Rhubarb is a fabulous, yet highly-underrated opening act for Midwestern summers. This perennial plant is here for a brief moment of time, but it seems it’s always overshadowed by the flashier and super popular Ohio strawberry. I love strawberries, too; but rhubarb will always hold a special place in my heart because it reminds me of my late maternal grandmother, Grammy. Grammy adored rhubarb.
Admittedly, Grammy didn’t love to cook and, when I think back to times I spent at her house, I remember that her pantry was never overflowing with copious amounts of food and she didn’t have a cookie jar (unless she was hiding it from me, which is a conspiracy theory I just surmised). If the time of year was right, though, Grammy would usually have a saucepan of stewed rhubarb on the stove. Her kitchen would be filled with the scent of tartness and cooked sugar. When no one was watching, I would tiptoe in and taste a spoonful of it and sear the roof of my mouth from the piping hot temperature, trying to play it cool if an adult happened to walk by while blisters were likely forming inside my mouth. If I were lucky enough to hit the jackpot and find ice cream in the bowels of my grandparents’ garage freezer, I would drizzle a bit of the rhubarb on top and scurry off to the spare bedroom to enjoy it. Looking back, I participated in a lot of sneaky eating in my youth. Oh, the days of yore.
I recently listened to a podcast about making and canning jam because I am age 30 going on 76. The woman who was being interviewed made a comment about how she loves jam so much because she feels that when she cooks and cans the jam, she is preserving a moment in time. When we make jam, we are taking a fruit at the peak of ripeness in its respective season and we bottle it up to enjoy for an occasion in the future. I found this to be quite poetic. How comforting to think that, when January hits and the snow is covering the landscape, I can walk down to our cellar and pluck the tastes of early summer right off our shelves in the form of this strawberry rhubarb jam? Even more comforting is the fact that every time I taste rhubarb, I am fondly transformed back into Grammy’s kitchen in the 1990s. Just a plump, carefree 10-year-old with burns on the roof of her mouth from the rhubarb she lovingly stole from her Grammy.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Yield: 6 half pint jars
- 2 cups crushed clean strawberries, (I started with 4 cups uncrushed)
- 2 cups chopped rhubarb
- 6 tablespoons pectin
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 5½ cups sugar
- Thoroughly clean canning jars and bands. Wash lids in warm soapy water.
- In a large saucepan, combine strawberries, rhubarb, pectin, and lemon juice. Stir to blend. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add sugar and stir until sugar dissolves.
- Return mixture to a rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and scoop off foam with a spoon.
- Immediately ladle hot jam into jars, leaving about 1/4 inch space between jam and the top of the jar. Clean rims, center lid on jar, and secure bands
- Flip each can over so they are upside down. Use oven mitts if necessary as the jars will be very hot.
- Allow jars to sit for at least 1 hour. Flip them back over and ensure the lids have sealed.
- Cool for at least 12 hours. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not pop up and down when center is pressed. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year. The jam will keep for 3 weeks in the fridge after being opened.
Source: Back to Her Roots