Not all rhubarb is created equal. Neither are homemade jams, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
This rings especially true when you have the opportunity to grow and harvest rhubarb stalks from your very own garden.
See, not all rhubarb is bright red and colorful as you might assume, though you can force it to be sweeter. You might even be surprised to find out that there are between 60-100 varieties of rhubarb. Yet, identifying the nuances is difficult.
Green Rhubarb, Red Rhubarb, All the Lovely Rhubarb
Within different rhubarb plants you’ll discover numerous levels of acidity, texture, color and – most importantly – flavor.
It is worth noting here that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your green stalks, or your less-than-red rhubarb jam. Some varieties are just like that.
Take Victoria rhubarb for instance. It is an heirloom variety of green-stalked rhubarb that grows to incredible heights and produces a vast amount of pounds per plant. You don’t even need to peel them before cooking or freezing.
Why isn’t anybody talking about this? Because it is green, not red?
And how about Turkish rhubarb? It is another variety of green rhubarb that gives you a later harvest. A bit on the sweeter side, with a hint of citrus.
Let’s set aside the notion of color for a second, after all, we don’t eat with our eyes. How lucky for us!
The simple test for making an excellent rhubarb jam, is to first make a rhubarb crumble or pie.
To know what your easy rhubarb jam will taste like, all you need to do is bake dessert and eat it. Tasty enough, right?
Head out to the backyard, shop at a store or a market for a bunch of rhubarb stalks and you are halfway there.
If you don’t yet have any pie or crumble recipes of your own, sample your rhubarb in these dishes first:
- the standard fresh rhubarb pie
- classic rhubarb crumble with apples, strawberries and ice cream on the side
- the hybrid rhubarb crumb pie
- modern raspberry rhubarb almond bars (gluten-free and paleo)
- or a gluten-free rhubarb crisp
If you enjoy the flavor of the rhubarb in your pie, then you’ll love it in your jam.
Related Reading: 7 Rhubarb Recipes That Go Beyond Boring Pie
Easy Rhubarb Jam Ingredients
When a recipe is uncomplicated, you are bound to make it more often.
Some of your favorite foods may be this way, without you even recognizing it. Fried potatoes, fresh garden salads, apricot jam.
Even when canning, a few quality ingredients can go a long way.
So, what do you need to make a small batch of rhubarb jam?
- 4 cups of chopped rhubarb
- 1/2 to 1 cup of honey (or the same amount of sugar)
- juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tablespoons of water
No pectin is needed. You can always toss the appropriate amount in, though, should you like your jam to be a bit thicker.
Also, if you’d like to make a larger batch at once, go ahead and upscale the amounts accordingly.
A special note on sweetness – not all jams are created equal.
We live in an oversweetened world.
Sugar is added to nearly everything we consume, that is, if we are eating processed foods. And most jam recipes, rhubarb included, have a 1:1 ratio of sugar to weight of fruit. Or in this case, vegetable.
It’s true, that sugar adds to the bulk, or the mass of the jam. Although it isn’t necessarily needed to enjoy eating what you produce.
In your own home, you have the ability to downsize your sugar intake, or to eliminate it altogether. Your cooking pots, your body, your choice.
You can also choose to use less sweetener in this recipe, according to your taste preferences. We’ve done just that in our own private stock.
You can also make more jam at once and put it in jars (or the freezer) for winter.
There are several reasons homemade jams are better than store-bought.
Setting sweetness aside, when you grow your own crops organically, you’ll find nothing comparable at the store. If you do, the price tag might make you skip on by.
Homemade jams also have another immeasurable quality: they are made by hand. Love goes into them. That’s reason enough to learn how to make your own and share it with the ones you adore and appreciate.
Jams make excellent gifts too – just in case you are thinking ahead.
Instructions for Rhubarb Jam
1. Gather, trim and wash ingredients
To make a decent size batch of jam that isn’t gone in a flash, gather about 1 1/2 pounds of rhubarb stalks.
Trim both ends and give them a good wash in cool water.
Note 1: If using sugar, it is best to let the chopped rhubarb and sugar sit overnight. When you are ready to cook the jam, first bring the juice to a simmer, then add the rhubarb, cooking till it thickens.
The easy way to make rhubarb jam is to just toss all ingredients in the pot at once and cook.
Note 2: Most of you already know this, but for those who don’t, rhubarb leaves are toxic. They contain high levels of oxalic acid and should never be eaten. However, there are 5 good uses for rhubarb leaves, including leaving them in the garden as mulch.
2. Cut rhubarb
It all boils down to texture. Some people don’t enjoy the stringiness of rhubarb one bit.
In that case, cut the pieces as small as you wish. In the end it will become a smooth consistency.
For the really wide pieces, cut them in half lengthwise. The point is to try and get the pieces to an equal size.
3. Start cooking the jam
Once your pot of perfectly chopped rhubarb is on the stove, you’ll want to add a little bit of water to prevent it from burning on the bottom.
You’ll also want to add the honey (or sugar) at this time.
And lemon juice too. It lowers the pH and releases the pectin that is naturally in the stalks.
Stir often till everything is dissolved.
Then stir some more.
Once your jam-to-be is boiling, turn down the heat and let it simmer (still stirring!) for 15-20 minutes.
4. Sample for the perfect sweet-tart balance
Now comes the fun part, sampling your jam.
Spoon a small portion out on a plate and let it chill. Sample it for both flavor and consistency.
Not sweet enough for your taste? Add a tiny bit more sweetness.
Too runny? Let it simmer another 10 minutes longer and sample again.
Freezing Rhubarb Jam
This easy rhubarb jam recipe uses no commercial pectin and you don’t even need any canning skills to enjoy it in the cold of winter.
What you can do is freeze it.
The ability to freeze jam allows you to make small batches when fruits are in season. It gives your freedom to try new flavor combinations. Plus it is quick to make and store.
If you are going to be freezing your rhubarb jam, let it come to room temperature before storing it in airtight container or glass storage jars.
Easy rhubarb jam can also be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Optional: Canning advice for Rhubarb Jam
For all the canning enthusiasts out there, my first advice is to go big. Start with at least 10 pounds of rhubarb and you won’t be disappointed.
Second advice: try different versions and new-to-you flavors.
There are so many recipes out there to try, here are a few to help you get started:
- Small batch hone rhubarb ginger jam @ An Oregon Cottage
- Canning stewed rhubarb @ Homespun Seasonal Living
- Canning rhubarb @ Where is My Spoon
It’s also worth investing in a canning cookbook, especially if you are just getting started with preserving your own food.
Rhubarb Jam Variations
Easy is great, though sometimes you are seeking a bit more complexity in a homemade jam.
One that includes more daring flavor combinations.
Or at least one that is sweetly tart, as is the luscious jam made with strawberries.
Strawberries and rhubarb is a classic combo, found in everything from pies to sauces, bars and crumbles.
It is also regularly found in jam too.
All you need is rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and lemon. No pectin involved here either.
Vanilla Rhubarb Jam
You wouldn’t actually think that vanilla beans and rhubarb would match, would you?
This vanilla-rhubarb recipe you really have to try. It even has one cup of strong brewed Earl Grey tea in it. Tea and jam in one dish, sounds great to me.
Rhubarb and Gin Jam
If the thought of gin-soaked rhubarb excites your taste buds, then this rhubarb and ginger gin jam is just for you. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy a dollop with breakfast.
If you have a few stalks of fresh rhubarb that didn’t make it into the jam pot, don’t let them go to waste.
Make rhubarb ice cream, rhubarb muffins, rhubarb BBQ sauce, rhubarb chutney or rhubarb wine. Salty or sweet, anything made with rhubarb will always be a special treat worth sharing.