Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (Smallish-batch, Lower-sugar)
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We can’t get enough of this strawberry rhubarb jam. It’s lower-sugar to let rhubarb’s full flavor profile shine (and hey, to be a little better for ya). And hints of vanilla, cardamom, and black pepper make it cozy yet ever-so-slightly sophisticated.
Why we love this recipe
Strawberry rhubarb jam is such a classic that it really needs no introduction. Here’s what I adore about this recipe:
- It’s lower-sugar and not too sweet, which lets the rhubarb shine and is a little better for ya, to boot
- Hints of vanilla, cardamom, and black pepper make it cozy yet a little bit sophisticated
- It’s great spread on buttered toast or a bagel, of course, but also makes an amenable layer on savory sandwiches
- It has a nice, soft, beautifully spreadable set
- It makes a smallish, manageable batch that you can scale up if you’d like
- Even though it’s lower-sugar, you can preserve it for up to a year
Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy jam recipe.
- You’ll use equal parts strawberries and rhubarb by weight (which turns out to be a little more rhubarb by volume). Cut them nice and small so they cook down easily.
- This recipe uses Pomona’s Universal Pectin and calcium water (which comes with it and is easy to use, promise). This method makes a beautifully set jam without needing too much sugar. You can learn more in the FAQ section below.
- A tiny bit of salted butter keeps the jam from foaming up while cooking and also adds the tiniest bit of roundness to the flavor.
- Notes of cardamom, vanilla, and black pepper in the background make this jam taste fabulous.
How to make it
Jam making can feel a little bit intimidating if you’re not used to canning, but trust me, you can do this. The great thing about this smallish recipe is that you get to choose.
Can it if you like, following the instructions below exactly. Or don’t! The batch will last for at least three weeks in the fridge, and could easily be gone by then.
Here’s what you’ll do.
- For the first step of jam-making, you’ll add all the ingredients except the sugar and pectin to a nice wide, shallow pan. (The shape isn’t critical but does help any excess liquid boil off nicely and quickly.)
- About that calcium water: The package of Pomona’s pectin comes with two envelopes of powder inside. There’s a larger one of pectin and a smaller one of calcium. All you need to do is put the calcium and a little bit of water into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake it up well. You’ll use a little bit in this recipe, and the rest keeps indefinitely in the fridge.
- You’ll cook gently for a few minutes to let the fruit release some liquid and then bring it to a full boil.
- After that, you’ll reduce the heat again and simmer it all together for 15 minutes or so to let the fruit break down. You’ll stir frequently until it looks like photo number 4.
- Once the fruit has cooked down pretty much all the way, it’s time to add the sugar and pectin.
- In a little bowl, you’ll whisk together the sugar and pectin really well.
- Pour it into the pan and whisk constantly.
- Cook for another minute or two, until the sugar and pectin are completely dissolved. You’ll notice some signs of thickening, but it won’t be dramatic. Jam sets up as it cools. See the recipe card below for complete canning instructions.
Expert tips and FAQs
Pomona’s pectin is a slightly different kind of pectin that allows you to make gorgeous, perfectly set jams and jellies with lower sugar content.
Most commercial pectin is made from apples and thickens up because of the sugar content of the mixture. Pomona’s is made from citrus, and its thickening power comes from mixing the pectin with calcium. When you use Pomona’s the sugar in your jam contributes to flavor and longevity, but not as much to thickening as with regular pectin.
Pomona’s is pretty widely available. You can buy it on Amazon if you like.
Yup, you do. Strawberries and rhubarb are both low-pectin ingredients and need a little bit of help thickening up. (Since rhubarb is quite firm, you might think it has a lot of pectin, but it’s an exception to that rule of thumb.)
Thickening needs to come from added pectin, tons of sugar, or both. I think adding a little pectin is the better way to go.
Black pepper. Really. The small amount we use in this recipe adds a subtle sophistication to the flavor profile and plays beautifully with the fruit and the other spices. You won’t really notice it as a separate thing — it just contributes to making a well-rounded whole.
I get it. Canning feels like a big deal. But as long as you follow the instructions exactly, it’s gonna be fine! The jars will seal, and you’ll be able to keep them for up to a year. If any don’t seal, you’ll just pop them in the fridge and eat that jam within about three weeks.
Plus, this recipe makes a smallish batch. So if you want strawberry rhubarb jam but don’t want to can it, you can keep it in the fridge and just gently binge on it over the course of a weeks until it’s gone. You can even make this recipe with frozen rhubarb if you’d rather preserve things that way.
In the fridge, this strawberry rhubarb jam lasts for at least three weeks.
Canned, it will last for a year. Since it’s lower-sugar, don’t keep it longer than that. The color may dull a bit over time, as happens with lower-sugar preserves, but it won’t affect the quality otherwise.
How to serve strawberry rhubarb jam
Spread it on virtually anything! Maybe this goes without saying for jam, but it’s really good with salted butter. Some of our favorites include:
- On toast, a bagel, or an English muffin
- With scones and clotted cream
- On a PB&J sandwich
- On a savory sandwich. It really works! Think turkey and brie, or a breakfast sandwich with ham, egg, and cheese.
More of our favorite strawberry and rhubarb recipes
I never tire of these classic flavors, alone or in combination. Here are some favorites that you’ll love, too:
- Rhubarb juice
- Rhubarb coffee cake
- Strawberry rhubarb crisp
- Strawberry rhubarb compote
- Strawberry agua fresca
- Dandelion salad with strawberries
- Strawberry tartlets
- Balsamic strawberries with whipped cream
- And here’s how to freeze rhubarb so you never have to live without it
You don’t need a lot of special tools for canning, but a few items go a long way. Here’s what I recommend:
- A very large pot. I use the same commercial-grade 24 quart pot for canning, lobsters, and occasional stock-making. Here’s a 20-quart one that’s very similar to what I have. The hardest thing about a pot this size is finding a place to store it, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to buy one.
- A rack for the bottom of the pot to keep the jars from touching the bottom. A metal one or a silicone one is great.
- Canning jars. Recipes typically call for half-pint jelly jars, pint jars, or quart jars. You can choose whether you prefer regular-mouth or wide-mouth jars depending on what you’re making. As a general guide, regular-mouth jars are best for liquids and wide-mouth are better for whole fruits and vegetables.
- Lids and rings. You can reuse jars many times, but you’ll want new lids and rings. Here are wide-mouth ones and regular-mouth ones.
- A funnel makes filling jars and keeping the tops clean MUCH easier. I have this one.
- A jar lifter makes it not scary to remove jars from the canner. Here’s a good one.
- 1 pound (453 grams) strawberries (a generous 3 cups finely chopped)
- 1 pound (453 grams) rhubarb (a scant 4 cups finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon salted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons calcium water
- 1/2 pound (227 grams) sugar (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons Pomona’s universal pectin
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To make the jam
- If you'll be canning the jam, prepare the jars and hot water canner according to the instructions below.
- In a wide pot, stir together strawberries, rhubarb, butter, cardamom, pepper, and calcium water.
- Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the fruit starts to release its juices.
- Raise heat to high and bring to a full boil. Then reduce heat again and simmer, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until fruit has softened completely and largely broken down, about 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and pectin together thoroughly.
- Add sugar mixture to pan and whisk constantly while mixture returns to a full boil. Simmer briskly for one to two minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
- Funnel into jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Refrigerate once cool or proceed to canning instructions.
- To prepare the hot water canning bath, place your rack on the bottom of your canning pot and arrange the jars in the pot.
- Fill the pot with water to cover the jars by about an inch.
- Put the pot on the stove and bring the water up to a boil. While the water comes to a boil, make the jam.
- When the jam is ready, lift the jars out of the canner with a jar lifter, carefully pouring out any water. You can turn off the heat for a bit while you fill the jars.
- Funnel the jam into the jars as noted above.
- Wipe the rims completely clean. Place lids atop jars and screw on rings completely but not too tightly. You're aiming for "fingertip tight," which means as tight as you would comfortably screw them on with your fingertips. This allows oxygen to escape while processing.
- Use the jar lifter to place the filled, closed jars into the canner. Turn the heat to high and bring the water up to a full boil.
- When the water reaches a boil, set a timer for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the water. It should boil for the full 10 minutes, but you may want to lower the heat to avoid the kind of manic boil that would lead to splashing.
- When the timer rings, turn off the heat. Carefully use the jar lifter to remove the jars from the water. Place the jars on silicone trivets or a kitchen towel (and not directly on the counter, where the sudden temperature change could crack the jars).
- Let the jars cool until they're easy to handle. You may hear popping sounds as the jars seal, which is fun fun fun. Remove rings and test seals. The center of the lid should be depressed, and the lid should stay firmly in place when you invert the jar.
- Make sure the sealed jars are clean, and store in a cool, dry place (without rings) for up to a year. Refrigerate any unsealed jars and use within three weeks.
- To make the calcium water, just follow the instructions in the Pomona's pectin packet. Combine the calcium and the indicated amount of water in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake it vigorously. Measure out what you need for this recipe and keep the rest in the fridge indefinitely.
- You'll need four 8-ounce jelly jars for this recipe and will have a few spoonfuls left over.
- Please see the "canning equipment" section above for sources.