I’ve had a bit of a lull in the kitchen, lately. Every once and a while I fall into one of these slumps where the motivation to cook just isn’t there, and I can’t quite figure out why. It’s frustrating, especially in the Spring when fresh produce is just beginning to show up, and a voice in my head keeps telling me this is when I should be the most inspired. But I’m just… not.
Without fail, however, the thing that brings me back from one of these ruts is the very thing that brought me into the kitchen in the first place: cooking for others. Sharing food with people never fails to get me excited, and it was that excitement that led me to making this strawberry rhubarb jam.
I had been circling the produce section for weeks waiting for rhubarb to hit the stands — a sure sign of Spring in Michigan — but when it did, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. I had plenty of ideas, but none of them really called out to me. It wasn’t until I realized Mother’s Day was just around the corner that I found the inspiration I needed. The instant I started thinking about making something to give to the moms in my life, everything fell into place.
Cooking doesn’t get much easier than jam. In fact, that should be a saying: easy as jam. Sure, if you’re planning on making a huge batch and canning it all it can take some time, but at it’s heart, all jam requires is fruit, sugar, and a few minutes on high.
As I stood over the stove watching the fruit break down and release its juices, I asked The Husband if he had ever made jam. “No,” he said, “jam isn’t really on my culinary radar.” Then he added, “but every time I’ve had homemade jam, I’ve been really impressed!”
That’s the thing — most people don’t even think about making jam from scratch anymore. It’s one of those things that seems so old fashioned, like something only grandparents do. But when you actually take the time to make a batch, it’s hard to think how something so easy and rewarding could ever fall out of fashion. Imagine taking the brightest, best flavors of the season and preserving them in a way you could enjoy even months later. Now imagine spreading that flavor onto fresh, warm, buttery biscuits. Need I say more?
Besides capturing the season at its peak, jam also happens to be the perfect food for gifting. You know that feeling you get when someone sends you a handwritten letter in the mail? How special it feels to know they were thinking of you? That’s how I feel about jam. It may be a little old-fashioned, but it feels so good when someone thinks of you enough to share a jar.
(And just remember… whether you make a batch this weekend for Mother’s Day, or make it for someone else in your life, there is no shame in keeping a jar for yourself. Just another reason it makes the perfect gift.)
- 2½ cups fresh rhubarb, chopped into ½ inch pieces (about 10 oz.)
- 2½ cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered (about 11 oz.)
- 3 cups granulated sugar*
- 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
- 2 TBSP powdered pectin**
- Place a small plate or saucer in the freezer before you begin, so that you can test the jam towards the end of cooking.
- (Optional) If you're planning on canning the jam, bring a large stock pot full of water to a boil, and cook your (clean and empty) jars and lids for several minutes to sterilize them. Remove the jars carefully using canning tongs, and set on a clean dish towel to dry. Keep the stock pot of water at the ready for sealing the jars.
- In a large pot (not aluminum, as it may react with the acids in the jam), combine the fruit, sugar, pectin, and half of the lemon juice. Place over medium heat, and cook until the strawberries have released their juices and the sugar has dissolved, stirring frequently to prevent the sugar from scorching.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, increase heat to high and bring to a rolling boil, skimming away any foam that appears at the surface. Boil for 5-10 minutes, or until the fruit has started to break down, stirring occasionally. To test the jam, spoon a small amount onto the saucer that's been chilling in the freezer. This will give you an idea of how thick the jam will be once it's cooled. If the jam sets up to your liking, it is done. If it's too loose, cook a few minutes longer and test again.
- Once the jam starts to set up to your liking, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining TBSP of lemon juice. If you prefer your jam to be less chunky, use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to crush the fruit.
- Carefully spoon the hot jam into the clean jars (a canning funnel is a big help, if you have one) leaving about ½ inch of head room in each jar. Once the jars are filled, wipe the rims with a damp paper towel to ensure a clean seal, and screw on the lids (or, if you're using weck jars, clamp the lids in place carefully).
- (Optional) if you want to preserve your jam, return the jars to the stock pot of boiling water, lowering them in carefully with canning tongs, and making sure the water is deep enough to cover the jars completely. Cover the pot with a lid and let the jars process in the water bath for about 6-8 minutes. Remove the jars and set them carefully onto a kitchen towel. Let sit at room temperature until completely cool. If using ball jars, the metal lids should make a "pop" or "ting" sound as they cool, and the bump in the center of the lid should not flex when pushed down on, letting you know the jars have properly sealed. If any jars don't seal completely, store these in the fridge and use within a few weeks. Jars that are properly sealed can be kept in a cool dark place for several months or more.
**The amount of pectin used in this recipe creates a jam that sets up slightly, but isn't as firm as store bought jams. If you prefer a firmer jam, you can increase the pectin by another TBSP. If you prefer a looser jam, or want to avoid using pectin, you can omit it all together and cook the jam longer until it reduces and thickens slightly. (The reason I use pectin is it reduces the cooking time (my jam started to set after about 5 minutes of boiling), whereas a jam made without pectin will need boil significantly longer. Cooking the jam longer will reduce the overall yield, and can dull the flavor. If you don't have any pectin, you can try quartering a green apple and adding it to the jam at the beginning of cooking. This will impart some natural pectin, and you can remove it before spooning the jam into jars.)