Around mid-May in Rochester, the sight I anticipate most at the market is that of the first rhubarb. Those lovely pink stalks are a sure sign that spring is coming to a close and warmer days are on their way, kicking off a new growing season and with it, a new preserving season as well. My first canning project is usually rhubarb jam, which on its own is wonderfully tart and makes a lovely spread that I find perfect for spooning over the top of warm scones. If I'm lucky though, I'll sometimes find a few bags of last summer's strawberries tucked away in the freezer, and I'll jump into summer early by making one of my very favorite jams - the classic combination of strawberry and rhubarb.
I firmly believe that you can never go wrong with the classics, and this delightfully sweet and tart spread never disappoints. I love to stir it into my steel-cut oats in the morning, or use it to make my own homemade fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt.Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam
In a large pot, combine the strawberries and rhubarb. Crush the mixture together and add in the lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb breaks down.
In the meantime, prepare your canning supplies. Fill a large pot with hot water and bring up the temperature of the empty glass jars by letting them sit in the simmering water for several minutes. Heat a few cups of water in a small saucepan for the lids, so that the sealing compound on them begins to soften. Stir the pectin into the fruit mixture and stir until it dissolves completely. Bring the mixture back to a boil, and then add in the sugar all at once. Boil hard for a minute longer. Skim off any foam and ladle the hot jam into the warm jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Place the lids and bands on top, screwing on the bands until fingertip-tight. Place the full jars back into the boiling water and process 10 minutes.Remove the jars from the water and place them on a towel to cool. The seals should suck down (you should hear a popping noise as they do). Refrigerate any jars that didn't seal. Store the rest in a cool, dark place. Makes 7-8 eight-ounce (half pint) jars.
Getting Started with Canning
When I began my jam-making adventure, the first step I took was to compile some resources on canning. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving was at the top of my list, as it includes a variety of recipes for all sorts of preserves. When it comes to canning, it's important to make sure that you always follow a recipe from a trusted source, especially when you're getting started – you don't want to end up with spoiled food, or worse, make someone sick. If you'd like to know more about the science behind canning, the USDA Food Preservation and Home Canning guidelines are a great place to start. Their canning book, So Easy to Preserve, can be ordered via printable form on the University of Georgia’s website at http://setp.uga.edu/. It currently runs you about $18, and has all of the USDA's latest and greatest information on safe home food preservation. Happy canning!