Every Friday on Food52, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Last weekend, my husband and I stayed at an inn somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. The room was comfortable, the meals were perfect, and the resident dog was entirely friendly. What charmed me most about our stay, though, was the giant rhubarb plant growing wildly in the back garden.
It reminded me of the large patch of rhubarb that we had in one of my childhood homes, left there by a previous owner. Each spring, it would erupt from a leaf-covered swatch of the backyard and we'd eat rhubarb pie, crisps, and cobblers for weeks. It produced so much more than we could possibly use, so we shared it freely with friends and neighbors.
While still at the inn, I contemplated sneaking out under the cover of darkness to liberate a few stalks, but instead decided that I'd go the more honest route and pick up a pound as soon as we got home for a little batch of jam.
Other than the occasional batch of marmalade, it's been months since I've made sweet preserves, so this first pan of the season was a joy. I combined chopped rhubarb, diced strawberries, and sugar in a bowl, and let it macerate. Once ready to make the jam, I poured everything into a 12-inch stainless steel skillet. This is my favorite cooking vessel for small batches because its low, wide shape means there's more surface area and the water evaporates more efficiently. This leads to shorter cooking times and a good set with less sugar.
This recipe makes just three half pints, which I think is the perfect amount. It leaves me space in the pantry to make a second batch flavored with vanilla bean, and later a third with a lavender infusion. Here's to small batches and the variety they make possible!
Small Batch Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Makes 3 half pints
1 pound strawberries
1 pound rhubarb stalks
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
Wash the strawberries and rhubarb well. Hull the berries and dice them into small pieces. Chop the rhubarb into segments approximately 1/2 inch in size. Place the chopped fruit in a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with sugar. Stir to combine and cover. Let the fruit sit for at least an hour, until the juices are flowing. If you're pressed for time, you can cover the bowl and come back up to 48 hours later; the sugar acts as a preservative and prevents the fruit from browning.
When you're ready to cook the jam, prepare a small boiling water bath canner and three half pint jars and bring it to a boil. Place three new canning jar lids in a small pot and bring them to a bare simmer.
Pour the fruit and all the liquid into your jam pot and place it over high heat. For these small batches, I like to use a 12-inch stainless steel skillet, but any low, wide, non-reactive pan will do.
Bring the fruit to a rapid boil and stir regularly. Over high heat, this jam should take 8 to 12 minutes to cook. It is done when it is quite thick; you can tell that it's ready when you draw your spoon or spatula through the jam and it doesn't immediately rush in to fill that space. It will also make a vigorous sizzling noise when stirred.
Remove the jam from the heat and funnel it into the prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes (start your timer when the water returns to a boil, not the moment the jars go into the water bath).
When the time is up, remove jars from canner and set them to cool on a folded kitchen towel. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the rings and test the seals by grasping the edges of the lid and lifting the jar an inch or so from the countertop. If the lid holds fast, the jars are sealed. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and eaten promptly. Properly sealed jars will last for at least a year on the shelf; once opened, they will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks.
Photos by Marisa McClellan
Another way to get wild with rhubarb: Genius Rhubarb Pie.