Canning 101: Sweet and Tart Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

by Carol Sacks on April 16, 2012

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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

and rhubarb.

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.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

LiztheChef April 16, 2012 at 7:52 am

Lucky you to have rhubarb in your market – we are still waiting with fingers crossed. Lovely post, Carol.


Carol Sacks April 16, 2012 at 7:58 am

Thank you so much, Liz! Rhubarb is showing up in small amounts, but I’m hopeful it will increase. Want to try a few more recipes before the season ends.


Susie @ Return to Sunday Supper April 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

Carol, So glad to see that you are canning! I’m going to be starting this adventure myself as soon as our fresh produce catches up with the bounty of spring in other areas of the country. You’re so lucky to live in such a beautiful climate. Love this post!


Carol Sacks April 16, 2012 at 9:48 am

Hi Susie! Thanks so much for your comment. We are fortunate and now that I have the canning itch, I’m looking forward to my next project.


Beth (OMG! Yummy) April 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

I still don’t know if I am ready for canning but I would make this jam in a heartbeat regardless. My daughter loves fruit crisps and last year I made a strawberry rhubarb one for the first time. It’s a lovely combination! Beautiful job on the post and canning!


Carol Sacks April 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

Hi Beth, thank you so much. I’m now a canning convert, but fruit crisps sound intriguing, too.


Barbara | Creative Culinary April 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I haven’t canned in years; I’m certain that our high altitude must contribute to that; I was flummoxed when we moved here from NC and I put up a ton of food each season and I’ve never gotten back into it. Your jam look fantastic and I’m sure your teacher is most proud!


Carol Sacks April 16, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Interesting about altitude and canning. Didn’t realize that, but it does make sense.

Thank you so much for your kind words!


Gail April 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm

You know you’re fearless, right?


Carol Sacks April 16, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Oh how I wish, Gail! So sweet of you to say that. Thank you again!


Sharon Miro April 16, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Send jam. You made me drool!


Carol Sacks April 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Sharon, I have a jar with your name on it! Thank you so much for reading and your sweet words.


Winifred Lloyds Lender April 16, 2012 at 9:57 pm

The jam looks so wonderful. I have never tried canning, but your alluring photos and rich description have inspired me to give it a try. Thank you Carol!


Carol Sacks April 17, 2012 at 5:03 am

Thanks so much, Winifred. Let’s plan an afternoon of canning — it’ll be fun!


Deb April 17, 2012 at 10:05 am

What a tempting jam! The vibrant and shimmering photos of claret colored jam are stunning! I’ve been looking for rhubarb and have only found stalks of grass green with streaks of pale pink. Waiting for a flurry of spring in rose colored pink!


Carol Sacks April 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

Deb, what a nice thing to say! Thank you so much. I’ll look forward to hearing about what you do when rhubarb arrives in your markets in volume.


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