A few years ago, I really “got into” making jams, relishes, and other canned preserves. What has held back my enthusiasm more recently is 1) I couldn’t eat all that jam, jelly or what have you, and 2) canning took a significant chunk out of my day or evening and involved a non-trivial amount of labor. Last year, I got a hankering for strawberry rhubarb jam, so I tried a simple idea of adapting a strawberry jam recipe, adding the rhubarb, cooking it into a proper jam consistency, and freezing it instead of canning. The procedure was effective and gave delicious results, so I made it again this year.
This recipe is not without its own significant time consumption. The jam takes at least an hour to an hour and a half to cook. But it’s so delicious! It tastes of sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb all at the same time. It has a soft consistency, maybe not has tightly gelled as store-bought jam, but that just makes it even more suitable for dolloping onto vanilla ice cream.
The ingredient list is short: just strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice and sugar. I used roughly equal portions of rhubarb and strawberries, but I think you could vary that depending on what you have on hand. I use about an equal volume of sugar to fruit, which really seems like a lot of sugar, I know. Most traditional jams and jellies rely on this much sugar, however, for their texture and safety in preservation. Perhaps, since this is a freezer jam, it could be made less sugary, but I like the way it comes out so well now that I don’t want to mess with it.
This would be a good introduction to jam-making if you’ve always wanted to give it a shot. It doesn’t require any unusual ingredients (between you and me, you could use bottled lemon juice for convenience). The procedures are simple, too: mix everything up and cook it on the stove, then freeze when it’s done. It only makes about 4 to 5 cups of jam, so you don’t have to make new friends just to get rid of it all. Just be careful around that boiling sugar mixture, which is dangerously hot, and be sure not to wander too far away. I got a little cocky and tried to do some computer work while my jam was boiling and it boiled over. (Don’t do this.)
But this jam is delicious enough to overlook a few extra messes, no matter how embarrassing they may be. And it really is easy enough to make you look forward to the next stalks of rhubarb and cartons of strawberries you can get your hands on.
Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer JamBased on recipes and techniques in The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard
I used roughly equal parts strawberries and rhubarb. You can vary the ratio depending on what you have available.
4 cups mixed chopped strawberries and rhubarb¼ cup lemon juice
4 cups white granulated sugar
1. Place one or two small plates in the freezer. (This will be used to test whether your jam is done.) Combine the ingredients in a medium to large saucepan. Stir well to distribute the sugar.
2. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves. As the sugar dissolves, the berries and rhubarb will release their juices making a more liquid mixture.
3. Bring to a boil and continue cooking at a moderate boil about 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Be sure to watch your pan vigilantly (I didn’t) or it can easily boil over (like mine did). To test whether your jam is done, that is it forms a gel, remove one of the plates from the freezer. Pour a small spoonful of jam onto the plate and let it stand for 15-30 seconds or so. Tilt the plate to allow the jam to flow. If it flows slowly and thickly, the jam is done. If it runs off to plate quickly, continue cooking. Begin testing after about an hour of cooking.
4. When the jam is as thick as you desire, remove the saucepan from the heat. Let cool for 30 minutes or so. Spoon or pour into jars for the refrigerator or into freezer-containers. Freeze or refrigerate. (I put about half of my jam in the refrigerator for more immediate eating and half in the freezer for later.)
Makes 4-5 cups.
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