Kids can be picky. No matter who you are and how you raise the little devils, there will be times that they will eat nothing but a bland selection of about 3 kinds of food. Behold the humble PB&J! From day one my boys have never turned one down. We have always been High Fructose Corn Syrup free in this family (that means the bread, jelly, and PB), and have always used whole wheat bread and all natural PB and jelly. However, part of my ultimate goal is to become as self-sufficient as possible by taking out as many packaged foods from our diets as I can. I started with bread a few months ago (here will be a link to a future blog for that), and this past weekend I took on the jelly – ahem – jam part.
Here’s where I tell you the truth by saying that personally I am not a jelly/jam fan at all! Growing up it was straight up PB and toast, or for a crazy few years white bread, yellow mustard, and pickle sandwiches for me. But when given the opportunity I have never turned down a huge slathering of my grandma’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam! And since I have a beautiful and bountiful selection of Rhubarb right in my backyard, I figured that was as good as place as any to start.
I have since made it twice and tweaked a few things in the recipe the second time that I will share with you.
For starters, gather your ingredients. I used 1 lb of strawberries, 3 large stalks of Rhubarb (I’d say 6 small ones), 1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh for me), a 1.75 oz box of pectin, and 5 1/2 cups of sugar. This will make you 6 half pint jars of jam. After comparison shopping, I’ve since found that Target actually has the best price on mason jars. I get a twelve-pack of half pint jars with new lids and rings for only $8.50.
The idea of pectin always seemed intimidating to me, however it turns out that it is super simple to use. I liked Sure-Jell because it is a natural product.
Next up is prepping your jars. Hot jam wants a hot jar so you need to boil them and then turn your heat down to a simmer, leaving your jars in the simmering pot until you use them.
Gently wash your lids and rings in hot soapy water and then rinse and leave on towel to air-dry.
Next up is getting your fruit ready. The recipe I followed said to crush the Rhubarb. This was exasperating. Potato masher was a no-go. I ended up using this hand-held bread tool (honestly I’m not 100% sure what it’s for), but it took some work. So…
The second time around I actually just finely chopped the Rhubarb. I found that a ceramic knife made quick work of this for me, so if you have one I highly recommend it.
The potato masher was excellent for the strawberries though! I quartered them and went to town on them.
The first time I made the jam I used lemon juice as instructed. I found it to be a little more tart than I wanted. The second time I juiced only 1 lime and preferred the way it brightened the flavor. However, if tart jam is your thing, go for the lemon! Also, if you don’t have a citrus press I say you need one! I use this little tool all the time.
Next up, your mashed strawberries, chopped rhubarb, lemon or lime juice, and pectin need to be combined in pot over high heat.
The mixture will come to a boil quickly, and start to cook down.
This is where you add a sh*t-ton of sugar. 5 1/2 cups to be exact. Stir the sugar into your boiling mixture. I found a silicone spatula to be the easiest method.
You are then looking for a hard boil. This means the boil cannot be stirred down. Once your jam reaches a hard boil, let it boil for 1 minute.
Carefully extract your hot jars from your simmering pot, and remove your mixture pot from heat. Jason bought me this very handy tool for retrieving the jars from hot water.
Ladle your hot jam into your hot jars. This process will be messy, so plan accordingly. Wipe down your jars before sealing them. Paper towels work best.
Align your lid on top of your jar, and tighten your ring to fingertip tight. I found an oven mitt especially useful as the jars are too hot to handle.
Place your jars back into your still simmering pot. Do not crowd your jars! Increase the heat and bring the pot back to a boil. Once boiling, cover your pot and set timer for 10 minutes. When timer goes off, uncover your pot and turn off the heat. Leave jars in water for an additional 5 mintues and then remove.
Repeat this process for all your jars. Hard as it seems, your jam must then rest for at least 12 hours. This allows it to fully cool and let your jam get its gel on. Check your lids to make sure they don’t pop and are sealed properly. If you have any that didn’t seal (mine were all fine), put in the fridge and eat within 1 week. The rest will store for a year.
After all your hard work you can get your jam on!