This batch was the first strawberry-rhubarb jam I’ve ever made. My Mom makes it every year and hers is delicious, so I’ve never needed to make any; I get a steady supply from Maine. So why make some this year? Well, because the idea was put in my head by a sweet girl I know (looking at you, Miss M!), and I was drowning in rhubarb. I toyed with the idea of adding a twist, maybe vanilla or mint to differentiate my recipe from Mom’s, but decided to keep it straightforward, and I’m glad I did. It’s so good “plain”, doesn’t need any bells or whistles.
I looked at a few recipes before settling on this one, which I adapted from The Rhubarb Compendium. When researching jam recipes, I am drawn to those I can modify easily to work with Pomona’s pectin and less sugar than traditional recipes. I considered using even less than I did, but worried about the set of the jam, which depends heavily on sugar, and that it would be palatable to others; I love, and crave, the sourness of rhubarb and prefer to eat it with very little sugar, but I know that I am in the minority there. I wanted to give a more realistic idea of a universally tasty jam recipe in case anyone wants to make some of their own, which I hope you will! I know many folks are lucky to have fresh strawberries available now in addition to rhubarb, and I encourage you to give this jam a go if you’re even a little tempted. If you are (like me) still waiting for local strawberries, don’t despair: I used last summer’s frozen berries and have no regrets. They were perfect, sweet and firm, going into the freezer last June and worked very well with fresh rhubarb in this jam. There’s no reason you couldn’t use frozen rhubarb, too.
I made four rhubarb recipes over the weekend: rhubarb ketchup (adapted from this recipe), rhubeena from Tigress in a Jam (unbelievable color and flavor!), rhubarb-rosewater jam (recipe to come) and this strawberry-rhubarb jam. Each of my rhubarb projects was exciting to me and turned out well, but this jam makes me especially happy. I feel like I did my Mom proud. I am excited to share it with her, and other special folks in my life, and that’s really the best reason to make jam.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (makes about 10 half-pints)
- 2 lbs. rhubarb, washed and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
- 6 c. sugar, divided
- 1/4 c. lemon juice
- 4 c. strawberries*, fresh or frozen
- pinch of salt (optional)
- 4 tsp. Pomona’s universal pectin
- 4 tsp. calcium water (comes in the box with Pomona’s)
Day 1: Mix the chopped rhubarb and 3 c. sugar together. Cover the mixture and leave at room temperature overnight, in a cool area, for at least 8 hours and up to 24. The rhubarb pieces should be swimming in a syrup when they’re ready to go.
Day 2: Start your water bath boiling and sterilize your jars. This was a quick-cooking jam for me, so don’t begin the jam until your water is hot and your jars are ready. In a non-reactive Dutch oven or preserving pan, combine the rhubarb, all the syrup it produced (scrape that bowl!), strawberries, lemon juice, salt and calcium water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. While it heats, thoroughly mix the remaining 3 c. sugar with the pectin powder and have it ready, near the stove. When the fruit starts to boil, pour in the sugar mixture all at once and whisk steadily until it is dissolved. Increase the heat and allow your mixture to come to a steady, rolling boil while you stir frequently to prevent sticking/burning. Skim off the foam that comes to the surface and try to stir toward the middle. (Avoid the temptation of scraping sugar crystals from the pan sides if you want “perfect” jam. It will crystallize in the jars.) Cook the jam for about 5 mins. at a full rolling boil. At that point, I noticed without having to do any tests that my jam was setting, but if you’re uncertain, try either the sheeting or cold plate test.
When you are happy with the gel of your jam, ladle it into jars, wipe the rims, affix the flat and screw lids and water bath process for 10 mins. Make sure your 10 mins. start from the moment the water bath reaches a rolling boil with the jars inside. After processing, remove the jars from the water bath to a towel-lined counter space and leave them alone for 24 hours. Check to make sure they are sealed; any unsealed jars should be eaten immediately or stored in the fridge. If sealed properly, your strawberry-rhubarb jam will be shelf-stable for up to a year.
*The frozen strawberries I used were small, so I didn’t cut them. I like large chunks of fruit in my jam, almost more like preserves. If you have large fresh strawberries, you can halve, quarter or slice them. If you like a uniformly-consistent jam, use a potato masher to mash the fruit together during the initial boil, before you add the sugar-pectin mixture.