Friday, June 21, 2013

It’s the middle of June and I’m still enjoying the ruby red rhubarb here in Warsaw.

During the past month, I’ve made rhubarb mini tarts, rhubarb quick bread, rhubarb-strawberry vodka (recipe coming soon) and two batches of rhubarb & strawberry jam. The Poles seem to love rhubarb as much as I do because I’ve seen it all the local markets. (Remember last year when I smuggled rhubarb from Nebraska to Istanbul?)

Plus, rhubarb is ridiculously cheap here! I’ve been buying bunches for about 3 PLN per kilo (about $1 USD). I’ve even stashed away two kilos of diced rhubarb in the freezer so I can extend its season through the summer. Yesterday, I bought another two kilos that I need to freeze.
Fresh produce from the Polish market at Hala Mirowska in Warsaw.
What I’ve learned from all this rhubarb madness is that making homemade jam is a pain in the butt! It’s been nearly three years since I made my last batch of Turkish Grape Jelly. I’d forgotten how many hours it takes to wash, cut and prep the fruit and then process the jam and how much the jam boils up like a cauldron of lava-like liquid and spills all over my countertop.

Because of the fruits of my labor, I now have about two dozen small jars of homemade rhubarb & strawberry jam sitting in my pantry. I decided I would like to have some homemade gifts on hand that I can give to new friends I meet here in Warsaw or for visiting friends.

I tested two batches of the jam and learned not to cook the rhubarb beforehand if you want it to retain any of its stringy texture. My first batch of jam looked a bit more like red fruit jelly versus chunky jam. I like seeing the rustic pieces of fruit in my jam. I also doubled the amount of lemon juice so the resulting jam has a nice, tangy, but sweet flavor.

Who knows I may even brave another round of jam making as a plethora of Polish berries flood the summer markets.

Smacznego! (Bon appétit in Polish)
At the Polish markets, strawberries are sold in these cute wooden baskets!
Polish rhubarb & strawberry jam served on top of my rhubarb quick bread at home.
Rhubarb & Strawberry Jam
Yields: about 12 4-ounce (120 ml) glass jars
2          lb.        (900 g.)            rhubarb, washed and cut into ½-inch pieces
4          c.         (1025 g.)          strawberries, washed and mashed (I recommend placing the amount of strawberries in a large bowl and then mashing with a potato masher. Just mash enough to leave the berries chunky. Also, if going by volume, measure the strawberries after you mash them.)
4          c.         (880 g.)            granulated sugar (If you like really sweet jam, I saw some recipes online that called for as much as 6 c. of sugar.)
½         c.         (118 ml)           fresh lemon juice
¼         c.         (55 g.)              granulated sugar set aside to mix with the pectin
1          package                       Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin (or the amount of pectin needed if you use another brand. For example, the Polish version I recently bought calls for 1 package of pectin per kilo of fruit used.)
1. If you are canning the jars of  jam, you will need hot and sterile jars and lids. I like to run mine through the dishwasher on the hottest cycle and time it just right so they are ready to use once the jam is finished cooking. My machine’s cycle is 60 minutes, and I pulled the jars out around 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can place the jars and lids in a pot of simmering water. (See this excellent article for more canning tips: The Basics of Home Canning. I also re-read my grandmother’s Ball canning cookbook from the 1960s to refresh my memory.)

2. Meanwhile, in a large stainless steel pot (6-8 qt. pot) over medium-high heat, mix the strawberries, rhubarb and 4 cups (880 g.) of sugar. Add the lemon juice. Combine.

3. Additionally, I filled my 12-qt. pasta pot and strainer with hot water, and set in on a high heat burner so that the water would be boiling by the time my jam was done. This pot perfectly served as my water bath canner.

3. In a small bowl, combine the pectin with the remaining ¼ cup (55 g.) of sugar. Add the pectin mixture, stirring well to combine, to the large pot.

4. As the mixture cooks and fruits start to soften, I like to use my handy potato masher to crush the fruit a bit. This helps release the natural pectin so the jam will thicken.

5. Bring the jam to full boil – the kind of hard boil that cannot be stirred away. This could take up to 15- 20 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir constantly. Watch out for burning fruit on the bottom of your pot. I had to turn down the heat a notch or two because the jam was starting to burn on the bottom in a few places.

6. Once the jam has reached a hard boil, you’ll want to test the jam to see if it’s thickened enough. I like to place a plate into the freezer. Using the cold plate, I place a dollop of jam on the plate and see if it runs or not and whether it’s reached the consistency that I want. Alternatively, some people like to place a metal spoon in a cup of ice water and test the jam on the cold spoon. If your jam is too runny, you may want to add more pectin and bring the jam to a second boil.

7. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a large spoon, skim foam off top of the jam mixture. The foam can cause bacteria to grow on top of the jam once placed in the jars.
8. Remove the jars and lids from the dishwasher. Ladle the jam into the sterilized jars to within a ¼ inch of top of jar.

9. Wipe jar rim off with a clean, damp towel. Then place lids on top and secure tightly. (Be careful as the glass jars will be super hot from the boiling jam. Use a kitchen towel to prevent burning your fingertips.)
10. Next, place the jars in the boiling water bath canner. Be sure to have the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Process the jars for 10 minutes, in general, once the water returns to a boil.  

(Note: if you live at a higher altitude, you will need to increase the processing time. This website has a handy altitude processing chart and other tips.)

11. Once the cooking time has been reached, carefully lift the pasta strainer out of the boiling water. Use a towel-covered hand or canning jar tongs to remove the very hot jars from the strainer.

12. Place the jars on a towel-lined countertop and allow to cool for 12-24 hours. Once the jars are cool, you can check they are sealed by pressing down gently in the center of the lid with your finger. If the lid pops up and down and makes a popping sound, the jar is NOT sealed. If you place the jar in the refrigerator right away, the jam still will be safe to eat. (I had two unsealed jars in the first batch and just one in my second batch of jam.)

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jaz@octoberfarm said... of my favorite combinations. i just made a rhubarb, strawberry pie and i think it is the best pie i've ever made. i am about to post it. wait until mushroom season in poland!!! and gooseberries. i love gooseberries. and cherries...i ould go on and on. somehow the poles do these things better than anyone!

Joy said...

@Joyce, the pie sounds fabulous! OMG, we just had the most amazing chanterelle mushroom soup for lunch! Awesome!

BacktoBodrum said...

Lucky you - I miss rhubarb and gooseberries.

Joy said...

@Annie, Yes, a little lucky! ;-) Pretty soon it will be blueberry season too. Yay!

Carole said...

Joy, just lovely. Thanks for linking it to the "jam" session! HOpe to see you again soon. Cheers