Lately, I start my Saturdays with canning and bread baking.
I used to avoid these activities because I thought they would take too much time. I’d been in the habit of making easy, tasty recipes that required little effort or planning. Somehow i’d forgotten that in many cases, the harder you work, the more satisfying the finished product is (a concept that applies to more than cooking). After a few weeks of canning, i’ve grown increasingly attached to my small collection of jams and preserves- so much so that I get a little sad when my husband polishes off a jar.
Here’s how my current canning schedule works: On Thursdays, I buy fruit that looks good. If i’m not going to can in the next few days, I prep and freeze it. I pick a recipe from my growing pile of canning books and go to the store for supplementary ingredients (jars, lemons, etc). On Saturday morning, I wake up, eat breakfast, do some small batch canning, then make bread. While the bread is rising and baking, I clean up the apartment. When the bread’s done, I keep one loaf for eating and freeze the other. It’s really satisfying. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and it seems like a luxury to have a selection of homemade breads and jams to choose from. Lately i’ve been eating yogurt mixed with peach-vanilla preserves, with toasted almonds on top.
This recipe for rhubarb, strawberry & cherry preserves is my favorite so far. It’s not too sweet and the fruit doesn’t completely disintegrate. The texture was perfect: juicy and just set enough to not run off your toast. I’m hoping to make it again, but I fear our strawberry season is pretty much over
Rhubarb, Strawberry & Cherry Preserves
adapted from Krissoff’s “Canning for a New Generation” and Saunder’s “The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook”
Yield: about five 8oz jars
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound rinsed and hulled strawberries, diced
1 pound bing cherries, stems removed
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1. Prepare for water-bath canning. Sterilize the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot. Put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl. Put a small plate in the freezer.
2. Put the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a wide 6 to 8 quart preserving pan or heavy bottomed pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the juices just cover the fruit (10-15 minutes). Pour into a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl and stir the fruit gently to drain off juice. Return the juice to the pan and transfer the fruit to the bowl.
3. Add the cherries to the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat slightly and cook until the cherries are shriveled and the syrup is a dark rose color (5-8 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat.
4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cherries from the liquid to a fine mesh strainer set over the bowl of cooked rhubarb and strawberries. Using a ladle, press down on the cherries to get all the juice out of them, then discard the skins and pits.
5. Return the strawberries, rhubarb, and cherry juice to the pan and add the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until a small dab of the jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for a minute becomes somewhat firm, about 15 minutes. Skim off as much foam as possible, then remove from the heat and stir gently to distribute the fruit in the liquid.
6. Ladle hot water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.
7. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so it’s finger-tight. Return the jars to the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars to a folded tower and leave undisturbed for 24 hours. Check the seals, then store.