When I made Cathy Barrow’s spicy and garlicky pickled Italian vegetables, Giardiniera, a few months ago, I wrote about my goal to learn how to can and experience the joys of food preservation this year. While I feel confident making sauces and jams, the thought of sterilizing jars, negotiating water baths at a rolling boil and wondering if I had made a catastrophic mistake was all too much. Cathy and others assured me that poisoning my loved ones wasn’t likely to happen if I stuck to jams, jellies and fruit sauces.
Lately, the sheer volume of bright red strawberries has made walking through the Farmers Market feel like aromatherapy of the sweet variety. Tidy, one-pound bundles of rhubarb, rosy-hued and leggy, began making their modest appearance at the Market, too. It was high time I stopped stalling and stepped into the kitchen. I’m so glad that I did.
Nearly a year ago, Cathy wrote this post, Rhubarb Six Ways from Sunday, mentioning my father who adores rhubarb and makes his own sauce, freezing it in small plastic containers that last him most of the year. I thought her Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce would be an appropriate way to kick off my canning experience. I picked up strawberries
I grabbed a few Meyer Lemons, too.
Following the recipe, I mixed the slightly mashed berries, sliced rhubarb and lemon juice with sugar and vanilla beans. This vibrant, colorful mixture sat in a glass bowl brightening my kitchen counter on a stormy, gray day.
As the fruit macerated, it released a beautiful, rich pink liquid. After six hours, I drained the juice and boiled it on the stove until thickened. Then, I stirred in the berry mixture until the fruit began to soften. I filled the jars after sterilizing (actually a very straightforward and easy process) leaving a quarter-inch of headroom before placing a lid on top. After locking the lids in place, I lowered the jars carefully into a large pot of boiling water and left them in there to process for 10 minutes. When the timer went off, I set them on a dry towel on the counter to cool a bit. Within a few minutes a ping could be heard from each of the jars, signaling that the seals were strong. (I checked the jars the next morning, unscrewing the rings and lifting the jars by the lids. The lids held their seals beautifully. If they hadn’t, the jars would have been placed immediately in the fridge.)
I can’t sign off without telling you about this complex and alluring sauce. The color is arresting; a deep, dark red. The aroma: sweet at first, then slightly spicy and warm from the vanilla. The flavor: sweet and tart at once and the fruit is lightly cooked, so there is texture to the sauce. While we nearly polished off the first jar simply dipping our spoons in for tastes, in my next post, I’ll show you a terrific way to serve this versatile sauce. In the meantime, here is a link to Cathy’s recipe.