I had all sorts of plans for this month’s Can Jam: rhubarb fig jam, a macerated, jewel-like rhubarb a la Mme. Ferber, rhubarb with local white wine, rhubarb with last summer’s frozen blackberries… the possibilities were nearly endless. And then: I got a huge assignment from a client, my computer promptly exploded and I spent most of a week either 1) on the phone with Dell, 2) at Best Buy purchasing new laptop, 3) on the phone with Best Buy/Geek Squad since said new laptop didn’t work either. Oy. Vey.
I had about 4 pounds of rhubarb in the fridge (I told you – grandiose plans). I had a 7 am flight to San Francisco. I had a pile of work from a client that still had not been completed. I had a brand spankin new laptop that was, apparently, a lemon. (It was not the best week on record, folks.) Someone mentioned recently (can’t remember who?) that they can’t wait until they actually have glut of seasonal produce to preserve, rather than the more typical winter Can Jam experience of searching out and buying the ingredients for a planned preserving recipe. I’ve actually enjoyed the lazy pace of the winter Can Jam months; the chance to experiment with small batches, to stretch the excitement and interest of a winter-weary local diet, the time to futz with labels, search out cool jars, and read all the Can Jammer cool & inventive recipes. I know that the next couple of months will be anything but lazy: I’ll be in South Africa for most of the month of June, wavin the flag for the glory of the US. Of necessity, the preserving I do over the next few weeks will be utilitarian: do something with the season’s bounty to preserve it before it rots.
Utilitarian, however, need not mean boring. I made this sauce recipe up on the fly while simulataneously on hold with the Geek Squad, packing for my trip to SF, doing dishes and folding laundry. Cleaning and chopping rhubarb is easy to do with a phone pressed to your ear; simmering, stirring and tasting can easily be done in the midst of other tasks, and there is no real danger of over-cooking a sauce (just a danger of scorching if you keep the heat too high) and no set-point to worry about. I tossed flavors in based on what was in the fridge or pantry and kept tasting until I had something quite lovely: a not-too-sweet dessert sauce with large chunks of strawberry, the thick texture that comes from a slow simmer of rhubarb and a subtle hint of sweet almonds from the Amaretto. This sauce straddles the line between sweet & savory: I think it would be equally good over ice cream or pound cake as a dessert as it would be marinating chicken or pork for dinner. If I ever have time to cook again, I promise I’ll let you know.
For more great rhubarb preserving recipes, check out the May CanJam round-up at Tigress in a Jam.
Adapted from Strawberry Sauce in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, J. Kingry and L. Devine
- 2 and 1/2 lb strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced in half (fresh or frozen), divided
- 1 lb strawberry puree (fresh or frozen); or substitute an additional pound of berries
- 2 lbs rhubarb, washed and trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup orange juice
- zest of 1 large orange
- 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup light corn syrup
- 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- pinch or two of sea salt
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Combine 1 lb strawberries, 2 lbs rhubarb, orange juice and zest in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occassionally to prevent scorching. Stir in sugar and corn syrup and bring back to a boil. Maintain a gentle boil for about 15 minutes, until or berries and rhubarb are mostly broken down and sauce has thickened slightly. Add in Amaretto, lemon juice, salt and remaining strawberries. Bring back to a boil, then simmer for approximately 5 minutes until berries are softened, but not breakding down. Taste and adjust sugar, juices or liqueur. The sauce will be quite liquid while hot and once cooled will thicken quite a bit. If you like, you can test the ‘set’ by placing a small amount in a bowl or plate in the fridge for 5 minutes. Sauce should thicken up, but still be pourable. Bring back to a full boil, then ladle hot sauce into hot, sterilized jars, wipe rims, afix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 5 – 6 pints.
- I had frozen strawberry puree in the freezer from last June’s strawberry bounty; it was time to use it up. There is no necessity for strawberry puree, however, if you don’t have it on hand, just substitute fresh berries.
- With the orange accents, Cointreau or Grand Marnier would also work nicely.
- This sauce will be equally at home in sweet or savory uses; if you prefer a sweeter, more definitively dessert sauce, increase the sugar by 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 cups.
- The strawberries are added in two additions in order to maintain some whole berries in the sauce by the end of the cooking time. If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can add them all at once in the beginning. If you prefer a very smooth sauce, you can blend with an immersion blender, either before or after adding the second batch of berries.
- Corn syrup is added to provide some silky texture to the sauce. I don’t have much against the occasional use of corn syrup in home cooking, but if you’d like to substitute, Agave nectar might be a nice try. I thought that honey and maple syrup would carry too much flavor on their own and would mask the brightness of the fruit.
Canned, store in a cool room temperature spot, away from light, for up to 1 year. Frozen, try to use within 6 months to prevent freezer burn. Refrigerated, use within 2 – 3 weeks.
Spring of course, but with frozen berries & rhubarb you could make this all year long.