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Monday, June 13, 2011

anti-recipe #34 strawberry rhubarb jam

Jelly/jam making has always seemed a bit of a mysterious process to me. There is the pectin, what is that? And the stirring and the sticky and ... etc.

Nevertheless it seemed like a worthy "June" activity. Right? Although, I wonder if June really would've done this in the days when Wally and the Beaver were still in diapers, fighting over Hot Wheels and tugging at her frilled skirts. I am thinking no. She might've just gone out and bought the neat little jars of Smuckers and called it a day.

In any case, this June attempted it. (And I do this despite past canning fiascos, as documented here, here, and here. NOTE: the applesauce is still sitting in the basement pantry. No one will eat it. I use it to cook with. Note to self - buy sweet apples or ADD SUGAR.)

I especially wanted to after eyeing some gorgeous strawberries for super cheap at the farmers market recently. SO PRETTY. I did, however, wait too long, and this Saturday, after acquiring some rhubarb at the farmer's market that morning, I opened up my bags to find the strawberries from last week were mostly molded...UGH. I however, remained undaunted, and pulled out the good ones, washed and cut them and still had two cups of strawberries to work my rhubarb.

No problem.

After digging around a bit on the internet I found this recipe, to loosely follow. I had gotten "no sugar" pectin so I planned to reduce the sugar amount in half, but then got nervous about working with rhubarb and just reduced it by 1 1/2 cups.

So. Let me start at the beginning. First wash your jelly jars. I got little ones, that hold just a cup of jam each, perfect for our little family. Then put water on to boil in your big canning pots. I used two pots, which held three jars each. Not fancy canners, just regular pots for a hot water bath is enough for jelly. Once the water is boiling turn it off and add your jars and rings to warm up. You want them hot when you put in your hot jam. Don't put in the lids until the last minute when you are warming them, you don't them actually in the boiling water because it could ruin the seal (DON'T RUIN THE SEAL....AHHH. NOOOOO! NOT THE SEAL!)

this is the longest rhubarb i have ever seen.

the pretzels were to address my heartburn. they did not work
the ice cream i snuck while the children were in the other room
did however. PHEW.
Cut up your fruit. You don't need to use the same ratio as recommended in that recipe as long as your total amount is the same. I used two cups strawberries (mashed) and four cups rhubarb - thinly sliced (which took a long time).

Baby girl attempted to join in on the mashing of the strawberries, really fun SPLAT SPLAT noises followed, juice all over the counter. Once the smashing part was done she was done too. Little man's contribution was to ride his little knights all over the counter and then ask if he could eat some sugar  (NO!!) They then played nicely in the playroom, allowing me to finish. YAY BABIES!

I dumped the fruit in another big pot and added 1/4 cup lemon juice and one packet of pectin, along with some water (it didnt look gushy enough) maybe just 1/4 cup.

I let this get to a boil, constantly stirring, then added the sugar - 4 cups total. I stirred like the recipe said and still it didnt look spreadable and gushy enough. Finally, of course - you KNEW this was coming - I called my mom to ask when you know jam is "DONE."

Apparently it needs to boil at a "rolling boil" for quite some time, stirring constantly. When it dribbles off a metal spoon in sheets, rather than a drop at a time like a liquid, then its done. Another tip online said if you put a spoonful on a plate that has chilled in the fridge it should set up in a few minutes and will wrinkle if you push it around with your finger. I noticed this happening where I had dribbled on my stovetop, the wrinkly "jelly-ish" look. After about 20 minutes of a good rolling boil - CONSTANTLY STIRRING! - I then decided it was done.

this is when i first started, see how the fruit is still kinda chunky
in there? not done yet...

fuzzy picture but, still with the chunks.

that is more like it! apparently adding a little butter can help
reduce that frothy bit. i added some and it didnt help.

the finished product. see the little bubbles? kind of like molten lava,
rather than boiling water, they pop slower maybe? hard to explain
if you have seen "the incredibles" with your kids or some other movie
involving hot lava you know what i mean. (or maybe
you have seen actual hot lava, who knows?)
At this point I actually tasted some. OHMYGOSH. REALLY GOOD. I think I might be good at jam-making! How exciting! Something besides quiche and potato soup to add to my repertiore! Dada will be so proud! (Although it was a bit sweet, next time only 3 cups of sugar...)

My water for canning had cooled, so I heated it up for a bit first to make sure the jars were hot, just enough to get a tiny boil going. I dropped in the lids for a bit too. Then I removed them using my nifty canning tongs and placed them on a towel. Next I ladeled in a cup of jam into each jar. Then - this is important! remember, the SEAL!! - I wiped down the dribbles from the edge of the jar to make sure the lid part was clean for a GOOD SEAL. Then I placed the lids and screwed on the rings.


Next, using the tongs (jam and jars are HOT) I placed them into the hot water bath and turned the heat back up to high. Once your pots have reached a boil cover with a lid and set the timer for ten minutes. After the ten minutes is up I turned off the heat and let them sit in the water for another five minutes (so say the directions, again, dont want to mess up the SEAL!!)

Remove your nice little jars and set them on your towel to cool. You should hear the nice satisfying "pop" as the seal takes hold. YAY. They SEALED!

Also, don't shake! Don't tilt! Let them sit! (I read somewhere online the urgency of this so as to ensure your jam SETS!) After fretting for a few hours about whether or not MY jam would indeed SET as it is supposed to I finally caved and tilted a jar. Looks like jam! YIPPEE!

I can't tell you how pleasing to my inner domestic goddess it was to see those six little jars cooling on my counter. I know June would agree.
so pretty!


  1. oh my goodness, Sara! Amazing! Way to go! Can't wait to try this! :)


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