I love rhubarb season. Here in Maine, rhubarb is one of the earliest fresh green edibles to emerge from the soil each spring, so it's always a much-anticipated treat. It's delicious in pie, in jam, or simply stewed with a little honey.
Its sour, slightly astringent tang also makes it a perfect partner for sweeter fruits. Strawberries and rhubarb are a classic combination, but lately I've been itching to try some other pairings. Sweet cherries are a favorite of mine, and while they're not in season here in Maine yet, some readers in warmer climates may have local cherries available, so I thought I'd give Cherry-Rhubarb Jam a go.
And what a treat it is! The jam is a beautiful deep, rich red, and the cherries are sweet enough to offset the tartness of the rhubarb without having to add a lot of extra sugar. Be sure to use sweet cherries (Bing cherries, for example), not sour cherries.
To remove the cherry pits, you can use a pitter if you have one, but it's not necessary; simply slice the cherries in half with a paring knife and pick out the pits. To chop the pitted cherries, I use a chef's knife, but you can also chop them in a food processor.
As for the rhubarb, select fresh, firm stalks. Most rhubarb for sale at farmers’ markets or grocery stores has already been trimmed, but if not (or, if you're harvesting it yourself) be sure to trim it thoroughly, completely removing and discarding all leaves. The stalks are the only part you want to use, as the leaves themselves are poisonous.
Typically, the stalks are similar in size to celery stalks, though this can vary. The color varies also, from green to red and anywhere in between. For the deepest red jam, select stalks that are red rather than green. In terms of taste and texture, though, both work equally well – and both make delicious jam.
Try this jam swirled into yogurt or on top of vanilla ice cream . . . oh so good!
Sweet Cherry-Rhubarb Jam
Sweet Cherry-Rhubarb Jam is a low-sugar cooked jam made with Pomona’s Pectin. Pomona's Pectin contains no sugar or preservatives and jells reliably with low amounts of any sweetener. This recipe was created by Allison Carroll Duffy for Pomona’s Pectin.
Yield: 4 to 5 cups
Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona's pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.
Sweet Cherry-Rhubarb Jam Ingredients
1¼ pounds sweet cherries
1 pound trimmed rhubarb stalks
½ cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons calcium water
1¼ cups sugar
2 ½ teaspoons Pomona's Universal Pectin Powder
Sweet Cherry-Rhubarb Jam Directions
1. Wash and rinse jars, lids, and screw bands. Set screw bands aside until ready to use. Place jars in boiling water bath canner with a rack, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil. Boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize (add 1 additional minute of sterilizing time for every 1000 feet above sea level), then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.
2. Rinse the cherries, remove and discard stems and pits, then chop the cherries.
3. Rinse the rhubarb stalks, slice them into thin, length-wise strips, then dice. In a saucepan, combine diced rhubarb with the ½ cup of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes, or until rhubarb is soft. Remove pan from heat, then mash the rhubarb.
4. Measure 2 cups of the chopped cherries, and 2 cups of the mashed rhubarb. If you have extra, save it for another use. Pour the measured amounts of cherries and rhubarb into a sauce pan. Add lemon juice and calcium water and stir to combine.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and the pectin powder. Mix well and set aside.
6. Bring the cherry-rhubarb mixture to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the sugar-pectin mixture, then stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, still over the highest heat, to dissolve pectin. Return the mixture to a boil, then remove it from the heat.
7. Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with jam, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands, tightening bands only to "fingertip tight" (until resistance is met, and then just the tiniest bit more).
8. Place jars in the hot water, on the rack inside the canner. (Make sure jars are upright, not touching each other or the sides of the canner, and are covered with at least 1-2 inches of water). Place the lid on the canner, return the canner to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes. (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)
9. Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes. Then remove jars from canner.
10. Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Confirm that jars have sealed. Remove screw bands from sealed jars, rinse off outside of jars if necessary, label jars, and store for later use.
Recipe and photos by Allison Carroll Duffy