Making the Most of Rhubarb Season

Rhubarb is pinkish-red vegetable that resembles celery and is sometimes mistaken for a fruit due to the way it is typically prepared. It is currently in its prime but has a fairly short growing season, so be sure to take advantage of it in the next couple of weeks while it is still available.

Rhubarb is an excellent source of vitamin C and dietary fiber, in addition to providing other health benefits. While its thick stalks can technically be sliced and eaten raw, they are most often cooked and sweetened for use in a variety of desserts, including the following: quick breads, muffins, upside-down cakes, crisps/cobblers, pies, sorbets and granitas. In terms of savory uses, it’s great in compotes, salsas and pan sauces served alongside proteins such as pork, chicken and duck. Just don’t eat the leaves, which are poisonous.  

 

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Perhaps the easiest and most versatile way of preserving this tart springtime vegetable is by making it into jam, which, if canned properly using the boiling water method, can last about a year. (Holiday gifts, anyone?) Just don’t expect it to last that long in the pantry, as you’ll find that it will go very quickly as you reach for it again and again. In the small-batch recipe that follows, rhubarb is combined with its natural partner, strawberries, for a wonderfully fragrant spread that works well on more than just your morning toast or English muffins. If you plan on using up the 3 half-pint jars within a month, there’s no need to process the jars: simply keep the jam in the refrigerator. 

Ideas for When You're in a Jam

Jam on top of pancakes

Here are some additional ideas for using the jam:

  • filling for hand pies or sweet empanadas
  • ice cream topping
  • layer with yogurt and granola to make a parfait
  • spread on top of crêpes or spoon onto a Dutch baby
  • topping for French toast, pancakes or waffles, especially alongside whipped cream
  • served with scones
  • sweetener for lemonade
  • in a berry trifle
  • filling for sandwich cookies
  • warm slightly and glaze the top of fresh fruit tarts

If the season starts winding down and you haven’t found the time to make the jam or anything else, buy some rhubarb anyway. You can always slice the stalks into pieces and freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Stored in a tight zipper-lock plastic bag in the freezer, the rhubarb can last for many months for a taste of spring any time of the year.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

This recipe can be doubled, but expect the cooking time to increase. If you like, add the seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. vanilla extract along with the lemon juice for a slightly different but complementary flavor.

Ingredients

Red rhubarb

1 lb. rhubarb stalks (about 4), cut into 1/4-inch-thick pieces

1 lb. hulled, quartered strawberries (about 4 cups)

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar  

2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cooking Instructions

Canning jars

1. Place the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar in a large bowl and stir to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

2. Place 3 spoons on a small plate and set in the freezer.

3. Transfer the fruit and sugar mixture to a large straight-sided non-aluminum fry pan or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, skimming and discarding any foam that appears on the surface, until the mixture has thickened to a loose jam consistency, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Test the jam for doneness by removing one of the spoons from the freezer and putting it back on the plate in the freezer. After 1 to 2 minutes, the jam should gel. If it’s still runny, continue cooking and repeating the spoon test until properly set. 

4. Divide the jam among 3 sterilized 8-ounce canning jars and close tightly with 2-piece screw-top lids. Alternatively, transfer the jam to desired storage containers. Refrigerate and use within 1 month. If canning for long-term storage, set a rack inside a large stockpot of water and bring to a boil. Place the jam-filled jars into the pot, making sure the water covers the top of each jar, and boil 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until the lids are properly sealed. Unscrew the band, wipe away any excess moisture, and screw the band back on. Keep in a cool pantry for up to 1 year.

Makes 3 half-pint jars jam.

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