Two things have revolutionized canning for me recently. The first is the addition of my new steam canner. It takes a lot less water, heating times are faster and it is MUCH easier to deal with.
The second is pectin free jam. I make a lot of marmalade since citrus is everywhere around here and marmalade typically doesn’t call for pectin. Since I like the effect of pectin free marmalade, I did some research and realized that there really is no need for pectin in any kind of jam. The trick is simply to cook your fruit and sugar down to a thick enough consistency that it will set on its own. This takes a bit more cooking time, but you get a much richer flavor and you have a lot of freedom to play with the amount of sugar and ingredients in your recipe. For example, the original recipe I found for a rhubarb jam called for the same amount of rhubarb, but also SIX CUPS of sugar! I reduced the sugar down to 1 1/2 cups and it is perfect. Fruit is naturally acidic and a bit of citrus juice will ensure acidity is at a safe level. Just be sure to sterilize your jars and lids well and start getting creative.
This time of year I am always overwhelmed with blood oranges. It’s a good problem to have, I know, but it makes me think long and hard about just what to do with these beauties. They are a bit sour for eating more than a few, the juice is lovely, but again tart. I have made TONS of blood orange marmalade and after discovering that I like the taste of lime marmalade better, I tossed my recipe and started searching for something new. Since it has been so warm this winter that our rhubarb has yet to freeze back, I started thinking that rhubarb and blood oranges might make the perfect pairing. The combination is amazingly flavorful and the subtle sweetness of the vanilla bean adds just the right touch to make it one of the very best jams I have ever made. Add the stunning ruby color and this is a truly magnificent jam.
Rhubarb, Vanilla and Blood Orange Jam
(makes 4 half-pint jars)
6 Cups Rhubarb (diced)
1 Cup Blood Orange Juice (about 4-5 oranges) regular oranges can be substituted if you can’t find blood oranges.
Zest of 1 Blood Orange
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean
This makes an amazing fresh or freezer jam. It is also wonderful canned. If you are going to can it get canning pot, jars and lids sterilized and ready. (directions at bottom).
1. Dice rhubarb.
2. Zest the peel from one blood orange. (I like to do this with a knife, carefully slicing the peel off and leaving the pith behind. Then chop peel into very small slices.)
3. Squeeze the juice from 4-5 blood oranges until you have 1 cup of juice.
4. Add rhubarb, juice, zest and sugar to a shallow stainless pan and begin cooking over medium heat.
5. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into fruit mixture. Put the remaining bean in the pot too.
6. Cook over medium heat stirring regularly until the jam begins to thicken and most of the liquid evaporates.
7. Pour into containers for freezing or refrigerator storage, or if canning fill hot sterilized jars with jam leaving 1/4 inch head space. Process in water bath or steam canner for 10 minutes.
Wash 4 (half pint) canning jars well with hot soapy water. Place in a water bath canner or steam canner and bring water to a boil for at least 10 minutes to sterilize the jars. Turn burner off and allow the jars to sit in hot water while you prepare the jam.
Place rings and lids for jars in a separate pan and bring water to a simmer. Allow rings and lids to simmer gently while you prepare fruit.
When the jam is ready remove the hot jars from the water with a jar lifter and fill, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
Wipe jar rims with a damp cloth or paper towel and place sterilized lids and rings on jars.
Place the jars back into canning pot and return the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling rapidly start a timer for 10 minutes. When 10 minutes is up turn the burner off and allow the jars to rest in the canner for several more minutes.
Remove the jars and allow to cool. You will hear the lids pop as the temperature drops. This is the sound of the jars sealing. Test the seal after they are cool by pushing down on the center of the lid. If it pops up and down the lid has not properly sealed. Place any unsealed jars in the refrigerator. (the most common cause of jars not sealing is forgetting to wipe the rims after jam is placed in jars.)