When I first started writing about jam making, I was blogging with a wonderful group of folks who were so excited about jamming and canning that we were willing to try just about anything. We filled our preserve recipes with herbs and flowers and chiles and every other kind of ingredient within the bounds of safety. I invented concoctions like clementine almond lime marmalade and knocked myself out trying (unsuccessfully) to artfully suspend nasturtium flowers in apple mint nasturtium jelly. I made big, messy failures like garlic and green chile never-again jelly. When I think of all that, it makes me laugh. We had such a good time and we learned so much from each other.
Now it’s seven years later and I still love making jam, but what I want to do is keep it simple. Right now, I want to be with what spring is doing, and strawberry rhubarb jam is a spring staple. Rhubarb just showed up in the market and I discovered this new use for the side compartment of my day pack . . .
You see, only two stalks! Plus just a pound of sweet strawberries.
As a base for this little batch of strawberry rhubarb jam, I used Linda Ziedrich’s small-batch strawberry jam from her book, The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. I added the rhubarb and increased the sugar to ensure that the jam would still set properly. Strawberries and rhubarb are both low-pectin fruits so the sugar is important for a good set and an appealing texture, but there’s no need to overdo it. The level of sweetness in this batch is right for me but, if you wanted, you could probably tick down the sugar a bit and still get good results by cooking the jam down until it’s the thickness you like.
A single-pint batch is a good amount for a couple of regular jam eaters like Stewart and me to keep in the fridge for a few weeks. This recipe is mostly about what we want to eat, but I was also thinking of a friend who told me last week that she’d like to make jam but feels intimidated by the process. This is the kind of recipe I’d write for her: full of spring flavor and color with just a few ingredients and no need to can anything. Just make it and eat it up.
Mini-Batch Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
1 pound strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1/2 pound rhubarb, sliced into approximately 1/2″ cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Put a small plate in the freezer to test the jam for doneness later.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover, and let sit in the fridge for 4-24 hours, whatever suits your schedule. Give it enough time for the juices to release into the sugar.
3. Pour the mixture into a 12″ nonreactive skillet (not aluminum, cast iron, or unlined copper) or another nonreactive pot that’s fairly shallow and wide with a heavy bottom. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring as needed to keep the jam from sticking. (Toward the end of the cooking process, you can turn the heat down to medium if it seems like the mixture is sticking too much.) Occasionally skim off the foam using a large, shallow metal spoon. Cook the mixture until it thickens and the bubbles become small and shiny. At this point, a dollop should slightly mound up when dropped onto that plate you chilled. (If you put the plate and jam back into the freezer for a minute, then push your finger through the jam, it should subtly wrinkle.) For me, the cooking time was 18 minutes.
4. Store the jam in an airtight jar or container in the fridge. It should be good for a few weeks. If it seems like more than you can eat, put a smile on someone’s face by sharing. :-)
Makes one pint for the fridge, with perhaps a touch left over.