I love making jam. Lucky for me, this month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was to make jam.
Normally, this is a challenge I would be all over like white on rice. My only issue – spring was late this year and none of the fruits and berries I use to make jam are ready for harvest. Except for old reliable rhubarb.
I find rhubarb is best when combined with another fruit, such as strawberries. Unfortunately, strawberries are still expensive here. Right now they are selling for $2.98 a pound and I would probably need about 2.5 pounds, which works out to about $7.50 for the strawberries. I just couldn’t shell out my hard-earned cash on berries that tend to taste more like straw then they do like berries.
What to do, what to do…
Marisa, the lovely lady responsible for the Food in Jars website, pointed out in the post discussing June’s challenge that, “the majority of canners start their food preservation career with a batch of jam.” Inspired by Melissa’s words, I thought back to the first batch of jam I ever made. I used this recipe from a collection of recipes from my home in the Peace Country. The recipes were collected from pioneers and the descendants of pioneers, a group of creative souls who know how to “make do”.
Where I live, rhubarb is a reliable survival food. Like my Peace Country ancestors, I frequently have more than I know what to do with. This year was no exception. And I conveniently had strawberry jello in my pantry. Looks like some things are meant to be.
I felt a little guilty making something so full of questionable ingredients and so easy, but then I thought, “why not?” There are times in everyone’s life when they face limitations, either budgetary or otherwise, and it’s nice to have a recipe that turns common staples into a welcome addition to the breakfast table.
Strawberry Rhubarb Cheater Jam
Makes about 5 half pint (250ml) jars.
- 5 cups of rhubarb cut up quite small
- 4 cups of white sugar
- 6 ounces of strawberry jello powder (this came out to 2 packages for me)
- Wash and cut your rhubarb. I cut mine into pieces that were about ¼ inch.
- Combine the rhubarb and the sugar. Set aside. I put mine in the fridge and let it sit overnight.
- Get your canner and jars ready.
- Put the rhubarb/sugar mixture (including the juice from the rhubarb) into a large pot.
- Cook until the rhubarb is very tender.
- Add the strawberry jello powder. It will smell like cotton candy and make you think of the Stampede Midway (or at least it did for me!).
- Stir until the jello powder is dissolved.
- Pour into sterilized jars.
- Add rings and lids
- Process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes adjusting for altitude.
This made a perfectly acceptable “make do” jam. I ended up with 3 half pint jars (250ml each) and 4 small jars (125ml each) for a total of 1,250 ml (1.25 liters).
Oddly enough, strawberry rhubarb jam is not often seen on the shelves of the grocery stores I frequent. I don’t know why this is. I could buy a jar from Amazon.ca for $5.62 for 390 ml (or $0.014 a ml). When I run the numbers, I figure it would cost about $3.50 for a 250ml jar.
Cost (June 2017)
|Rhubarb||Free. Of course costs will be higher in areas where rhubarb does not grow like a weed.|
|Sugar||About $0.25 a cup. 5 cups = $1.25|
|Jello powder||About a $1.00 a piece if you splash out on the name brand powder. $0.50 for the generic when it is on sale. Let’s call it $2.00.|
Cost per batch
Cost per jar
Wow, I save almost $5.00 a jar!
What I learnt:
This time around, I learnt that my tastes have changes since I started canning more than 2 decades ago. The resulting jam didn’t rock my world but it was perfectly acceptable.
I also learnt to carefully read vintage recipes. I had to use 2 packages of 2017 jello (85g) to equal 1 package of 1980 jello powder. Shrinking packages to hide food inflation is a thing.
Will I do this again?
This jam is really sweet. I might do it again but I think I would try to use only one package of jello powder. I might also try to use a different flavor. Orange would be nice.
Overall, I think this is a good recipe to keep in your back pocket because you never know when it might come in handy.
Try and tell me that you didn’t see this coming: