Friday, May 8, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam...Step by Step with Photos

Homemade Jam is a very daunting prospect for many...
Seemingly complicated, difficult, and fraught with peril.
It really does not have to be. MrMartha will take you through it, with step by step instructions and photos

It is an incredibly simple recipe, with one requirement -- accurate measuring.
There is a straightforward preparation procedure, also with one major requirement -- precise timing.
If you spend a little time familiarizing yourself with the procedures before you start the process....the results are well worth the effort and nothing short of spectacular.

The quick rundown:
* Select and prepare your fruit. * Pre-measure ingredients. * Prepare jars. * Heat fruit and sugar to a rolling boil, add the packaged pectin, and cook together. * Carefully ladle into jars. * Install lids and rings. * Process in boiling water to cover, then remove and allow to stand undisturbed till cool. That's all ---REALLY.

Read More for a MrMartha's favorite Strawberry/Rhubarb Jam recipe, Detailed step by step instructions with photos, and some additional helpful hints.

MrMartha's Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

4 Cups Prepared Fruit (mixture of Strawberries and precooked Rhubarb) (Approx 4-5 pints of unprepared fruit)
7 Cups White Sugar
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon Butter (to limit foaming while boiling)
1 Pouch Liquid Pectin (Certo or Ball brand)

The ratio of Strawberry to Rhubarb is a matter of personal taste. MrMartha likes about 25% Rhubarb, which gives a wonderful nuance but leaves the Strawberries the predominant flavor. If you like a more assertive Rhubarb flavor, go 50-50. You can also make the recipe using only Strawberries, but the blend is so much better.

Chop the Rhubarb and stew over medium heat, with a little bit of added water, apple juice, or orange juice. The Rhubarb should just start to soften and break into fibers, and should not have excess juices, Allow to cool slightly, skim off any excess liquid as needed.

Hull and slice the Strawberries in half or quarters depending on size. In a mixing bowl mash the sliced fruit with a potato masher or wide tined fork, until macerated. you should see a mixture of juice and pulp, with a few larger bits of berry still intact. If you like a chunkier jam, add some additional sliced berries to the crushed mixture at the end.

Measure the fruit into a liquid measuring cup, in your preferred ratio.
Note-- some say use individual one cup measures for best accuracy, but MrMartha always uses a 4 cup pyrex measure, and has never had a problem...just be sure you are only measuring out exact quantity called for.

Heat the prepared fruit in a 6-8 quart heavy deep saucepan or kettle. As the fruit starts to bubble, add the sugar, vinegar, salt, and butter. (see additional hints)

Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. (Cannot be stirred down, continues to boil even when stirred).

Quickly add the contents of the liquid pectin packet. (have the pectin pouch pre-opened and sitting upright in a glass or cup nearby)

Return to full boil, continue to stir, and boil for EXACTLY one minute. Remove from heat.

Allow to sit for a couple minutes to let fruit distribute and foam to disperse, while you prepare jars. Skim off any remaining foam and stir well.

Ladle into hot prepared jars using a canning funnel, to within 1/4" of tops. Try to get an equal portion of fruit bits into each jar. Run a damp paper towel or cloth around jar edge to be sure it is clean. Seat rubberized lid onto jar rim, and screw ring band down till tight.

When all jars are filled, lower into boiling water bath and cover. Check often until water returns to boil (some small bubbles will emanate from the airspace in the not confuse this with the water returning to a boil).

When water bath returns to a boil, begin timing, and process the jam for 10 minutes. (check links in Additional Hints if you are at a high altitude location). The water level in the canner should be above the tops of the jars by about 2 inches.

Carefully remove the processed jars from the water bath to a sturdy tray covered with a towel. Allow the jars to sit undisturbed till cool. Within a few minutes after removal, you should hear "PING" sounds, meaning the jars are sealing. When fully cool press down at center of lid, if there is any give, the jar did not seal, and should be refrigerated and used within a few weeks. Sealed jars may be stored in a cool dark area for up to a year before quality starts to deteriorate.

Additional Hints:
**Use Heavy bottomed Dutch Oven, very deep saucepan, or kettle to cook fruit.
**Preheat measured sugar in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, so it is already hot when you add it to the fruit -- allows mixture to reach full boil more quickly, and gives you a jam with a less 'cooked' taste.
**Run the pre-washed jars through the final rinse and dry cycle of the dishwasher just before filling, so they remain hot.
**Do not reuse the jar lids. Metal screw bands may be reused from year to year.
**Have all utensils ready to go before you start. Practice a "dry run" of the steps before the actual preparation if you have never made jam or done home preserving before.
**For the boiling water bath you need some sort of rack in the bottom of the canning kettle. This can be improvised with wire mesh, or by temporarily attaching together a web of extra canning lid rings.
**Allow plenty of time for your boiling water bath to preheat before you commence the final steps of the recipe.
**Work quickly but carefully, attention to detail is what will ensure your success.
**A special jar lifter tool is recommended to get jars in and out of the boiling water bath, but some long handled tongs will also do the job....test first, lifting a lidded jam jar full of water, to be sure it is manageable and to gain some advance confidence.
**More information about boiling water bath procedures for canning is HERE.
**More information about home canning safety is HERE.
**More information about home canning equipment is HERE