Ginger Lemon Rhubarb Jam

It’s still rhubarb season, and it turns out my housemate loves rhubarb jam. So we made a plan last week to put up some jam, adding ginger and lemon juice to make it even more tangy. We planted rhubarb in the garden last year, so we can harvest the stems this season. (read more about rhubarb, an amazing perennial plant)

I haven’t made jam since middle school, and even then it was freezer jam, not the jam you put into glass jars and boil. We don’t have room in our freezer for plastic containers of jam (Glenda is still annoyed by the roasted beets still in the freezer from last fall), and I also want to learn how to can so I can put up the surpluses of tomatoes, cucumbers and peaches I expect this year.  A major goal of our 3rd CSA year is to waste no food.

So, anyway, a few quick web searches for rhubarb ginger jam uncovered a lot of available recipes, but I went with this one, found on the barefoot kitchen witch site. She has a lot of photos that are quite handy.

However, I did alter the recipe some, and the instructions are sort of hard to follow on her post, so I’m recreating it here for all our benefit.

Ginger Rhubarb Lemon Jam

Photo by the Barefoot Kitchen Witch; See all of her recipes and photos on her blog!

Photo by the Barefoot Kitchen Witch; See all of her recipes and photos on her blog!

2 lbs (or 8 cups) chopped rhubarb
2 cups sugar or comparable sweetener
1/3 cup minced or shredded (fresh) ginger
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
juice of 2 small lemons (a little less than 1/4 cup, I think)
1 T lemon zest

Wash and trim rhubarb and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. (The rhubarb will give enough water to keep it from sticking)

Cook, stirring ocassionally, for 20 – 25 minutes on medium heat until the mixture reaches 218 -220 degrees (F). (Add pectin if necessary) Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. At this point, jam can be stored in sterilized canning jars or canned in a hot water bath (more canning guidelines below)

Adding pectin: Pectin, a compound extracted from plants like citrus, is a gelling agent added to jams, jellies and desserts to stablize foods.  It’s what makes jams jelly. Pectin is available in most grocery stores, and yesterday I found a pectin product that is activated by calcium instead of sugar, therefore allowing you to add as little or as much sweeter as you desire. We didn’t want the jam to be too sweet, so we started the recipe with 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and added the additional 1/2 cup after it had simmered a bit.  (it was mouth puckering tart)

To test whether you should add pectin, float a small metal bowl in a larger bowl or basin that’s filled with cold water. Drop a small amount of the jam into the metal bowl; the cold water it’s sitting in will cool the jam quickly. Swipe a finger through the jam; if it retains most of its own shape and doesn’t run together, you probably don’t need to add pectin. This was true in our case, but since I hate runny jam, I added about half the amount of recommended pectin at the end. (read your pectin instructions for details, and don’t be afraid to add it at the end – just be sure to boil it at least 2 minutes after adding it.)

For canning instructions and lessons learned, click on “continue reading” below.

Yield: We filled two 12-oz jars with jam, and had an additional 1/2 cup leftover that we threw into the fridge. I am definitely getting some 6 oz jars for the next batch of jam; it’ll be easier to share them with friends and family.

I licked the pot when we were finished, because the concoction was delightful. Hope yours is lovely!

Canning Instructions: honestly, I simply followed the instructions on the back of the package of new jars I bought yesterday. The basic steps are:

  1. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water (always use new lids)
  2. Dry bands and set aside, to keep cool while handling
  3. Place jars and bands in large pot and cover with water; keep water hot until ready to use, but don’t boil bands
  4. When jam is ready, pull out jars and lids and drain the water
  5. Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space at the top
  6. Remove air bubbles if necessary with rubber spatula
  7. Place lid on jar, making sure sealant comes into contact with jar mouth
  8. Add band and tighten lightly; don’t screw on hard
  9. Place jars (preferably in a rack) back into the pan of water; increase temperature until boiling
  10. Leave in rolling boiling water for minimum time
  11. Remove jars from water and place on paper towel; do not disturb the jars for at least 12 hours
  12. After 12 hours, remove band and check to see if lid can be removed easily with your fingers; if it lifts off easily, you must reprocess the jar (can be done up to 24 hours after initial processing)

And here are some other thoughts and general principles I’d like to remember:

High acid foods (such as fruit jams and pickles) can be canned with a hot water bath, but lower acid foods (including meat and soups) must be canned with a pressure cooker.

A hot water bath just means you boil the filled and lidded jars with enough water to cover them for the minimum time; the jar labels had a chart for higher altitude timing.

The “danger” with canned foods is bacteria (specifically the botulism kind), which is best avoided by using sterilized jars and lids and ensuring your work space stays clean through the entire process.

Those special handle things to put in and lift out jars must be quite handy; we didn’t have them, so improvised with rubber gloves, high-heat plastic pot holders, and a small pair of tongs. To remove the jars after they boiled, we removed much of the hot water with a pyrex measuring cup, which made it much easier to grip the hot jars.

It’s the flat LID (not the ring) that seals the jar; the rings exist to keep the lids in place as you boil or move them; don’t tighten them much, as you’ll need to remove them to check the seal before you store them.

Wash all of your equipment in hot soapy water prior to use. Have at least two clean dishtowels on hand. Keep the jars and lids hot while you cook the jam in a large pot of water, but don’t boil the lids with the seals, as you might compromise the sealing capabilities. You should keep the jars hot because they can break when you fill them with really hot goodness.

After boiling the jars for the recommended time (I did 15 minutes, just to be safe), remove the pot from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars and sit on a towel on the counter, and don’t touch them for at least 12 hours. You don’t want to interfere with the magical vacuum action taking place inside the jar, and you don’t want to break the glass because of the high temperature differentials.

The pot racks for canning jars serve an important purpose; when you’re boiling glass jars in a metal pot, they are bound to move a bit and knock around. Knocking of hot glass is an easy target for breakage, which is just tragic. Avoid all of this with a rack. And in the absence of a rack, place those high temperature plastic pot holders between the glass jars to keep them from knocking together.


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