Early Garden Harvest Project – Canning Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Many conversations among gardeners this time of year start with the phrase “What am I going to do with all this rhubarb?!”

It seems this prolific vegetable (which answers the other question “Is rhubarb a vegetable or a fruit?”) takes over many spring gardens even before the real earnest planting begins.

My friend Tracy Falbe of Canning Local gave me a delicious solution to the “problem” of having rhubarb taking over the garden.  I thought I’d share her recipe right here for you to use when your rhubarb starts piling up.  Enjoy!

In spring when gardens are still only promising seedlings and fruits trees are just setting their fruit, strawberries and rhubarb are ready to harvest. The flavor combination of strawberries and rhubarb has been appreciated for a long time, and with home canning you can capture that first crop of spring and enjoy it for a whole year…or until you eat it all.

Learning how to can jams and jellies is an ideal way to develop home canning skills. Only a big kettle for creating a boiling water bath is needed along with a few canning jars. The jam is simple to cook and only uses a few ingredients, so actually making the jam will not distract you from focusing on the canning process. Jams are also very safe projects for beginners.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Canning Recipe

2 cups crushed fresh strawberries
2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup lemon juice
5-1/2 cups sugar
1 package fruit pectin (approximately 2 ounces)

You will need 6 to 8 half pint canning jars for this recipe. You can use old jars as long as they are free of chips and cracks, but always use new lids so you get a proper seal. The screw-on bands do not need to be new. They are just to hold the lids in place during processing. Sterilize your jars and lids by submerging them completely in water that is a minimum of 180 degrees Fahrenheit, but less than boiling (212 degrees). Some directions say to boil the jars and lids, which is probably fine, but the jars I buy say on the package to make sure the lids do not actually boil, so always consult your manufacturer’s directions for sterilization.

I sterilize the jars in the boiling water bath kettle. After letting them simmer a few minutes, I shut off the heat and leave the jars and lids in the kettle while I cook the jam. You can take them out and fill the jars with hot water if you prefer. The point is to keep them hot and clean while you are preparing the food.

Wash and hull the strawberries and crush them. A potato masher works well to smash up the berries. Then wash and chop the rhubarb. Put the fruit in a large stock pot and add the lemon juice. Slowly stir in the fruit pectin and bring the jam to a hard rolling boil that still bubbles when you stir. Foaming will occur and this can be alleviated by adding a teaspoonful of butter. Once the jam is boiling hard, keep stirring and add all the sugar. The sugar will gradually dissolve. While stirring constantly bring the jam back up to a hard boil for 1 minute. When the cooking is done, turn off the heat. You can skim off the frothy foam from the top.

Pour the hot jam into your sterilized jars. A ladle works nicely and if you have a canning jar funnel it will make the job a little neater. Do not fill the jars all the way to the rim. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Wipe the mouths of the jars very clean and place the lids on the jars. Secure the lids with the bands. You only need to screw them on hand tight. If you have some jam leftover that will not fill up a jar, just put it in the refrigerator and eat it up within the next few days (or minutes).

With your boiling water bath at a boil, lower the jars into the water with a jar lifter. Make sure a rack is in the bottom of the kettle so that the jars do not rest directly on the bottom. Also do not let the jars touch each other. Boil the jars for 10 minutes and then immediately remove the jars. Set them on a towel in a draft-free location and do not disturb them for at least 12 hours. Touching them while they are cooling could disrupt sealing. You will likely hear the jars pop within a few minutes of removing from the boiling water but resist the temptation to touch.

The next day, you can test the seals of the lids by pushing on their tops. There should be no movement or buckling of the lid. It should be rigid and firmly attached to the jar. Then remove the bands, wipe the jars clean, put on clean bands, label with the date, and store in a cool dark place for up to one year. You will love your homemade jam and it makes a nice gift as well.

I recommend picking up a reference book about home canning to have in your kitchen as well as a visit to my website Canning Local – Putting Your Produce Into Production where you can read about all the basics for using a boiling water bath and pressure canner.

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