It may come as a surprise to you that I have never made jam before. I’ll give you a moment to absorb that fact…. It is sad, but true. I have been in the presence of many friends and colleagues who have made jam, but I hid behind my camera. I’ve had the Blue Ribbon Queen of Preserves, Barb Schaller, take me by the hand and show me the ropes, but I was slow to follow, and that is how, all these years later, I’d never gotten around to making my own. So, when the Ball jar company wrote to me and asked if I’d participate in their CAN-IT-FORWARD event, I said YES. I knew if I didn’t do it now, it may never happen. They were willing to send me everything I’d need, and more, to make jam. No more excuses.
Well, I am happy to tell you that it was WAY easier than I could have ever imagined. I feel even more ridiculous for putting this off for so long. I simply followed the instructions in the Ball Blue Book for rhubarb-orange jam. Next time I will go my own way, but for my virgin run I wanted to do it exactly as they suggested and I wasn’t disappointed. Ok, maybe I added a bit more zest than they said, because I adore it, but that was my only modification. I’m hooked.
When I moved last year, I left behind my rhubarb plants. My mistake didn’t occur to me until the following spring, when I craved rhubarb and there was none. I toyed with the idea of stealing my old plants in the middle of the night, knowing the new owners would never miss it, but my husband convinced me this was not a good plan. So, I planted another one in my new home, but little good it did me this year. Thank goodness for the farmers at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market, who have a bumper crop. I decided to make rhubarb jam for my first batch of jam, because in January, when life in MN feels bleak and colorless, I will have something from the summer to make me happy.
From the Ball Blue Book
2 1/2 pounds of rhubarb
2 oranges – juiced (should be 1 cup – add water if needed) and then remove the peel of just one of the oranges. Cut away the bitter pith and slice it into small ribbons. I used twice as much orange zest as the recipe called for, because the idea of a rhubarb jam + orange marmalade made me happy.
6 tablespoons Ball Pectin
6 cups sugar
In a large pot (I finally got to use my gorgeous copper jam pot from Mauviel) cook the juice, rhubarb and zest until the rhubarb is tender. Add the pectin and let it come to a boil for 1 minute.
Add the sugar and bring back to a boil for another minute.
Prepare the jars and lids as the packaging suggests. I highly recommend that you read the Ball Blue Book and find out how to safely handle all the equipment. Maybe it was all of the food safety classes I had to take in culinary school, but I find it all rather interesting and essential to understand.
HINT: You will want to get yourself some of those handy jar lifters, to get the boiling hot jars out of the water. I did it with regular tongs and wish I hadn’t.
Fill the jars, clean the rim and put the lids on.
HINT: having a funnel would have made this way easier and cleaner, but my ladle did a pretty good job.
Lower the jars into the canning pot. Cover and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn off the heat and let the jars sit for 5 minutes in the water before removing.
Let the jars sit at room temperature until cool, don’t test the tops, they will make a popping sound as they cool.
Label your rhubarb-orange jam so that you will remember what you’ve created after a few months in the pantry.