Did I fool you with my papier-mâché strawberry? Didn’t think so. But my berries were already mashed when I remembered I needed to take a photo with some rhubarb in it, so I thought I’d try to put one over on you.
Truth is, I didn’t devote a lot of time to the May options for the Tigress’s Can Jam — asparagus or rhubarb. Asparagus, being green, was immediately off my list. (I’ll eat asparagus, but I don’t like it well enough to use good jars putting it away.) I’ve been getting to know rhubarb, and my appreciation for the sturdy, fruity vegetable grows every time I see another inspiring recipe. (Witness, for example, Rhubarb With Earl Grey Tea, Cardamom, and Orange Zest at Chez Danisse and Roast Rhubarb Tart from What Julia Ate — also, just posted and oh-my-goodness, these little gluten-free rhubarb tea cakes made by chef Helen Dujardin.)
Rhubarb and I do have a promising future. This month, however, I’ve been obsessed with strawberries. I bought three flats of organic Chandlers from Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, California. (There’s still plenty of time, so get ‘em if you can.) I also got some beautiful end-of-season oranges from a neighbor’s tree. Here’s a photo of those lovely things, before the rhubarb showed up . . .
No disrespect to the rhubarb, but for this month’s Can Jam, I put it in service to my lustrous fruit and made a reduced-sugar Strawberry Rhubarb Orange Jam, using Pomona’s Pectin. I like this jam very much, and my trusty jam tasters — that is, all the friends and family on whom I could force it — have turned their thumbs uniformly up. It’s all about flavor. The strawberries are knockouts, the rhubarb is enriching, and the orange is a bright note that keeps the whole thing from getting too heavy. Finally, reducing the sugar means more intense fruit flavor overall.
The only thing I might adjust here is the texture. This jam is quite soft – not a puree, but very smooth. Some people prefer their jam to be relaxed in exactly this way. I like a more energetic jam; one that gathers itself up on the spoon and says, “Hey, look at me. This is the fruit I am.”
The soft texture may be due in part to the nature of the ingredients, but I’m guessing it’s also because I was a little bit scared of the rhubarb so I more or less smashed the hell out of it. I’m curious what would happen if I let the rhubarb soften but allowed it to retain more of its shape.
In any case, this one is a keeper.
Strawberry Rhubarb Orange Jam with Pomona’s Pectin
3 cups mashed strawberries (about 2 1/4 pounds, hulled)
3 cups softened rhubarb (about 2 1/4 pounds chopped into 1-inch pieces)
1/2 – 1 cup water
zest of 3 oranges, minced
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 teaspoons Pomona’s calcium water
3 teaspoons Pomona’s pectin powder
About Pomona’s: The calcium water mix and the pectin powder are both contained in the Pomona’s Pectin box, along with instructions for use.
1. Sterilize your jars.
2. Mash up the strawberries. I do this by putting them into a nonreactive pot over very low heat; they don’t require any added water. You can use any number of good mashing tools, but my confession is that I often scrub up like a surgeon and use my hands. They’re the best tool I’ve got, and they allow me to pull out any tough bits that might otherwise get left in the mix.
3. In a separate pot, combine the chopped rhubarb and minced orange zest, add a little bit of water, and simmer until soft and jammy looking (about 10-15 minutes).
4. While the rhubarb is simmering, measure out the sugar. Separate it into two bowls and thoroughly mix the pectin powder into one bowl. Set the other bowl aside.
5. Combine strawberries; rhubarb with orange zest; orange juice; and calcium water in your big, nonreactive pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.
6. Add the sugar with the pectin mixed in. Stir the mixture vigorously for 1-2 minutes to dissolve the pectin.
7. Add more sugar to taste, then return to the mixture to a boil and remove it from the heat.
8. Ladle the hot jam into your sterilized jars and process. I left 1/4 inch head space and processed 5 minutes, which is the appropriate time for my location. (Be sure to check the proper processing time for your elevation.) This recipe provides a good yield: 7-8 half pints.
Lots o’ berry jams going on around here this month: three kinds of strawberry plus a few versions of Blackberry Mojito:
I don’t know what I’ll do if the June ingredient for the Can Jam turns out to be strawberries. I might go ahead and faint.