Strawberries and rhubarb are a match made in heaven but adding honey and vanilla bean to this jam took the flavours to fairy tale level (hence the name). The strawberries that I used were very fresh – I picked them myself. I discovered Herrle’s Country Farm Market last year and this year I went to their Pick Your Own fields for strawberries. They had incredible flavour and were a deep red. The rhubarb that I used came from Bailey’s Local Foods buying club in Waterloo. Both places are amazing resources for local food in the Waterloo Region.
I reduced the amount of sugar recommended in the Certo package which made for a runny jam, but I don’t care. Having less sugar lets all the flavours shine through. You can always increase the amount of sugar by a cup or more if you want a firmer set. I think the recipe called for 7 cups of sugar. I might make a batch of freezer jam later this season using the recipe as directed.
If you smell this jam you will first smell the strawberries but then the floral notes of the honey will hit you. The rhubarb and vanilla are much more subtle but give the jam layers of flavour that you could never get with a commercial jam. I love the Rhubarb Vanilla Bean Jam that I made earlier this month but I have had a foodie love affair with fresh Ontario strawberries since I was little and my dad would take me berry picking which makes anything with strawberries my new favourite.
If you are concerned about spoilage because you don’t have enough sugar in the jam, don’t be. If you sterilize your jars and tools properly and process them properly after you fill the jars and put on the two part lids you should be fine. I was paranoid too but then I did some online searching and found the Bernardin Mason Jars website and in their FAQ they say that you can safely can fruit without adding sugar. I didn’t want to omit sugar all together but that little bit of info from a reasonably reliable source eased my concern. The bottom line is: work cleanly, sterilize, process properly and make sure you got a proper seal. Also, after you put your jars up and you go open one after a long time on the shelf, check the seal and look for any signs of spoilage before consuming. If you suspect that the seal was compromised, toss it.
I have made four batches of this jam. Well, three batches of the jam using the recipe below. The first batch I made in a feeble attempt to use Pomona’s Universal Pectin. It was a huge fail because I was so excited to get started that I did not read the directions. I found the two part chemistry experiment very intimidating and I think that I will try again with Pomona’s later in the season when I get a few more jam/preserve batches under my belt.
For those unfamiliar with Pomona’s Universal Pectin, it is a very odd ingredient if you are used to standard pectin. Perhaps it is more common in the U.S. but here in Canada I had to really hunt around for it and I found it at a local health food store called Healthy Foods & More. Pomona’s is in two parts; you get one package of pectin and one small package of stuff to make calcium water. It is the reaction between the pectin and the calcium (if you do it right) that sets the jam or jelly rather than the sugar and pectin working together to get a set. This lets you have more control over how much sugar, honey, etc. that you want to add to your jam than conventional pectin. For now though, I will be sticking to Certo. The picture below shows how the two look. The one on the left is with poorly executed Pomona’s and is brighter but not as glossy. The one on the right is with Certo, a regular pectin and is glossier. The one with Certo is runny because I reduced the amount of sugar in full knowledge that it won’t be firm set.
For information on canning from someone much more experienced than me, visit her site – Canning Homemade. This should get you through basics of safety etc.
- 2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
- 3 cups crushed strawberries
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup honey
- ¼ cup pomegranate juice
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ vanilla bean
- 1 pkg conventional pectin (I use Certo)
- Wash and and sterilize all the jars and tools for 10 minutes in boiling water. Keep the jars hot so they are ready for the jam.
- Chop the rhubarb. Hull, wash and crush the strawberries. Measure the strawberries and rhubarb and place in your jam making pot.
- Add the sugar, honey, vanilla bean seeds and pod, lemon juice, pomegranate juice and pectin. Turn the heat on medium low and stir occasionally for about 30-35 minutes.
- When the jam comes to the boil there will be foam. Skim the foam off (don’t throw it away though – it is delicious over ice cream or plain yogurt).
- The jam cooked for approximately 30-35 minutes. About half that time it was boiling.
- When the jam is getting close to being done, boil the lids but not the rings of the jars for 5-10 minutes. The lids and rings should be clean and the lids should be new.
- When the jam is getting a syrupy consistency remove from the heat and ladle into hot sterile mason jars using the ladle and funnel you sterilized.
- If you made a mess of the rims, wipe with a clean cloth and then place the hot lids on the jars and add the rings. Don’t tighten the rings too much – just reasonably snug.
- Place the jars in the canning pot of boiling water to process for 10 minutes.
- Remove after 10 minutes and place on a cooling rack.