Making strawberry and rhubarb jam (any, for that matter) is like practicing magic.
You start with a bunch of fresh strawberries, shake a baguette (also called, wooden spoon) in a bubbling cauldron, then it all comes together in a jiffy in a sparkling ruby-toned jam that's ready to spread.
- Why this Recipe Works
- The Secret to Making Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam Without Pectin
- What Goes in It?
- How to Make this Jam Step by Step
- The Keys to Success: My Top Tips
- How to Test the Jam Setting Point without a Thermometer
- How to Store this Jam
- Other Creative Variations
- How to serve this dish
- Answers to Your Burning Questions
- Make this Jam Now
- Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Why this Recipe Works
I've never made jam, and even less with rhubarb, but now I feel that old age is approaching, and although life expectancy is increasing, I wouldn't want to miss the boat. I need to prepare my own jar of Bonne Maman jam.
At first, I was afraid of this endeavor, but after having concocted my homemade jam by mixing rhubarb with strawberries, oh the joy! THE JOY!
It seemed so intimidating to me. But I'm glad I lifted the veil on the enigmatic jam-making and discovered how rewarding it is. This strawberry and rhubarb jam recipe is so magical!
- Very easy to do;
- Without pectin;
- Provided with few ingredients;
- With a harmonious marriage of strawberry and rhubarb;
- Without refined white sugar (you'll see what I replaced it with below);
- Lower in sugar than regular recipes.
By the way, yes, most strawberry and rhubarb jam recipes have more sugar than fruit. Obviously, rhubarb is tart, but you won't be able to appreciate the flavor of strawberries or rhubarb buried in that much sugar.
This is almost the norm because strawberries and rhubarb are both low in pectin. Therefore, many commercial brands add a load of sugar to help the jam gel.
But in this recipe, an elementary ingredient will help achieve this result. In any case, this stuff is incredible: clean tasting, quite firm but elastic in texture, full of shiny berries.
It's finger-licking good.
The Secret to Making Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam Without Pectin
Both strawberries and rhubarb are very soft fruits, and they fall apart entirely on prolonged cooking. What's more, it's challenging to cook thick fruit jam that is low in pectin well enough to gel it. And it's very likely that it burns long before it gets there.
Lemon juice is the key to a good pectin-free jam.
Because the acid extracts all the pectin from the fruit. And then helps all of its strands bind together so that the jam thickens and "hardens."
In addition, lemon itself contains a large amount of it.
So, just by adding its juice, you naturally increase the amount of this molecular web in your jam. If you want to know more about the chemistry of it all, I suggest you read this article from the Serious Eats website.
The rest will depend on the amount of sugar added and the cooking (see below).
What Goes in It?
Strawberries – in general, the flavor of small strawberries is sweeter than that of larger varieties as the latter are often watery. Choose strawberries that are uniform in size, plump, brightly colored, and still have their little green hats attached to their heads. Avoid those that are soft and moldy.
Once at home, don't wash them before use and store them (ideally on a single layer of paper towel) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Although I prefer them in season, you can use frozen strawberries. Finally, if you ever find that they aren't sweet enough, you may need to increase the amount of sugar in your recipe to compensate.
Rhubarb – there are two basic types of rhubarb: greenhouse-grown (available December through March) and field-grown (available March through October). The first type is distinguished by its pink to pale red stalks and yellow-green leaves, while the second (more pronounced in flavor) has cherry red color stalks and green leaves. The latter is in high season from April to June.
Choose firm stalks that have a bright color. The leaves should look fresh and be blemish-free.
Once at home, since they are highly perishable, refrigerate fresh rhubarb, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag for up to 3 days. Wash and remove leaves just before use.
I'm not sure you can find any frozen. If you want the rhubarb that way for later use, buy as many in season as possible and put them in the freezer.
Coconut palm sugar – considered a natural sugar, it involves minimal processing, and no chemicals are used. It's a good substitute for granulated white sugar. Its dark brown color and caramel, nutty and earthy flavor have a taste impact, but it complements the strawberries.
This granulated, unrefined sweetener is considered "healthier" than white sugar. It is also considered "a little healthier" than cane sugar because the conversion process retains more nutrients, including a fiber called inulin, which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
This allows for a lower glycemic index compared to some other sugars. The calorie content is the same as granulated sugar, i.e., about 4 calories per gram.
Lemon juice – fresh is always better.
Salt – I always use kosher salt because it dissolves faster thanks to its tiny crystals. The addition of salt here counterbalances the sweet flavors and enhances the aromas. We rarely see this addition, if ever, but it exalts the sweetness of sugar. Don't ignore it!
How to Make this Jam Step by Step
1 / Cut the rhubarb into small pieces.
2 / Cut the strawberries into small pieces.
3 / Mix the fruit with the sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan.
4 / Cook for about 1 hour, 1 hour 30 minutes.
5 / Stir from time to time until the jam thickens.
6 / Keep your jam in small mason jars.
The Keys to Success: My Top Tips
Choose the right pot
The width of your pot can affect the outcome of your jam. Always choose the widest one at your disposal and with sufficient height to allow the jam to boil vigorously. A larger surface means faster evaporation, and a sufficient height means that you can increase the heat and let it boil. Quick water evaporation is essential to obtain a nice sticky spreadable jam.
Don't despise sugar (this time)
It looks like a dreadful amount when you measure it, but stay strong, stay firm, and go on. Most of the time, this will make the perfect jam. Sugar does a lot more in a jam than sweetening it, you know.
It not only preserves the fruit, of course, but it plays a significant role in extracting its flavor. It also binds the water in the fruit so that it cannot interfere with the thickening. Use too little sugar, and the aroma and color will be dull. Jam is no place for a sugar-free diet.
And if you're wondering, "Why is my jam so runny?" The reduction in the quantity could be the cause.
Indeed, if you reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe too drastically, you may not be able to bring your jam setting point. Therefore, you'll have more of a strawberry and rhubarb sauce instead of a jam.
Control the heat
It's essential to ensure that the temperature of the jam reaches around 220 ° F (104 ° C), which is its "gelling" or "gelification" point. You can therefore test it by taking its boiling temperature. When the mixture reaches this temperature, the jam is usually ready.
Cook long enough
You just have to let some of the excess water in the fruit evaporate, a process that only happens if you cook it long enough.
For me, this time was about an hour and a half. But the time may vary. Often the cooking times provided by the authors of the recipe are only approximate times. They don't know how your stove cooks, if you live in the Sahara (arid zone) or the Amazon rainforest (wet and sticky), or in which pot you cook the jam. Use your judgment.
How to Test the Jam Setting Point without a Thermometer
How do you know if you have left your jam to cook "long enough"? In general, as mentioned above, the jam setting point is 220 ° F (104 ° C), and this is for fruits that aren't super-rich in pectin.
But if you don't have a thermometer, you can use more tactile cooking tests: the saucer test and the sheet test.
I learned these methods from Marisa from the Food in Jars website. Here's how:
The saucer test:
- At the start of cooking (or even before), put a few saucers or salad plates in your freezer.
- When you think the jam is done, remove the pan from the heat to test the consistency.
- Take out one of the saucers/plates from the freezer and place a dollop in the center, perhaps a puddle the size of a $1 or $2 coin.
- Let sit for a minute or two, then gently push out the puddle of jam with your finger. If it has formed superficial skin, seems to develop some solidity, it's done. You can confirm this when your finger is just starting to leave a clean mark. If it's runny and has a saucy consistency, give it a few more minutes, return the pot to the heat, stirring, and then test again a few minutes later.
Another indication is when you tilt the saucer, the jam should slide out very slowly. It won't look like jam per se yet—it will be softer, more gloppy than that—but it will continue to thicken as it cools. (If in doubt, consider undercooking. At worst, you can always use it as a syrup on pancakes! You'll nail it next time!)
The Sheet Test:
- Here, you have to stir a spoon in your jam and remove it from the pot. Holding it over the cooking jam, watch the remains of the spoon drain. Do they trickle down like rain on a window? If so, it's not quite ready. However, if they seem thick and follow each other on more than one sheet into the jam, it is.
How to Store this Jam
It's best to store jam in sterilized Mason jars.
For long term storage (at least one year)
I'm not a canning expert, but here's what I've gathered from around the interwebs.
Jam can be stored as follows: sterilize four (4) approximately 1-cup jars (or two 2-cup jars) and their lids and bands. Boil water in a pot. It's possible to wash them in the dishwasher, given the high heat generated at the end of the washing cycle.
Fill jars with cooked jam, leaving about ¼ inch (½ cm) free space from the top. Use a damp cloth or paper towel to wipe down the rim to make sure it's clean. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the bands. Secure just enough so that they are hand tight but can easily be unscrewed.
Carefully place the jars in the pot so that they don't touch each other and are covered with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water. Boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and allow them to stand for 24 hours before storing them. You should hear the seals on the lids burst shortly after removing them from the water. Store them in a dark, cool place, and they will keep for at least a year.
For short term storage
If you don't want to can the jam, be sure to put them in small jars to avoid premature spoilage. It will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
Other Creative Variations
I love this strawberry and rhubarb combination so much that I'd be tempted to make a cake, pie, compote, muffins, or crumble with the same main ingredients in the future (and maybe it could inspire you).
How to serve this dish
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam might be your favorite thing to mix with other goodies :
- Spread it on thick slices of toast.
- Add it on top of a chia pudding.
- Spread it on fluffy pancakes, waffles, or slices of French toast.
- Place it as a garnish on yogurt.
Answers to Your Burning Questions
Yes. Pectin is a natural starch that forms in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables, giving them structure. When combined with acid and sugar and heated to 220 ° F (104 ° C), it forms a gel that thickens fruit jam, jelly, and preserves.
We don't have to add it. In most cases, the amount of pectin naturally present in fruit is sufficient.
BUT, it's crucial to understand how to extract all that natural pectin from the fruit you're cooking so that the jam "sets," that is, it thickens into jam.
In general, the firmer the fruit, the more pectin it contains. Apples, for example, have a high amount of pectin, unlike strawberries.
Although firm like an apple, rhubarb is nevertheless poor in pectin. In a strawberry rhubarb jam recipe, since none of these ingredients contain a lot of pectin, it's essential to understand how to maximize the thickening power of the ingredients. And this is possible thanks to the addition of lemon.
Replacing white sugar with brown sugar is only a relative improvement. Whole or raw sugar (evaporated juice from cane sugar) would be a better substitute, but its strong flavor often masks the taste of the fruit. For so-called "sugar-free" recipes, you can instead add:
• Honey. The measurements are as follows: 2 volumes of sugar equals 1 volume of honey. You will need to cook the jam a little longer than the time indicated in the recipe using sugar. The consistency of the jam or jelly will be a little runnier.
• Other natural sweeteners such as Stevia, Norbu, or even Xylitol. We will only put 3 tablespoons instead of 1 cup of sugar used in the traditional jam recipe.
Make this Jam Now
If rhubarb has never had an effect on you, just like me, know that from now on, each spring, you'll no longer walk straight in front of those cherry red color branches that were eying you in your grocery store.
You can finally mix it with strawberries to make a strawberry and rhubarb jam that you'll surely keep in your repertoire.
Making your homemade jam can seem mysterious. But once you try making it, you'll feel such satisfaction from yourself, gratification.
This is an effortless thing to do, and it isn't paramount to measure the target temperature. It may only be up to your senses to know if it has taken well.
Just watch, listen, and push some jam with your fingertips.
The more you do it, the more you'll improve, the more it'll be instinctive.
If you try this recipe, I want to know about it! I always appreciate your feedback. Leave a star rating in the recipe card right below and/or a review in the comment section further down the page. You can also follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram. Sign up for my email list, too!
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
- 3 cups strawberries hulled and halved
- 3 cups rhubarb cut into ½ inch (2 cm) cubes (about 1 large stalk)
- 2 cups coconut palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Pinch salt
- Combine all ingredients in a medium to a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low. The heat should be set to the point where it continues to bubble, but not violently when stirred (once cooking begins, bubbles of jam may escape from the center of the pan). Continue to cook, occasionally stirring, until the jam thickens, 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes at 220 ° F (104 ° C) or as per your observations.
VariantsFor a less sweet and much more tangy taste: add double the rhubarb. For so-called "sugar-free" recipes, you can instead add:
- Honey. The measurements are as follows: 2 volumes of sugar equals 1 volume of honey. You will need to cook the jam a little longer than the time indicated in the recipe using sugar. The consistency of the jam or jelly will be a little runnier.
- Other natural sweeteners such as Stevia, Norbu, or even Xylitol. We will only put 3 tablespoons instead of 1 cup of sugar used in the traditional jam recipe.
ConservationPreserved in mason jars and loosely sealed, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
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