Making strawberry jam can be a rather fraught process… generally people turn to pectin to help achieve the elusive set which means the beautiful jewel-red preserve stays on your Victoria sponge rather than sliding off down the sides! A couple of years ago, however, I discovered this wonderful recipe that produces a soft set jam with rich strawberry flavours and barely a hint of rhubarb, which sets easily and beautifully every time. It’s brilliant if you have a glut of rhubarb in the garden, and especially useful as rhubarb and strawberries are in season at the same time. I urge you to give it a go, I know you’ll love it (even, maybe, if you don’t like rhubarb).
I have given the prepared weights of the fruit, so buy or pick more than the weights given. If you have fruit left over, just chop small and mix together, sprinkle with sugar to taste and cook in a pan or in the oven for a few minutes to make a delicious compote to serve with yogurt or ice cream. Or you could freeze it and use a later date – this combination makes a wonderful crumble or pie filling.
If you don’t have quite so much fruit available, it’s fine to halve the quantities and just make a couple of jars (although you may wish you had more).
I filled exactly 4 500ml Kilner clip top jars with this quantity of jam. I am estimating you would need 5-6 450g jam jars. It make sense to prepare more than you think you might need, just in case. If you have a tiny bit of jam left over after potting up, just pop it in a little bowl or other suitable container, keep it in the fridge and use straight away.
Strawberry and Rhubarb Preserve
- 700g prepared rhubarb, chopped into 1cm lengths
- 900g prepared strawberries, halved (or quartered if they are huge)
- 1.4kg granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- First do all the prep, so that you are ready to pot up as soon as your preserve reaches setting point. Get your jam jars ready by giving them a thorough wash in hot soapy water, then put them in the oven on a large baking tray (with sides) and switch the oven on to Gas Mark 1/140C. The jars will be ready when you need them. Put lids, rubber seals (if using), jam funnel, and whatever you are going to use to transfer the jam from pan to jars, into a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Pop a small plate in the freezer so that you test the preserve for a set later on.
- Put the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice into a large stainless steel pan (a proper jam pan or large stock pot is best – you need lots of spare space for the preserve to come to a rolling boil).
- Mash the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice together with a potato masher or fork – if like strawberry jam with big chunks of strawberry, don’t overdo this bit, but if you prefer a smoother texture, then go for it.
- Add the rhubarb to the pan, then very gently heat it until all the sugar had dissolved. You can then turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. This basically means a very vigorous boil, as if it is about to boil over, but not quite. Keep an eye on the pan because it can overflow very easily, and if you stir the mixture (although there’s no particular need) make sure you protect your hands.
- The boiling time will vary but I expect setting point to be reached between 15-20 minutes. You can use a jam thermometer if you like (you need to reach 105C/220F), or you can watch for the signs… Which are… the jam will thicken slightly, the colour darken a little, and the mixture will look more ‘jammy’ rather than watery (hard to describe, but if you get into making your own preserves, you will know what I mean!). Another thing to look for is – when you lift a wooden spoon out of the jam, the last drip will be really difficult to dislodge from the spoon. When you think this point has been reached, test for a set by dripping a teaspoonful of jam onto the cold plate and leaving it for a couple of minutes (turn off the pan whilst you are doing this, you don’t want to over-boil the jam). If the splodge of preserve sets and wrinkles when you drag your finger through it, then you are at the right point.
- Let the preserve cool a little then transfer to the prepared warm jam jars. Put the lids on the jars straight away, then leave to cool, then label and store in a cool dark place.