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.
This combination is called Blubarb pie in my house and is a universal favourite!
Blubarb! Love it! 🙂
Also another “blubarb” household, and our family’s favorite jam 🙂 Love the idea of quickening up a night of impromptu canning by making pie filling instead!
OMG, I just have to say, I thought I was the only one who describes my fridge as a game of Jenga, and I thought I was the only one who eats popcorn for dinner after spending all my time cooking something to be eaten at another time. How funny!
I have popcorn for dinner more often than I care to admit. But I’m pretty healthy so: I think it’s the corn.
And yes, I have the Jenga fridge, Jenga food cabinet, Jenga garage.. it’s wild times at our house. 🙂
popcorn for dinner while cooking something for another time is also my thing.
why did i not think of bluebarb? i have both of those fruits (yes i know one is a veggie but) in abundance each year. and you are so right, i just learned this year about spreading out the rhubarb harvest. i should really work on that so i won’t be so stressed in june trying to process it all up.
that jar is gorgeous! is it vintage? i love the shape.
I know – I don’t think I’ve done blubarb before either. I usually don’t see them around at the same time. But I have to say I really like the combo and it is pectin-packed making for easy-peasy preserving.
The jar isn’t vintage, I don’t think: I actually think it was a fancy-pants commercial tomato sauce that a friend of mine buys and she brings me the jars to re-use. Score! But yes, it’s a great, modern-yet-vintagey shape.
Sounds so good….and you have the best labels ever. I think of you and sigh every time I scribble on top of a jar with a sharpie.
You should have Babylady decorate all of your labels.. rainbow canning lids!! 🙂
I think blueberry will also do a better job of masking the pale green color of my rhubarb, thanks!
Canning pie filling is such a great idea. I love your labels, too! I have to admit to frequently just using a sharpie, as well…
I am so excited to try this! I’ve never done a pie filling before though. Do you have pie-making instructions? I’d love to give these as gifts.
At the simplest, with canned pie filling you just dump the filling into a crust (homemade or storebought) and bake at 350 degrees F until bubbling (about an hour). You can add a top crust, a lattice, some fancy cut-outs; whatever you like. If you think the filling needs a little thickening before baking, you can whisk together a little sugar & cornstarch (maybe 1 tbsp of each) and mix it into the filling. Easy as pie!
thank you so much! I’m hitting the farmer’s market tomorrow. I’m also ordering those cute round labels you have! It’s an homage as opposed to “copy catting” right?
Absolutely! Homage away. 🙂
I made this on Saturday and it is insanely good. I am officially addicted.
Isn’t it good? And so easy. I swear – rhubarb makes everything better.
Would this work if I use honey instead of sugar and reduced it? Thanks for your thoughts. I am now addicted to canning. But trying to stay low sugar and local as much as I can.
You could certainly use honey, just know that the final texture will be less thick and perhaps a bit runny, and of course, honey will contribute to the flavor profile and change the color somewhat. Depending on the sweetness of your blueberries, I would start small, with 1/4 to 1/2 cup, and work my way up. I always like the flavor of maple syrup with blueberries, so if you are lucky enough to have local maple syrup, that’s another option.
Thank you for posting.! I ran into the same problem, with our black raspberries looking like a bumper crop, coming in soon, and rhubarb and blueberries left in the freezer. 🙂