Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb Freezer Jam--Spring in Every Jar

Yes, fresh garden strawberries taste sweet, succulent and completely irresistible on their own. And rhubarb has a refreshing zing, old-fashioned charm and simple goodness.

But strawberries and rhubarb cooked in concert--that's a miraculous match. The berries contribute fragrance, complex fruity flavor, and bright color to balance the rhubarb's greeness. The stalks lend astringence, plus body and boldness to amplify the sweet. Together the two sing a lusty song of spring.

I'd often eaten strawberries and rhubarb solo, but first tried them together in a compote during a visit to my cousins' old farmhouse when I was about five. I still vividly remember how wonderful the combination tasted, and have loved it ever since.

My relatives had a big garden and strawberries and rhubarb were major spring crops, so they prepared the two often and in many different, memorable, ways. I ate my first slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie sitting at their huge dining room table, and my first peanut butter and strawberry and rhubarb jam sandwich in their kitchen. In fact the early pie and jam experiences were the inspiration for my easier cobbler recipe here and the quick, luscious "freezer" jam recipe below. It has been a huge hit, especially with those who like their jams fresh-tasting and not too sweet. (Another fave rhubarb and strawberry combo, in easy brunch parfaits, is here.)  And a fab strawberry-rhubarb cobbler is here--yum!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Freezer Jam

This is one of the best jams I've ever tasted--the fresh fruit flavor is just spectacular. And the color is stunning, too.

If you're not familiar with "freezer" jams, they are kept several weeks in the refrigerator (or up to a year in the freezer), so don't require processing in a boiling water bath. (Do sterilize the jars in boiling water before using them though.) Since the fruit is not cooked enough to be sterilized all the way through, it must be refrigerated, not stored on pantry shelves. The jars (right in photo) were cooling so they could be put in the refrigerator.

This jam not only requires very little cooking, but because it calls for the new "low-sugar needed" pectin, it is less sweet, more natural tasting, and more healthful than old-fashioned jams. It's easy to make, even if you've never prepared jam before. Just be sure to check the label and buy a pectin specifically formulated for use in "reduced sugar or no-sugar" cooked jam recipes. Don't buy a pectin designed for no-cook recipes; this is not the same and won't work well.

TIP: Note that the jam may be fairly thick when first prepared, but may thin out a bit during storage, especially if frozen. Also, though the photo shows the jam in larger jars, it is actually extremely convenient to use the smaller jars shown on the left. Then, the jam mini-jars can be transferred from the freezer as needed and provide about the right amont to last a week.

2 1/2 cups well washed, chopped fresh strawberries
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 1/2 cups diced (1/3-inch pieces) rhubarb
1 box Sure Jell reduced- or no-sugar-needed pectin or 1 box Ball Fruit Jell no-sugar-needed pectin

Place several metal tablespoons in the refrigerator to use in checking the jell of the jam. Combine the strawberries, lemon juice and 3/4 cup sugar in a large non-reactive bowl. Let stand about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berry juices begin to flow.

Meanwhile, thoroughly stir together the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar and pectin in a large non-reactive saucepan or large, deep-sided non-reactive skillet until well blended and no lumps remain. Stir in 1/2 cup cold water and rhubarb. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When the mixture comes to a full, foamy boil, cook, stirring, until the rhubarb pieces are tender, but still hold some shape, about 3-4 minutes. If the mixture still appears runny, drop about a teaspoon of it onto a chilled spoon and let it cool for 15 seconds. If it immediately runs off instead of jelling lightly and clinging to the spoon, continue cooking about 1 minute longer, then check using another chilled spoon. As soon as the mixture jells just enough to cling to the spoon and thicken slightly, it is done. (It will continue to jell further upon standing.)

Immediately remove the cooked mixture from the heat; stir the strawberry mixture into the rhubarb mixture. Continue stirring for 2 minutes, scraping the pan bottom until very well blended. The mixture will thicken somewhat and will thicken further as it cools. Skim off and discard any foam from the jam surface. Ladle the jam into jars, leaving 3/4-inch headroom to allow for expansion during freezing. Wipe any drips from jar rim and threads, and screw on lids. Let stand until cooled to barely warm. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Check the lids and tighten, if necessary. Then, freeze for up to 1 year, or refrigerate for up to a week. Makes about 4 cups jam.

If you're interested in a fabulous crumb-crust strawberry-rhubarb cobbler (below right) go here.

Or, if you're in the mood for other berry treats, an enticing raspberry cobbler is here or blackberry sorbet, here.


Erica on April 7, 2010 at 11:58 AM said...

Mmmm... I can smell Mom's jam cooking now! Boy do I miss that!

Delilah on April 10, 2010 at 11:56 AM said...

Hi Delilah
Yes, the corn we sell is white cap flint corn, which we grind on
granite stone.
It is the same strain of corn that the pilgrims got from the indians
- Narragansett White Flint Corn
What recipe are you going to use? We are always looking for new
recipes. Would you be interested in sharing your recipe with us?
You can buy are product on line @ graysgristmill.com
Or at the mill - info online
The Miller

This is an email I received from Gray's Grist Mill after asking if the cornmeal they sell is white cap flint. I have your kneadlessly simple cookbook (just got it two days ago) and wanted to try the yeasted cornbread recipe. I have ordered this meal and wanted to share the information with you.

Nancy Baggett on April 10, 2010 at 5:15 PM said...

Hi Delilah,

Thanks for providing that information on where one can get white cap flint corn to use in the Kneadlessly Simple Portuguese-American corn bread. I may get in touch with that mill to see if they are interested in posting or linking to that recipe.

Julia @Mélanger on April 12, 2010 at 8:41 PM said...

I have never heard of freezer jams. What a great concept. I will have to try this come my spring, when rhubarb and strawberries start appearing again here in Australia.

Nancy Baggett on April 13, 2010 at 11:58 AM said...

That's interesting--the freezer jams are quite popular in the U.S. It's the fact that the boiling water bath is unnecessary and that the jams have a lovely frsh fruit taste. Let me know how you like the recipe.

Delilah on April 15, 2010 at 10:32 AM said...

Hi Nancy,
I sent the link for your recipe to the miller the same day I posted my comment about the corn meal. I have ordered the meal, came yesterday, and will plan to make the yeasted cornbread this weekend.

Nancy Baggett on April 15, 2010 at 1:50 PM said...

Sounds great! I'm not sure what recipe you sent him the link to--I don't think my yeasted cornbread is posted on my site it's fine whatever the recipe. Will be eager to hear how the white cap flint cornmeal works out.

Anonymous said...

Can I use plastic freezer containers for strawberry rhubarb jam instead of glass?

Nancy Baggett on April 26, 2010 at 8:39 AM said...

Yes, you can definitely use the plastic containers--I've done this and it works very well.

Anonymous said...

thank you so very much for posting the strawberry-rhubarb freezer jam recipe. I have never been a fan of the cloyingly sweet jams and have been searching for a recipe such as this. I was always afraid to experiment with the lower sugar Sure-Jell as it warned of set failure if exact amounts were not followed. So I dutifully followed the directions but thinking the jam was still to sweet for my taste. Enter your recipe...I made several batches and prefer it to plain strawberry jam. Today I picked more rhubarb and the first of my blackberries and it made the most wonderful jam! Thank you again!

avw on May 30, 2011 at 4:26 PM said...

Thank you for posting this recipe and the techniques for knowing when it is done! I have the no-sugar pectin but not in boxes - do you know how much might be in a box? I tried to look it up on the Ball website but it's hard to know if you used the "small batch" package or a different one. With the 25 lbs of strawberries we just picked, I'm looking for ways to preserve! Thanks again.

Nancy Baggett on May 30, 2011 at 9:50 PM said...

That is a lot of strawberries! The packages say they contain 1.75 ounces.

Sleighbells on June 20, 2011 at 7:04 PM said...

I just made a batch of this jam and it is AMAZING...only things I did differently were to use white grape juice instead of water and a LITTLE less sugar and I scraped a vanilla bean into the juice/sugar/pectin/rhubarb mixture...I've made four different variations of strawberry jam today and this one is, by far, everyone's favourite! Thank you...

jeannette said...

Hi Nancy,

I saved your article "Summer in a Jar" that was published in the Washington Post, but failed to clip the recipes. Could you post recipes for other freezer jams and chutneys?


Nancy Baggett on March 12, 2012 at 10:30 AM said...

Jeannette, I will likely be making a couple of those recipes again and photographing them for the blog this summer. I don't want to post them now, as I have to pics to go with the recipe. If you go to the tab at the top and contact me via e-mail telling me which recipes you want I can send them to you.

Cynthia's Blog on May 14, 2012 at 10:07 PM said...

So easy, and so worth the half hour it took to make. I filled 5 1/2 --half pint-- jars. Thanks for this recipe Nancy.

Nancy Baggett on May 14, 2012 at 11:29 PM said...

Cynthia, you are very welcome. I just made this again recently myself and am loving it as much as ever. One of my best efforts, for sure!

nicest of the damned on May 23, 2012 at 6:08 PM said...

I made this jam today as I have a rhubarb plant that was just calling out to be cooked and eaten. It's lovely, thank you!

Nancy Baggett on May 24, 2012 at 10:39 AM said...

Thanks for your comment. This really is one of my favorite recipes. I have already eaten a batch of this jam this year and will have to make another soon!

Anonymous said...

I can not stop eating this jam! Yum! I'm going to make more plus now attempt Raspberry peach jam!

Bonnie said...

Just made this jam last night and I love it. Took a jar to my mom and she will also be making it. Love the less sugar!!!!

Rodriguez Family Pics on March 9, 2013 at 11:08 AM said...

I was wondering if you have ever used frozen rhubarb for this recipe? Thanks teresa

linda said...

I have not tried this particular recipe (although I will as soon as the rhubarb is ready!) but have used frozen rhubarb in the past for freezer jam and it worked well.
That recipe's ingredients included jello instead of pectin and a can of pie filling instead of the fresh strawberries.
It was a good recipe, but I bet this one will top it!

Nancy Baggett on May 20, 2013 at 4:34 PM said...

Rodriguez, I haven't tried it with frozen rhubarb, but I think it would work.

Linda, this recipe is going to taste sooo much fresher and natural than one using canned filling and jello. And you get to skip all that red dye, also!

Anonymous said...

How do I salvage a batch that did not set?

Nancy Baggett on May 27, 2013 at 4:17 PM said...

So sorry to hear of your problem. I suggest that the "sauce" can be salvaged by serving it over ice cream or using as a pancake syrup--terrific in both cases. I can only guess that maybe the pectin was not fresh--it loses its setting power over time. Also it is essential to use the low-sugar pectin called for. Regular pectin or no-cook pectins are not right for this recipe.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely the best jam PERIOD!!! It set beautifully, and I love the equal amounts of strawberries and rhubarb, so the rhubarb flavor comes through..Also love that it's not too sweet. Question though, If I wanted to eliminate the lemon juice, would I need 2T of water, etc? Love the tartness of the rhubarb, and wondering if the lemon juice is necessary?


Jennifer Sklener on June 20, 2013 at 9:31 AM said...

Best, best, best jam ever. And forgiving. I made a mistake on my fifth batch and it still set. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful recipe! This was my first time making a jam. Your instructions were absolutely perfect. The jam tastes and looks fabulous! Do you have a blueberry freezer jam recipe?

April on June 29, 2013 at 1:05 PM said...

Thank you so much for this recipe. I usually don't like strawberry rhubarb jam but I had some rhubarb that I had to use up. This is fantastic and will definitely be added to my spring lineup!!

April on June 29, 2013 at 1:05 PM said...

thank you so much for this recipe!! I love it and will totally make it again.

Nancy Baggett on October 21, 2013 at 6:21 PM said...

Anonymous, I don't have a great blueberry freezer jam recipe--the one I have still needs some fiddling as it is a little bland. Maybe I'll update and post it next summer.

Anonymous said...

I have been having an issue with some low sugar freezer jam recipes. When I put them in the freezer they actually freeze solid and I have to microwave them for 15-20 seconds before I can actually use them. Any idea why this continues to happen? I like the idea of using 2 cups of sugar vs. 6 but have not had very much success with actually getting it to work.

Please let me know what you think is my issue.

Nancy Baggett on June 12, 2014 at 11:46 PM said...

In answer to the last question:

I usually move the jars of jam from the freezer to the refrigerator the day before I use them, so I can't comment on the freezing problem. As far as reducing the sugar, this recipe works extremely well. Most commenters here have thought so too--the jam is really, really tasty!



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