Monday, July 7, 2014

600th Post: Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

In early 2009, I started this sweet little food blog. Today, nearly 5 1/2 years later I am writing my 600th blog post. Mission: Food has come a long way from it's humble beginnings, but I feel it's still as down-to-Earth as it once was when I was a lowly culinary student.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of my readers for their constant support over the years. I write because I love it, but I share myself on this blog because of you. I'm ever grateful for each and every one of you.

Today I will be sharing a delicious seasonal recipe that will last you all year! Although I have limited experience making jam and fruit preserves (I've attempted the process only a handful of times), I'm getting better at it and also becoming more passionate about the process. I have plans to make more jam with late summer fruits!

Sherry Brooks Vinton's books have definitely helped my confidence, and I consider them to be my bibles in terms of food preservation. I've reviewed Put 'Em Up! Fruit in the past as well as sharing her blueberry jam recipe, and most recently discussed her Put 'Em Up! Preserving Answer Book.

I've come a long way from the first time I attempted strawberry jam and yielded a nearly hard-as-rock substance that was far from jam. I'm so excited to keep exploring and learning more about the process, using different fruits as they become seasonally available.

I recently went strawberry picking at a local farm and decided to make a couple different varieties of jam utilizing my pickings. Both recipes came from Vinton's Put 'Em Up! Fruit, but I'll only be sharing one today (go buy the book!). I made Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and Mixed Berry Jam using strawberries and blueberries. Both boast the incredible aroma and flavor of fresh berries and it's really hard to pick a favorite.

My dad actually prefers the Mixed Berry Jam slightly more, but I think it's because I slightly undercooked the berries, creating more of a fruit preserve rather than a jam. The consistency is a bit softer and the fruit is chunkier.

I think I prefer the Strawberry Rhubarb jam a bit more because I love the tartness from the rhubarb and the beautiful blush color. It's a bit thicker and more spreadable than the mixed berry jam (at least in my case), but both turned out fantastic in my opinion and I ended up with over 11 half-pints of jam made with freshly picked berries to last through the winter! My plans for later in the summer include hopefully making peach jam and plum jam! Stay tuned!!

PS I have found Pomona's Universal Pectin at Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma--with free shipping! It's different from other types of pectin, as it contains no sugar, preservatives or additives, and Vinton uses it for faster, lower sugar recipes. Some fruits don't contain enough natural pectin (in this case the rhubarb definitely needs it), so this pectin helps them to gel. I started out a bit hesitant about adding pectin (my grandmother never used pectin!) but I'm now a believer.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Makes about 6 cups
(From Put 'Em Up! Fruit)

2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons Pomona's Universal Pectin
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 quart strawberries (about 1 1/2 pounds), washed, stemmed, and hulled
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
2 teaspoons calcium water (from the Pomona's Universal Pectin kit)

Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, and water in a large nonreactive pot and slowing bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Simmer until the fruit has softened and released its juices, about 10 minutes, mashing occasionally with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon.

Stir in the lemon juice and calcium water. Slowly add the pectin mixture, stirring constantly to avoid clumping. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, continuing to stir constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove from the heat. Allow the jam to rest for 5 minutes, giving it an occasional gentle stir to release trapped air; it will thicken slightly. Skim off any foam.

To preserve: Refrigerate: Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Can: Ladle jam into clean, hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace between the top of the jam and lid. Run a bubble tool along the inside of the glass to release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands until they are just fingertip-tight. Process the jars by submerging them in boiling water to cover by 2 inches for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check the seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.


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