By last week, our backyard rhubarb patch had grown enough that I thought there would be enough for a small batch of jam. We are also in the thick of strawberry season here in Nova Scotia, so I brought my kids into the garden and the kitchen for a morning project: homemade strawberry rhubarb jam.
I showed Cash (almost 5) how to pick the rhubarb by grasping the base of the stalk, to keep on as much as possible of the sweet pink bit. He cut off the leaves on the back deck, right next to the garden, and we tossed them in the compost right away - I was very clear about how poisonous they are! He used his "big-boy knife", a small serrated paring knife with a rounded tip.
Then we headed inside to wash, weigh and chop the two main ingredients. Cash did the rhubarb, and Polly chopped up the strawberries (after pulling off all the leaves) with a butter knife. Then it was as simple as putting the fruit and some sugar in a pot on the stove, stirring, and waiting! They both took a turn stirring the ingredients together on the stovetop. Until the sugar is dissolved, it's important to keep stirring, so the mixture doesn't stick to your pot.
I sterilized our jars by washing in hot soapy water, rinsing, and leaving to try in a very low oven (200 F). When the jam had cooked for about 20 minutes, it was ready. It turned beautifully dark in colour and was quite thick, very sweet, and delicious. The jam was so hot that I did the pouring into the jars, since it also had to be done quickly. The kids helped put the lids on the filled jars. And of course, they got to lick the spatulas. De rigeur!
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
400 g rhubarb stalks, leaves cut off
600 g strawberries, hulled (these amounts are flexible - enough of each to make up a kilo of your fruit is what you're after)
600-700 g sugar (the more strawberries in your mix, the less sugar you need)
Place a small plate in the fridge (you'll use this later to see if the jam is done). Wash and dice your fruit. Mix the fruit and the sugar together in a large pot (it should be no more than half full with the mixture), and place on medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved (5-8 minutes). Once dissolved, turn heat up to medium-high, and let the mixture come to a good bubbling simmer. Leave to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and keeping watch. You'll see the fruit break down as the water evaporates and the mixture cooks.
While the jam cooks, wash and rinse your jars in hot water, and leave to dry in a 200 degree F oven.
When the jam looks like it's thickened and the fruit broken down, remove the cold plate from your fridge, and place a small dollop of jam on it. If you tip the plate a bit and the jam remains in place (not running down the plate), it's done. This is called the "saucer test"!
As soon as the jam is done, pour it into a large jug with a spout, and pour into your jars. Do this as quickly as possible in order to keep the jam hot when the jars are closed. This will keep your jam from going off in your cupboard. Fill the jars as close to the top as possible, and then place your lids on the jars, and tightly close. Upturn each jar once, so the hot jam kills any bacteria on the lid.