Last week, when I was valiantly trying to Jenga yet another head of kale into the fridge, I reached the familiar summer breaking point: “something’s got to go.” Turns out the most likely culprit was a partially-snacked-on quart of blueberries from the farmer’s market and a couple of pounds of rhubarb, found, and pounced upon in joy, just a few days before at Holbrook Farm. Did you know that a well-managed rhubarb plot can keep growing right into August, and sometimes into September? While we think of rhubarb as one of the classic Spring fruits, and it quickly wilts at temperatures above 90 degrees, garden rhubarb in the Northeast can produce well past its first appearance at farmer’s markets in April/May. Hence the local, organic rhubarb found in late July at Holbrook Farm: I had intended to chop & freeze a couple of pounds, to have some on hand for a winter crispy pork craving, but something had to marry with those blueberries, and I needed the fridge real estate. Rhubarb-blueberry it is!
My original thought was a jam, but since it was 7:00 pm and I wanted to be quick about it so I could turn my thoughts to dinner, I decided on a pie filling instead. Pie fillings are great this way: they are basically all of the same ingredients as a jam, but they get away with much less sugar and a shorter cooking time since you don’t have to worry about achieving a set. You simply cook until it thickens to your liking, pop it into jars, and move on to making popcorn for dinner. (Ahem.) Your average pie will take at least a quart of filling, however, I like, especially with berry pie fillings, to preserve them in pint jars: it gives me the flexibilty to use one jar for a mini, 7-inch pie, as a base for a fancy tart, or even to use half for a savory meat glaze, while I tuck the rest in the fridge to eat over ice cream. Pint jars are also simply easier to handle: easier to get in & out of the canner, require less water and processing time, and I find I have fewer issues with siphoning and seal failure with pint jars than I do with quart jars. However, if you prefer to can this in quart jars, you certainly can; to be on the safe side, I would increase the processing time to 25 minutes.
The flavor profile here is quite nice: tart, but not overly so, a gorgeous purple hue (which I know you can’t really see in these photos; I’ll take some better ones when I crack the first jar for a pie) and thick enough to spread on toast out of the fridge. All in all, this was quick, easy & tasty, and I’ll be happy to have it in the larder come February. About as happy as I was to move it out of the fridge in July!
Basic canning instructions taken from Rhubarb Strawberry Pie Filling in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry and L. Devine
Rhubarb Blueberry Pie Filling
- 2 and 1/2 lbs rhubarb, rinsed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 and 1/2 lbs (about 4 cups) blueberries, rinsed and picked through
- zest and juice of 1 large lemon
- 1 lb (2 cups) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- pinch of sea salt
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- In a wide, heavy preserving pan or Dutch oven, combine rhubarb, blueberries, lemon zest & juice, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, mixing to dissolve sugar and bring out fruit juices. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered with a splatter screen if you have one, until rhubarb is softened and mostly broken down and the mixture has thickened, about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Ladle hot pie filling into hot jars to 1-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields 4 pints.
- I wanted to keep this pie filling simple & straight-forward: but I can imagine a lot of additions to fancy it up. Red wine or port, orange instead of lemon, fresh rosemary or basil, dried chiles or cinnamon sticks.
- I’m not really sure how thick this should be, going into the jar, for the best pie coming out of the jar. The Ball recipe suggested cooking their rhubarb-strawberry combination for 12 minutes or until the rhubarb “softens.” I cooked mine longer than that, until the texture was about similar to potato leek soup: very pourable and not jammy, but thick. I expect it will thicken up in the jar as it cools; I can always add cornstarch to the pie filling before cooking if I think it needs some thickening, but we shall see.
- The Ball book recipe calls for strawberries: I see no reason why raspberries or blackberries wouldn’t work just as well. Or a mix! Mixed Berry Rhubarb Pie. Mmmmmm.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.