Friday, June 28, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Recipe, Homemade Jam, Rhubarb Recipes
After a visit to my husband's parents' home in North Dakota, we came home with a bag full of bright red stalks of rhubarb, freshly cut from their garden.  His mom had made a couple of strawberry rhubarb pies for our visit, the sweet-tart combination being one of my husband's favorites.

Better than pie, though, is my Rhubarb Crumble and Custard that's just so incredibly delicious with the warm rhubarb filling, the salted, buttery, crunchy crumble topping and the cool and creamy vanilla bean custard that's served on the side instead of ice cream.  But I knew that the first thing I was going to make with our rhubarb would be jam.

Jam-making is one of my favorite things, and whatever the time of year, I make lots of jam with fresh, seasonal fruit (please excuse the awful photos in these old posts - in spite of the photos, though, the jam recipes are solid).  There was a batch of Apricot Peach Preserves, with the stone fruit we'd brought back from one of our weekend trips to Palisade, Colorado.  Over the winter I made Cranberry Orange Preserves, one of my dad's favorites.  Other summers, Cranberry Blueberry Jam, Strawberry Apricot Jam, Red Currant Blackberry Jelly, Sweet Black Cherry Jam.  And in the fall, slowly-simmered Apple Butter with lots of warm spices.  Homemade jam really is one of the most homey treats there is.

I love jam on biscuits, swirled into yogurt, or with a simple piece of pound cake served with jam and whipped cream.  I even love it on crackers, and if you've never spooned jam onto a cracker with a piece of cheese, you really should.  The other night as I was making dinner, I nibbled on a few crackers with goat gouda cheese and little spoonfuls of this strawberry rhubarb jam, and it was fantastic.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Recipe, Homemade Jam, Rhubarb Recipes

My dad loves my homemade jam, too, and I decided to send him a jar for Father's Day.  So after we arrived home from the long drive from North Dakota back to Colorado, I spent the following evening making a big batch of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, so that it would be ready to get a package in the mail the next day.  Everything was covered with sticky jammy goodness - the kitchen counters, my stock pot, my favorite wooden spoon, my hands, my apron...  But after standing over a boiling pot of jam, trying not to get burned from the splatters, filling the jars and processing them in their water bath and getting all that stickiness wiped up, I tasted a spoonful of the jam and it was all worth the effort to taste that fresh flavor of summer.

We now grow rhubarb in our backyard, and as soon as it's ready to harvest, I make a fresh batch of strawberry rhubarb jam, which is my three-year-old's favorite for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Recipe, Homemade Jam, Rhubarb Recipes

Preservation Methods and Pectin

While I've taken the time to can my jam in a water bath in past years, these days my preferred method of preservation is to freeze the jars of jam.  This is not to say that this recipe is considered "freezer jam", because it's not.  I've tried freezer pectin, and I really, really dislike the taste of the powdered freezer pectin (as well as the uncooked method of freezer jam), so I always use classic powdered pectin in my recipes, and all my jam recipes require cooking the fruit on the stove.

To preserve my jam in the freezer, I simply fill clean glass jars with the cooked jam, leaving about 1/4 inch of "headspace" at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.  I allow the jars to cool to room temperature, and then stash them in the freezer.  It's that easy!  Of course, if your freezer is too small to hold a winter's supply of jam, or you plan to give it away as gifts, it's worth learning how to can your jam in a water bath so that it can be safely stored at room temperature.

So, what is pectin?  Pectin is a type of starch that's found naturally in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables.  Some fruits are higher in pectin than others, so the amount of pectin called for in a jam recipe will vary greatly, depending on the fruit.  Pectin is available commercially in powdered and liquid form, and when combined with sugar and acid, pectin is what causes jam to gel.

Now, if you prefer to not use pectin in your jam, you have a couple of options for thickening the jam without pectin. Without a thickening agent for jam made of very ripe fruit that contains very little pectin (such as strawberries or peaches), you'll need to simmer the fruit on the stove for a much longer time, letting the juice reduce until the jam is the thickness and consistency that you like.  I've done this many times - usually when I happen to be out of pectin and can't be bothered with a trip to the grocery store - and while still delicious, making no-pectin jam tends to result in a softer set, more runny jam than the gelled consistency we're used to from store-bought jam.  I'd consider this more of a compote than a jam.  Which is perfectly fine for spooning over muffins, biscuits, cake, yogurt or ice cream, but isn't ideal for sandwiches, unless you don't mind a drippy peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Another option is to add a small amount of fruit that's high in pectin (such as a green apple), to contribute natural pectin to the jam.  Peel and finely dice the apple (so that you don't get large visible chunks of apple in your jam), and add it to the saucepan to simmer with the fruit.  The apple won't alter the flavor of your jam very much, and should help it to thicken and set.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Recipe, Homemade Jam, Rhubarb Recipes

About my Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Recipe

Strawberries and rhubarb are a classic combination.  Rhubarb is very tart, and needs sugar to be palatable, so it pairs beautifully with the sweetness of strawberries.  Depending on what I have on hand, I've made my strawberry rhubarb jam with varying ratios of strawberries to rhubarb, and they all work, so it just comes down to what you prefer.  I've found that I prefer a ratio of two parts strawberries to one part rhubarb, for a perfectly sweet-tart jam.

The lemon zest and juice enhances the flavors of the fruit, as well as adds some additional natural pectin to the jam.

Use classic powdered pectin.  I use and prefer the Ball brand, but other brands should work just fine as long as they are labelled "classic", and not freezer or low-sugar versions.

The amount of sugar may seem like a lot, but really it's just right.  Not only does the sugar add sweetness, but it preserves the fruit as well, so reducing the sugar will also reduce the jam's shelf life.  If you plan to only make a small batch and eat it quickly, then by all means feel free to reduce the sugar if you feel so inclined.

This recipe makes a lot of jam (about 10-11 half-pint jars), but it can easily be cut in half or fourths for a smaller batch.

If you like, you can get fancy and add a little spice like cinnamon or cloves or even vanilla extract, which I do sometimes, but without any spices, the flavor of the fruit really shines.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Recipe, Homemade Jam, Rhubarb Recipes

You might also like...

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
printable recipe
  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled, washed and chopped
  • 1 pound chopped rhubarb (the leaves are toxic and should be discarded)
  • juice and zest of 2 small lemons
  • 6 tablespoons classic pectin
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
In a large stock pot, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice and zest.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the rhubarb is softened and beginning to break down.  Mash the fruit slightly, or leave it chunky, whichever you like.

Gradually stir in the pectin.  Increase heat to high and stir constantly (while wearing oven mitts to protect against splatter burns), and bring to a boil. 

Dump all the sugar in at once.  Continue stirring  constantly to return to a vigorous boil that can't be stirred down.  Boil hard for one minute. 

Remove from the heat.  Stir in the butter (to reduce any foaminess).
Ladle into clean glass canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch "headspace" at the top, to allow for expansion.  Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth, center the lids on the jars, and screw on the rings "fingertip tight".

Process in a water bath according to standard canning procedures, or alternatively, you can simply freeze the jars.  Any jam put into the refrigerator should be consumed within 1-2 months.
    Yields about 10-11 half-pint jars.

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen


    1. Thanks for the jam recipe, Heather! Glenn's on vacation next week & mentioned just last night that he wants to make strawberry rhubarb jam like he does every summer. He's anxious to try your recipe! Love to you both!

    2. Wow, a man who makes jam! I hope you guys like it!


    I love comments, and I read and appreciate every single one. Please review my comment policy under my Baking & Blog FAQs page.