Tart, tangy rhubarb makes a perfect fresh, summery jam, especially with a subtle hint of strawberry. So if you’ve got more rhubarb than you know what to do with, stir up a batch of this and give grape jelly a break from kitchen duty. I got this recipe from my friends Tom and Kim, who got the recipe from Tom’s mother, Clara. Clara immigrated to America as a young woman, so English wasn’t her first language. That’s why I smile when I read my copy of her neatly typed recipe, with sugar consistently spelled “suger.” And there’s another twist to this tale—I now work with Clara’s granddaughter, Lauren, and I love it when she shares memories of her “Oma,” who has since passed away.
I’m glad Clara shared this recipe with me 20+ years ago, because it’s become a favorite with my sons who prefer this over the sweeter berry jams. My Mom was kind enough to cut me a wheelbarrow full of rhubarb from her garden this year, as I’d used most of mine making rhubarb cake for parties. This recipe takes a whopping 18 cups of fresh rhubarb, but after soaking it in the sugar (or “suger”) overnight, it shrinks. (I don’t quite get the science of that…) Once you’ve done your overnight duty, this jam is a snap to make. You can freeze it or can it. My directions below are for canning it, which is my preference. And our favorite bread on which to slather this jam? Old Country Potato Dill Bread, previously posted.
Makes 12 pints
18 cups chopped rhubarb
5 cups granulated sugar
2 (6 ounce) packages of strawberry flavored Jell-O®
In large plastic bowl* combine chopped rhubarb and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and let set overnight. Juices from the rhubarb will create a simple syrup from the sugar. (See “before” and “after” pictures below.)
Gather a dozen Kerr® or Ball® pint canning jars and wash in hot soapy water, or run through dishwasher. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to boil. Add a dozen fresh canning lids and rings to boiling water. Turn off heat, and let lids sit for 5 minutes in the hot water. Now your jars and lids are ready for canning.
Pour rhubarb and sugar syrup into large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring as it cooks. Stir in both packages of strawberry Jell-O and stir to combine. Remove from heat and use clean ladle to pour jam into prepared jars. Wipe rim of each jar with clean, wet rag to remove any excess jam from jar as it will prevent a clean seal. Top jar with clean, sterilized lid, and tightly screw on band. Invert jar. Repeat process with all 12 jars, turning all of them upside down once filled. Let sit for 5 minutes, then turn all of the jars right-side up and wait for them to “plink.” (As they seal, you will hear the sound of the lid creating a vacuum seal. It may take up to an hour for them to all seal.) Test the tops of jars by pressing lightly in center of lid. They are sealed when the center of lid stays down and doesn’t pop back up. Store in cool, dry place for up to a year.
NOTE: Metal bowls will react with the rhubarb, so it’s best to use a plastic bowl. I use the top of a cake carrier. It’s the perfect size for this amount of rhubarb, and since I never make and take cake, the poor container gets used for something, rather than being ignored and neglected in my basement.