Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam_0032Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam05

My first summer in Aberdeen was much like a first love. I experienced what a strawberry really, really tasted like, simply couldn’t get enough and wanted it with me all the time. Three punnets were on the go at a shot, freshly plucked from a local farm and sold in the farm shop along a winding country road. The kind where daffodils lined the edges and seem to nod daftly at everything that passed them. The whole scenery around this shop – the setting with the lush fields, separated by stone dykes in perpetual residence, dotted with fluffy sheep or hefty cows, surprisingly clear blue skies and the scent of fresh raspberries and strawberries in the air – was the epitome of the cliched British picture in my mind. I loved it all; I miss it deeply. I miss the serene, reviving beauty of the natural, green landscape, be it farmed or those wisely left as they always were. I miss the berries. My favourite way with those strawberries, is pouring lightly sweetened single cream over them, with just a barely perceptible hint of vanilla scenting a bowlful. To this day, when I unexpectedly get the scent of strawberries, I see the open valleys and rolling hills on the edges of Aberdeen city.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam_0019Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam_0083Strawb Rhubabr Jam_0004Strawb Rhubabr Jam_0019Strawb Rhubabr Jam_0020The Scotsman’s grandfather was a keen, avid gardener. On one side of his narrow, long garden sat a vegetable patch. In a corner great shards of thick, pink-green stalks and massive pink veined green leaves shot out of the earth. He hacked away at some of the rhubarb stalks and handed it over to me, saying that he loved rhubarb jam. I had read somewhere previously, that rhubarb and strawberry make a lovely combination and decided to get them acquainted in a jam pot. A few tweaks  and several jam jars later, I came upon a balance I liked, as did the grandfather and have been making this jam ever since. The tart, yet fruity acidity of the rhubarb seems to bring out an almost perfumed strawberry flavour. The scent of this jam cooking to me is the essence of summer. Make it and you’ll understand.

I don’t have access to a lot of fruit for jam making. Considering that everything is more or less imported, it means the fruit isn’t at its best when it reaches here but I am still paying  a premium for its occupation on the shelf irrespective of quality. So, when the bug hits me, I make jam, but in small batches, usually no more than 4 x 250 ml jars at one go. These keeps things manageable as strawberry jams are notorious for setting, so a massive pot would just take so long to come to setting point, that all its delicate flavour would be destroyed. Also, it allows me to use much less sugar as it doesn’t hang around that long. I think this produces a stronger flavoured jam too, where the fruit flavour isn’t dampened by a undiscriminating blanket of sweetness.

Now, should you, like me, suffer from having no source of real strawberries, know that good quality frozen strawbs, as well as frozen rhubarb work superbly well in this recipe too. I’ve often knocked up a fair few batches during the winter months with frozen packets of fruit. Simply defrost and proceed as per the recipe, adding a bit more lemon juice for pectin content. Only point to note is that it might take a bit longer to set.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam03Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam02A point on setting points – I don’t really give too much of a hoot. Unless you are submitting your jars for a preserves contest, it really shouldn’t become the be-all and end-all of jam making. In chasing that rather elusive magic setting point, your jam can easily move from perfect to pastilles. Might as well lessen the stakes. I actually much, much prefer a softer set. Soft mind, not runny. The kind where the indentation of a spoon’s scoop is slowly blurred and softened, eventually evening out. Soft enough to sit lusciously on top of a vanilla or coconut milk scented, silky rice pudding, plopped generously over fluffy freshly baked scones or to charm a bowl of bolstering porridge. I suppose this jam sits more on the side of a preserve, with suspended chunks of the fruit in its body. Tis a glorious thing.

The quantity I give here yielded four jars. Within two weeks, I am down to my last one. I screeched at The Scotsman not to finish it as he spread two slices of bread thickly. I hadn’t taken a shot of the finished product yet. Before you roll your eyes at my food blogger’s lunacy, consider that he has had his fill of two previous jars (my mother hauled the third away with her after a short trip to Doha). I can say with confidence, that he absolutely adores this jam, my brothers and mother have finished their jar within a matter of days and the kids think I am incredibly clever making such a delicious jam all by my simple self. Nothing like kids to put a compliment into perspective! It also makes the loveliest gifts to give from your kitchen.

Hopefully, we might get away to the UK for the summer. With temperatures already at 50deg C, the cold hit of horizontal scottish rain would be a relief! Until then, the taste of a stolen teaspoon of Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam, eaten just so, will take me there.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam

  • Servings: approx 4 x 250g jars
  • Print

500 gms fresh or frozen strawberries, halved if large. Slightly underripe fresh berries are perfect as they set easier.
500gms fresh or frozen rhubarb
750gm of sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)

4 x 250gm jars with lids

Place all the ingredients except the lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix well, cover and leave to macerate for 2 hours, until the fruits have softened and released their juices.

When the time is up, wash your jars with hot, soapy water, drain well and put onto a baking tray lined with an old kitchen towel. Place into an oven preheated to 150 deg C and leave there till needed. Wash the lids too. Drain and wipe clean with kitchen paper. Place two small saucers into your freezer. This will come into use to check setting levels later.

Put the fruit mix and lemon juice if using, into a large, heavy bottomed pot. Aluminium is not recommended as it will react with the acids. You can use enamel lined pans as long as it isn’t chipped. Stainless steel is the preferred option.

Put the heat on medium and allow the sugar to melt, stirring often. Once melted and no crystals are left, turn up the heat as high as it will go. Bring to a rolling boil, scraping the surface to remove any foamy scum. Stir frequently, to stop it catching. If you have a thermometer, then setting point will be reached at 104-105deg C. If not, then when you see the mixture thicken and the bubbles are bigger and noisier, turn down the heat and put a small blob on the frozen saucer. In half a minute, run your fingertip from one end of the blob to the other. If you see wrinkles on the surface, then setting point has been reached. If not, then boil for a bit longer, checking for setting point frequently. Take the pot off the heat, take your jars out of the oven and decant the jam into the jars, preferably with the use of a funnel. Close the jars with the lids tightly. Store in a cool, dark place as light can change the colour as well as spoil the preserve.

Notes:
About using frozen fruit; the flavour will be good, but the fresh stuff is rather brilliant. So I urge you to make this with fresh if you can. Also, frozen fruit will take a longer time to set. I would recommend going for a soft set particularly in this case, otherwise your jam will lean towards candied fruit!

Don’t be constrained by the amounts here. I often use less strawberry and more rhubarb or the other way around. Tis all good!

 

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36 comments

  1. “A point on setting points – I don’t really give too much of a hoot. Unless you are submitting your jars for a preserves contest, it really shouldn’t become the be-all and end-all of jam making.”….

    Thank you so much for saying that. There are too many times that I’ve considered a slightly runny jam a failure, just because it didn’t meet with the “standards”. Whose standards, I have no idea. Maybe our own that we have set way too high.
    The truth of the matter is, is that those “failures” are just as delicious as a truly set jam.

    This is a lovely recipe, and one that I am printing as I type this comment. I truly enjoyed this post. Just wonderful!

  2. I recently bought strawberry jam at a farmer’s market, and my sister bought strawberry-rhubarb. After tasting hers I regret not getting the rhubarb!

    Rhubarb is a food that whenever I taste it I think of summer and my grandma’s rhubarb pie.

    This post has made me consider making my own rhubarb jam. Thank you!

    • LOl, yes the combination of strawberry and rhubarb are wonderful together. Seriously complimentary, as if they finish each other’s sentences! A different way to go would be Rhubarb and Ginger, my husband’s late grandpa’s favourite. I couldn’t quite take to it as much. Rhubarb pie though…lush!

  3. Gorgeous recipe…as a child, we had a rhubarb plant that my mum would tear up and transport from garden to garden when we moved. She would make an annual batch of rhubarb and fig jam that I still dream about. Strawberry and rhubarb sounds beautiful, too – we look forward to trying it out!

  4. Rushi!

    Carrie I could hug you right now. I love rhubarb and strawberry jam and bought a pot just last week. Now you’ve just gone and provided me with a recipe to make my own. Don’t you just love the flavour combination? Back at my mom’s whenever I used rhubarb I had to use a truck load of sugar simply because it was more sweet than sour but I’m glad that the European ones are just right. Anyway I think it’s high time that you started your own line of products and sell it online, hint hint :)

  5. I agree with you on setting points. I once made some plum jam and let it boil for a little too long and nearly ended up with a very large plum boiled sweet. It was not a jam to keep in the fridge otherwise you would never have got it out the jar without bending the spoon! Much better to be soft than rock hard.

    Have you tried Nigella’s strawberry crumble from ‘Kitchen’? It’s great for sub-standard strawberries, or even ones you have left in the fridge a little too long. I imagine it would work well with frozen ones too – the ground almonds will soak up the excess liquid. With a splash of double cream it is a wonderful alternative to Eton mess but still with all the evocative flavours.

    • Kirsten my very first jam was basically, tar. You couldn’t even stick a spoon into it, let alone bend it. I swore I’d never bother again! Famous last words it seems.

      Umm, I am not a fan of the cooked texture strawberries (or most berries really). Isn’t it Nigella herself who appetisingly said frozen strawberries take on the texture of cold, soft slugs? It resonated with me and I think of that line every time I come across a cooked strawberry! I have Kitchen so will use other berries me thinks. And anything tastes good with a splash of double cream :D

      • Ha! I hadn’t heard that analogy for frozen strawberries before. I can see your point (and hers). Although a frozen strawberry is much preferable to a canned one . . . they really are slug like.

        • You won’t believe this, but a childhood treat for The Scotsman, aka husband, was canned strawberries, IN SYRUP, with cream or ice cream. Heave! I managed to dodge his requests for years but then gave in the one time. When I emptied the contents of the can into a colander, I pretty much gagged. I rinsed them, which made him wail with sorrow!!! HE WANTED THE SYRUP!!!! Good thing I love the man. Ugh.

          • It must be true love indeed!

            I’m not surprised you gagged, the contents of a can of strawberries always looks to me like something from the prop department of a horror film.

            Coming from a family of Scots I can understand why he would have wanted the syrup more than the fruit. My dad and his brother used to get toffee sandwiches as a treat – the toffee being made from a can of condensed milk that’s been simmered in water for hours. As much as it is delicious, I am very glad the tradition hasn’t carried on! And my mum was given sugar sandwiches. Such a healthy nation, the Scots! :)

  6. The simplest recipes are the best! Jam making seems too much of a chore, when in reality, it is one of the simplest delights :)

  7. Thanks so much for this recipe! I’ll definitely be making this soon! :)

  8. Mmmm. Gorgeous. I have very fond memories of strawberries from when I was little. I actually wrote a blog post about it – my Nana always coated them in lemon juice and sugar. Hardly necessary – but a real treat.

  9. thank you for this delicious recipe!

  10. Your photos are really stunning. The action shots are especially brilliant. Are you using a lighting setup/studio?

    • Ha! No. No proper set up at all but thanks for the compliment!

      • Really? I’m shocked! Do you just use natural/inside lighting then? :)

        • Yup. Maybe I shouldn’t dispel myths ;) The ‘action’ shots as you name them ; two anodised baking sheets, one on the bottom and the other acting as the background. Natural light coming in through the top left hand side from the window in my kitchen. I usually do natural light shots. I have done some indoor ones with a very rudimentary set up of tracing paper over a large, empty photo frame as a diffuser for the light from my desk lamp. Essential kit – reflector and a tripod with an remote shutter. That’s it.

          • Thanks for the tips. Natural light and make-shift diffusers/reflectors is the exact set-up I am working with now. It’s inspiring to see the results you’re getting. :)

  11. I make kilos of strawberry jam each summer, I never thought of pairing it with rhubarb. Thanks for the inspiration 😃

  12. I remembered a couple of tubs of strawberries left over from a lunch we had on Sunday and was pondering what to do with them – then I read your post. I know what I’ll be doing later! I love your blog, the pictures are fantastic.

  13. Lovely as always, Carrie! I love your realistic approach to things!

  14. Sounds delicious! I love rhurbarb, and together with strawberries it sounds like a good combination :)
    Very nice pictures!!

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