Saucy and silky in texture, slightly tangy, aromatic and deep red, this strawberry rhubarb jam pleases our food-related senses. I tend to prefer strawberries combined with something else: last year red currants and also rhubarb; the year before, Balsamic vinegar and black pepper. This recipe is similar in technique to last year’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam with Cardamom, except that I diminished the sugar and changed how I prepared the berries and ‘barb. Last year, I simply macerated the ingredients with sugar for 3 hours to draw out the juices before cooking the jam.
This year, I followed a technique from Jeanne Lesem’s Preserving Today, an early 1990s publication that I found a year ago this month at a second hand store in Cambridge after a certain graduation party. I always enjoy any publication that claims it has preserved the past and updated the technique. Some are just period pieces and others really have something to offer.
After macerating the fruit (I know, rhubarb is a vegetable that we treat like fruit) for 6 hours, you transfer it to a shallow pan and boil it rapidly for 4 minutes. Poured into a glass bowl, the mixture is left to sit overnight, which Lesem claims plumps up the fruit. She was right. The next day, the juice is drained from the fruit and boiled for a few minutes. Then the fruit is added and boiled some more. The result was a terrific consistency, which probably would not have occurred by boiling alone.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam technique adapted from Jeanne Lesem
1 qt strawberries (heaping quart)
½ lb rhubarb (2-3 stalks)
1 ¾ c sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Clean and hull the strawberries. Clean and dice the rhubarb into ½-inch pieces. Layer both with sugar a glass bowl, adding the lemon juice along the way. Cover and let sit for 6 hours.
Pour the ingredients into a shallow braising pan and bring to a boil, cooking it rapidly for 4 minutes. Remove to a heatproof glass bowl and let cool. When cooled, cover the bowl and let the mixture sit overnight.
Prepare the canning jars and set a saucer in the freezer for testing the jam.
Drain the juice from the berries and rhubarb, reserving the fruit, and bring it to a boil in a shallow pan. Boil for 4 minutes, add the reserved fruit, and boil for another 2-3 minutes or until a small drop placed on the frozen saucer tests for gel. Ladle the jam into the prepared jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to the counter to cool, undisturbed.
Makes 3 half-pints (8 oz jars) and extra for tasting.