The strawberry-rhubarb combination is legendary and for good reason. As I’ve advocated in many of my recent posts, it’s the perfect combination of sweet and tart. But sometimes even the best pairs need to be broken apart. I mean think about it, if peanut butter and jelly didn’t spend some time apart, we would have never discovered the romance between peanut butter and nutella. Imagine living without that in your life.
Solo strawberries get a lot of play–ice cream, shortcake, plain with cream–but rhubarb tends to be more of a sidekick. In searching for a savory recipe for rhubarb, it took me hours to find anything at all before settling on a roasted rhubarb salad. And even with sweet treats, rarely do you see rhubarb unless it’s following strawberries. I get it. Rhubarb is a bit tart and difficult for some people to embrace. But cranberries seem to be doing just fine and they might be one of the most tart fruits I know. It’s time to give rhubarb some solo play.
The other week I came home with four quarts of strawberries and close to six 5 pounds of rhubarb. Why? Because it was there. It was the first I had seen this year and wanted it all. If I was stronger or had more bags, I probably would have gotten more. But it’s good to edit yourself once in a while. I was ready to jam but had no idea what recipes to make. After scouring my (half-dozen) canning books, I went with Strawberry Rhubarb and Lavender Strawberry jam. In the end, I still had an ample pile of rhubarb remaining. I’ve made rhubarb chutney in the past, and while good, I didn’t find much use for it. A simple jam was in order and Food in Jars’ vanilla rhubarb jam was quite intriguing.
The recipe encouraged the addition of Earl Grey tea. I love the idea of infusing teas into a recipe, but it’s something I haven’t done enough in my own cooking. Here was the perfect opportunity. The addition of Earl Grey tea helped offset the tartness from the rhubarb and sweetness from the sugar. Adding some vanilla seeds further mellowed and warmed the jam. The original recipe called for liquid pectin, something I’ve never used. If I use pectin at all, I stick to the powdered stuff.
The recipe took a lot of babysitting. I burned the original batch by walking away for more than a few minutes. Even through its charred remains, I knew this could be something good. I dragged myself back to the market for another 3 pounds of rhubarb. Even with my extra travel and double the labor, the jam was worth every minute of my time.
Vanilla Rhubarb Jam with Earl Grey Tea (Adapted from Food in Jars) Makes 4 half-pints
- 1 tbsp loose Earl Grey tea
- 1 c boiling water
- 8 c chopped rhubarb
- 2 c plus 1 tbsp sugar
- 4 vanilla beans, split and scraped
- 4 tbsp bottled lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tsp pectin powder
Steep Earl Grey tea in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes until dark and very strong. In a large dutch oven combine rhubarb, 2 cups sugar and tea and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add vanilla bean (seeds and pot), lemon juice and salt. Allow pot to simmer 20-30 minutes until rhubarb has completely broken down. Remember to stir frequently to prevent burning.
In a small bowl, mix one tablespoon of sugar with pectin. Return rhubarb to a vigorous boil, and stir in pectin mixture until completely dissolved. Continue boiling 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly until jam thickens. Remove from heat. Remove vanilla pods and skim any foam that might have formed. Ladle into sterile hot half-pint jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
- Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (bklynlocavore.com)
- Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (bklynlocavore.com)
- Jam Season is Here – Lavender Strawberry Jam (bklynlocavore.com)
- Preserved: Millionaire’s Cherry Rhubarb Jam (sweets.seriouseats.com)
- Rhubarb Coffee Cake (craftykatie3.wordpress.com)
- Rhubarb – Curd Cheese Tartlets (standardofgrace.net)