Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

How many strawberry-rhubarb recipes does one girl need?  Apparently, you can never have enough.  Or that’s what it seems like lately, with strawberry rhubarb crumble, strawberry rhubarb Amaretto sauce, strawberry rhubarb caramelized onion jam and today’s contribution, a Ferberesque strawberry rhubarb preserve.  Not to mention last year’s contributions of a local, made-with-honey and a reduced-sugar jam.

What I should be telling you about on the rhubarb front is the Sweet Cherry Rhubarb Pastry that I made yesterday for the US v Czech tailgate in Hartford; alas, the pastries disappeared too quickly to be photographed!  It was quite a simple dessert that I threw together at the last minute; I thawed frozen Sweet Cherry Rhubarb Pie Filling (2 pies worth), collected the juice, brought to a boil and thickened with 2/3 cup sugar and 4 tbsp of cornstarch, then combined with the fruit and layered between sheets of butter-brushed phyllo dough in a 9 X 13″ baking pan.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes and voila! Messy, but apparently delicious, tailgate dessert.

Back to the latest strawberry rhubarb confection: there is something magical about the combination of strawberries & rhubarb. It seems no matter what you do to them, together they are always delicious. This was a very simple jam, made on my last day in San Francisco in an effort to use up the last of the Ferry Market strawberries and rhubarb before Christina & I both flew back East.  Since I planned to spend the day wandering about San Fran with my friends Gayle & Bob, I prepped the fruit in the morning and allowed it to macerate all day while I was lunching on Union Street, shopping at the Warming Hut and wandering around the Haight. When I returned that evening, I drained the juice from the fruit, cooked it to a syrupy consistency, then added fruit to make the preserve. I ended up adding about half of the fruit and cooking down to a jam as there was not enough juice to fully suspend all the fruit (if I had added more sugar, I would have had more volume, but then the jam would have been too sweet for me).  The remainder of the fruit pieces were added at the end so that there were some lovely, whole pieces of fruit suspended in a bright, berry-sweet and rhubarb-tangy jam.  The end result was fabulous; bright and true berry flavor, toothsome bite of whole rhubarb pieces, and a surprisingly complex flavor given only four ingredients. I can’t wait for strawberry season at home so I can make this one again!

This makes a pretty small batch; I filled a half-cup container for Christina’s fridge, and then froze the rest in one ice cube tray.  I’m not sure how the texture would survive in a traditional 10-minute water bath process; the whole fruit pieces are fairly delicate and may not last the processing. When strawberry season finally arrives here in New York, I will try it out and update the recipe.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and halved or quartered
  • about 1 lb rhubard, washed, trimmed, and sliced to 1/4-inch pieces
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 and 1/3 cups turbinado sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup water

METHODS

  1. In a large bowl, toss strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice & zest and 1 cup sugar until well mixed.  Allow to macerate at room temperature for about 8 hours, stirring every now & then if you are around.
  2. If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
  3. Transfer fruit to a large colander to drain juice.  Add juice and water to a large, wide-bottomed stock pot or deep frying pan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Add 1/3 cup sugar and stir constantly until dissolved.  Cook at a lively boil, stirring frequently, over high heat until juice begins to thicken and look syrupy, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add roughly 1/2 of the fruit to the boiling syrup.  Bring back to a boil and cook, stirring, until fruit is mostly broken down and scraping a spoon across the bottom of the pan will leave a stripe of bare pan that fills in slowly, about 10 minutes. (You may need to lower heat during this cooking to avoid scorching the preserve). Add remaining fruit.  Bring back to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until fruit softens but does not disintegrate, about 3 -5 minutes. Taste and adjust sugar if necessary.  Stop cooking when a spoon dragged across the bottom of the pot leaves a clean stripe and the suspended fruit has a texture that you like. At this point you can transfer to a medium, heat-safe bowl to cool prior to storage in the refrigerator or freezer, or you can fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Yields about 1 and 1/2 cups.

OPTIONS

  1. You can macerate for up to 3 days in the refrigerator; cook the jam when your schedule allows.
  2. A wide-bottomed pot and high heat are especially important here; you need the syrup to come to the gel point quickly so that the fruit does not disintegrate. The handy thing is that this method cooks your jam very quickly – within the space of one glass of wine!
  3. This is a chunky preserve with suspended bits of whole fruit; for a smoother jam, simply cook for longer over a lower temperature and all of the fruit will eventually disintegrate.
  4. This is one of the few times that I did not use a thermometer to check the set (220 degrees F) as Christina does not have one.  However, the pan-stripe method is a good indicator and the resulting jam has a very pleasing soft, but not at all runny, set that complements the suspended fruit nicely.  For a firmer set you could consider adding some apple juice, apple pectin stock, or commercial pectin (but I don’t think this preserve needs it!).
  5. As mentioned above, I’m not sure how BWB processing would affect the utimate texture of this jam; since it is such a small batch and easy to prepare, I will probably keep this one in the refrigerator-jam category, but it is certainly acidic enough to can safely.

STORE

Canned, store at cool room temperature, away from light, for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, use within 1 month.  Frozen use within 6 months.

SEASON

Spring into early summer.

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2 comments

  1. I am partial to rhubarb ginger things as well.
    Rhubarb ginger tart is pretty spectacular…I wonder how strawberries would complement that, actually.

  2. I am so excited for the rhubarb. Even though I can’t make the handpies I so loved last year, I have been experimenting with compotes: the fresh rhubarb with the last of the frozen cranberries from last year. Even though they are both on the tart side, they seem to go well even with minimal honey as a sweetener. Thank you for sharing all these recipes 🙂

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