with strawberries and made jam. Why mess with a classic combination?

I decided to can the jam since I am still eating the peach and strawberry preserves I made a few weeks back. I didn’t want to take up freezer space with the jam, so the only choice was canning. And then I would also have the option of using the jam for Christmas presents. Canning is relatively easy, even if you have never done it before. It really is a matter of boiling your filled jars in a water bath for the recommended time. Now this holds true for jams, jellies and pickles. Some things can’t be canned safely without a pressure canner, which I don’t have. If you are exploring canning, check a reliable source, like your local university extension or the Ball canning website to make sure you are using reliable and up-to-date directions. You don’t want to make anyone sick with your kitchen efforts.

I diced up my rhubarb and sliced the strawberries and mixed them with sugar. I think I might have used too much sugar, but I was afraid the rhubarb would be too sour without it. I must say I wasn’t too fond of the smell of the rhubarb cooking, but once the strawberries got going, everything smelled like roses strawberries. My jam wasn’t getting thick, and I forgot to get any pectin at the store (not that I have any experience with pectin, but I know what it is supposed to do). I know apples have pectin, especially in the peels, and I already had two kinds of fruit in my jam, so I chopped an apple in my mini food processor and added it to the mix. Another 15 minutes’ cooking and I was happy with my jam. It was sweet and tart and thick enough to spread on toast, though not as thick as commercial jam.

I washed and sterilized the jars while the jam was cooking and then filled the hot jars with the hot jam. I used my stockpot to process them, since I don’t have a canner (and forgot to borrow my mom’s last time I saw my parents). This was easier since I was using short, half-pint jars, which didn’t require the depth of the canner to make sure they were covered in water. Ten minutes to come to a boil, ten minutes boiling and my jam is now (hopefully) germ-free and vacuum-sealed to be shelf safe. Now it just needs to cool its heels in the basement and wait to be a taste of spring in the winter. I also made a few jars of plain strawberry jam to enjoy right now, as soon as fresh strawberry season is over. I canned those too, but I don’t think they will make it to winter!

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
from The Cook’s Life
5-6 ½-pint jars

3 large stalks rhubarb, diced (about 3 cups of ½-inch pieces)
2 pints strawberries, sliced (about 6 cups)
½-1 cup sugar, to taste
1 apple, UNPEELED, cored and chopped fine in a food processor

Combine rhubarb, strawberries and ½ cup sugar in a 3-quart, or larger, saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Add the chopped apple and continue cooking for another 15 minutes, or until desired thickness.Taste for sweetness and add up to ½ cup more sugar, if desired. Jam will taste less sweet when cool.

If eating within a week or two, you don’t need to can the jam. Ladle the hot jam into clean canning jars and close the lids. Let the jars cool on the counter until they are room temperature. The lids may pop, which signals a vacuum seal has formed, but they aren’t shelf stable unless you process them in a boiling water bath. Store in the refrigerator once the jars are cool. Or store in the freezer for longer storage.

*To can your jam:

Wash your canning jars, lids and rings. Sterilize the jars by boiling them in water for 10 minutes. Use your canner or stockpot to sterilize the jars and then you can use the same water for the processing water bath later. Leave the jars in the hot water until you are ready to fill them. Boil the flat lids for 10 minutes and leave them in the hot water until you are ready to use them.

Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars and wipe the edges clean of any spilled jam. Put the lids on top, and screw the rings onto the jars, but only finger tight. Place the jars in a canner or a stockpot and fill it with water until the jars are submerged by at least an inch.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Keep the water at a steady boil for 10 minutes. Keep the lid on so your water doesn’t evaporate below the tops of the jars. Carefully remove hot jars and place on a towel to cool, undisturbed. Once the jars are cool, the lids should not move up and down when you press on them, indicating the vacuum has been formed. If any jars have not formed a seal, store them in the fridge and eat them within a week or two, just like unprocessed jam. Your canned jam should last about a year, stored in a cool dark place. Refrigerate the jam after opening.

*Check out the Ball canning website for all the details on home canning.

Download the recipe here.