Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Revised

I have been finding a few reasons to get amped this spring, which is a miracle as it has also been one of the most stressful times of my life. This homey Taurus really does not love change, and I am moving to Toronto. This means moving out of my beautiful house with the garden where I planted black currant, jostaberry, black and golden raspberries, and which came ready made with abundant rhubarb and Hamilton’s best strawberry patch. I know, of course, that it will likely all work out, and in many ways I look forward to Toronto, but leaving this garden, my first, is murder.

But, like I said, this is about what’s getting me amped. First of all, I think we can all agree that spring is pretty much irresistible, though this one has been a little chilly. I don’t move houses until June 1st, which means I still get to experience the joy of seeing the garden come to life. Once I got over myself, I finally started to appreciate the buds and the unfurling leaves. Plus I remembered that there would be enough rhubarb to make a final jam before leaving.

One major high point of this spring is going to be the Altro Paradiso bake sale. My friend and pastry superstar Natasha Pickowicz of Altro Paradiso is masterminding the third annual bake sale to benefit Planned Parenthood, and graciously invited me to participate. I believe strongly in the cause, and the lineup is truly interstellar. The closer May 19th gets, the more excited I am.

Michelle Marek, Stephanie Labelle and I, collectively known as Montreal Cake Club are bringing some very delicious items to the sale, and our theme was heading towards herbs. I puzzled awhile over what jam to make, but when the gorgeous hot pink Ontario forced rhubarb showed up, I knew it had to be the base. As far as I know, Ontario is the premier province in Canada producing this truly beautiful product, which you might know from jealously regarding the English and their Yorkshire forced rhubarb. It’s grown in dark greenhouses and produces early, tender, sweet rhubarb. Then, earlier this week as I poked around the garden I found that the lemon balm (which becomes a bush in the summer) had already produced plenty of new leaves, and so the jam found its way into the thematic herbal fold.

And, well, as for strawberries, they are of course hard to resist. I used frozen Ontario strawberries from last summer, but you can obviously do whatever you like, except use those huge out of season strawberries picked by abused workers. Your jam is only ever as good as the ingredients you put into it.

There is a strawberry-rhubarb jam in my book already, but frankly this one is an improvement. Substituting nearly half the sugar for honey brings a floral note, and the lemon balm is just fragrant enough. It certainly balances on the very edge of too-tart, but that’s personally fine with me. If you disagree, or if you make this using more acidic late-season rhubarb, feel free to increase the sugar– I would start with 50g.

If you are in NYC, I would love to see you at the bake sale. It’s for an amazing cause and there is going to be so much deliciousness and community. But otherwise make this jam! Guaranteed to amp up any level of springtime good feelings.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

340g hulled strawberries

680g trimmed rhubarb

340g sugar

270g honey

50g lemon juice

1 t. torn lemon balm

Combine all ingredients except lemon balm in a large bowl or container and allow to macerate at least 15 minutes but preferably overnight (or, let’s be honest, up to a week in the fridge). You may leave the strawberries whole if they are small or cut them up if they are large. I prefer to smoosh them by hand to be honest. Texture!

Prepare jars and lids.

Transfer mixture pot or preserving pan and add the lemon balm. Heat on medium- high, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Boil hard, stirring frequently.

When the setting point is reached, remove from heat and ladle into prepared jars to within a 1/4” of the rim. Remove any air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal. Heat process 5 minutes (or, if you’re keeping it at 90C or higher, just close and turn upside down for 1-2 minutes).

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