Fruit Shandy in a Jar: Rhubarb-Beer Jam with Lemon

Christine Ferber is a genius and Paul Virant is one smart cookie for using her for inspiration. Every season, I mark preserving techniques, ingredients and whole recipes that I’d like to try. One that’s been on my list is Ferber’s “Rhubarb and Apples with Beer.” I’ve made jams with wine before but never with beer and I was wondering what the beer would do to the rhubarb. 

Then along came Paul Virant’s The Preservation Kitchen, and a recipe for “Rhubarb Beer Jam,” which is similar to Ferber’s but uses lemon juice and zest instead of apple. Both lemons and apples are good pectin producers, and I do interchange them.  However, from preserving rhubarb in the past (remember that rhu-barb-ecue sauce that originated as rhubarb ketchup?), I find it reduces to a thick puree anyway.  In this case, using Virant’s recipe and spiking the amount of lemon zest, the marinated rhubarb was like a fruit shandy, a drink that combines beer and lemon. Fully cooked, it has a certain “je ne sais quoi.” Virant uses it as an ingredient in a bar drink that he serves at his restaurant in Chicago.  I can envision it as a condiment to accompany any number of meats or savory dishes.

Virant brings the ingredients to a simmer the night (or days) before he’s ready to make the jam and let’s them cure together in the refrigerator. Ferber macerates the rhubarb and sugar overnight. I did both. Both separate the fruit from the liquid and boil the liquid down before adding in the fruit. (I know rhubarb is a vegetable technically, but it jams up like fruit.) Since I halved Virant’s recipe (except for the lemon), I did not get enough volume of liquid to get the temperature up to 215 degrees as he did (it would have boiled off), but I find the freezer gel test more reliable anyway.

Rhubarb-Beer Jam adapted from Paul Virant, The Preservation Kitchen

1½ lb trimmed rhubarb (about 4½ c cut in 1/3-inch dice)

¾ c sugar

1 ½ c wheat beer

2 tbsp lemon juice

4-5 tbsp grated lemon zest

Macerate the rhubarb and sugar for a few hours in a large saucepan. Add the beer, lemon juice and zest and bring to a simmer. Cool and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare canning jars and have the lids available.  Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel.

Drain the rhubarb liquid into a wide saucepan, reserving the diced stems. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until it nearly reaches the gel point, about 215 degrees on a candy thermometer, or when not very runny when tested on a frozen plate, about 12 minutes. Add the reserved diced rhubarb and bring back to a boil, cooking for approximately 10 minutes more until gelled or reaching 215 degrees.

Put a small pot of water on the stove to boil, turn off heat and place the canning lids in the water. Remove the jars from the hot water and fill them with hot jam, leaving ½ inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean, place the canning lids on top (dry them first) and screw on the rings.

Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn the heat off, remove the canner lid and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before moving them to a counter to cool undisturbed.

Makes 5-6 four-ounce jars.

Categories: Preserving, RhubarbTags:


  1. Rose Gibson

    Can I use frozen rhubarb and if so how much. I would really like to try it but am not sure what the quantity of rhubarb should be. I made rhubarb marmalade from frozen and was surprized how little rhubarb there was after it thawed. Would I still use the same quantities of other ingredients with frozen rhubarb. I await your response.

    • Hmm. I’ve never used frozen rhubarb. My guess is that it becomes watery and you may lose the fiber that would give the jam body. First, I would thaw and drain the rhubarb, saving the juice and would add peeled and thinly sliced apple in a similar amount to the rhubarb. It’s a complete guess on my part but if you ended up with 4 cups of fruit, you would add the juice and zest of a lemon, the reserved rhubarb juice, 1 cup sugar (or more, taste it) and a cup or so of beer. Bring the mix to a simmer to cook the apples and let the mixture sit for a few hours or even overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the jam. Use the freezer gel test, since the temperature when jam sets varies, as does the cooking time. I looked up the Christine Ferber recipe Virant based his on and she used apples. I hope this works for you. A lot of jam-making is intuitive, and I find I make adjustments as I go along. Good luck. Let me know how it turns out.

      • Rose, another thought. Measure your rhubarb and apple by weight instead of volume and then use the volume to calculate the amount of sugar to add. Using Ferber’s formula, 1 lb of rhubarb + 1 lb apple + 1 1/4 c beer simmered. Measure it and add 1/2-3/4 of that volume of sugar and the lemon. That should do it. Karen

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