A delightful experiment in inefficiency

June 30, 2011 · 4 comments

When I made strawberry freezer jam from our first U-pick strawberry adventure 5 years ago, I was amazed at how much fruit (and sugar!) was required to make just a few pints. I’ve never gotten around to making jam again — probably because I wasn’t incredibly pleased with the results (too runny) and have found other things I’d rather do with our freshly-picked strawberries. Until last week, no other fruit had risen to the top of my jam-making ventures.

But a few friends in town have rhubarb growing in their backyards. Besides sharing this garden item, they have another thing in common — thy usually don’t eat it. It’s a lovely plant, with broad green leaves and bright red stalks, ornamental enough to grow just for looks. Rhubarb is an ingredient of contention — people feel quite strongly about it, and negative memories often include forced-feeding by an elderly relative in the formative years. But when I see something selling for $5/pound at the farmer’s market, and then come across that same item growing large and unharvested in a friend’s backyard, well. You know what I have to do.

Emily and I snuck into visited the garden of our friend Katie, while she was in Florida on vacation. Our kids took advantage of their trampoline and ample urban backyard, while I found a trowel and hacked away at about 8 stalks. At home, I let them sit on the counter for about two days, imploring my kids to stop using the fronds to dramatically fan themselves, while I figured out what to do.

See, the funny thing is that I also am not a huge fan of rhubarb. I love the flavor, the tartness, but don’t like the texture when cooked. I’ve made a strawberry rhubarb pie, or cobbler, or something, before, and enjoyed it — but could never wrap a fully-loving heart around that soggy bite.

My mind naturally turned to things where the texture wouldn’t be an issue — things like ice cream. I found a recipe in The Perfect Scoop for a sorbet, but heard that it’s a very tart variety, and those don’t usually go over well in my house. When I did a quick scan of David’s website to see if he’d been holding anything back on the ice cream front, I found his recipe for 6 pints of rhubarb-berry jam. Score.

But he called for 3 pounds, and I had about 1/6 of that quantity. At first it seemed ridiculous to make a single jar of jam — I mean, when you make something to put into a jar, you usually make enough for many jars — but then I wondered, why?  It’s not like I’ll be processing it for long-term storage. Why not cook up a single batch of jam, and then just eat it?

Slow on the uptake, I am.

So that’s what I did. The kids had been out with Daddy, and when they came home they walked into a house smelling of simmering rhubarb, berries, and (still, lots of) sugar. Their noses said yes, but when the word “rhubarb” was uttered their faces wore looks of doubt. I am happy to say I have at least one convert on my hands — with a dozen or so more years to work on the others.

Because for as many summers as I am able, I will steal rhubarb from a friend’s garden, and make a single jar of this jam.


Recipe: Rhubarb Berry Jam

Summary: adapted closely from this recipe by David Lebovitz
makes about 1 pint


  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (about 2 rounded cups)
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh berries (assorted — I used frozen strawberries and blueberries)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp fruit pectin
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of salt


  1. In a small saucepan, combine the rhubarb, berries, and water. Cook over low heat, covered, until rhubarb is tender — about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, pectin, lemon juice, and salt. Bring to a boil, and cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes, until the temperature reaches about 220º on a candy thermometer (if you don’t have a candy thermometer, just cook it until it thickens a bit).
  3. Ladle into a clean pint jar, let cool a bit, then cover and cool completely in the refrigerator.
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Katie June 30, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I’ll give you more Sunday. :) Glad you enjoyed it.

katy July 1, 2011 at 9:05 am

I’ll take it!

designhermomma July 1, 2011 at 8:33 am

I love all forms of rhubarb. Seriously, all forms.

katy July 1, 2011 at 9:06 am

So, straight-up? A plain rhubarb pie?

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