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June 2, 2009

Granulated sugar (Recipe: strawberry rhubarb jam)

Strawberry rhubarb jam.

On a shelf in my kitchen, fourteen glass storage jars, all the same size and shape, hold things we use every day.

Special-K, oat bran flakes and granola. Dried beans in shades of red and white and pink and pied, all mixed together. Leftover dried pasta in a variety of shapes, all mixed together. (I toss a handful here and there into soup.) Five pounds of all-purpose flour, five pounds of whole wheat flour, five pounds of kosher salt, five pounds of long-grain rice.

And five pounds of granulated sugar.

For a family of dieters and diabetics -- and my husband Ted, our resident chocolate chip cookie expert -- the standard five-pound bag of sugar is nearly a year's supply, except when we're baking cookies for donation. We use agave nectar, honey and artificial sweeteners more often, not only for baking, but also to balance the tartness or acidity in savory dishes like basic tomato sauce.

Granulated sugar.

Granulated sugar comes from either sugar cane or beets which have been processed, allowed to crystallize, and then dried so that the crystals do not clump together. Store sugar in a cool, dry place, and it should remain clump-free. If your sugar does clump, restore it with a quick whiz in a food processor.

Recipes that call for sugar usually mean granulated sugar unless another type is specified.

In baking, sugar adds volume, texture, color and tenderness. Because sugar holds moisture, it is also a preservative, extending the shelf life of baked goods.

Strawberry rhubarb jam on an English muffin.

Strawberry rhubarb jam

My friend Bev stopped by for tea last week with four stalks of rhubarb from her garden. Not enough for a pie, but just the right amount to make two little jars of jam. This recipe was inspired by many sources.

Ingredients

4 stalks rhubarb, washed, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 strawberries, trimmed, cut in half
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan or small stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down. Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the jam until it's smooth. Transfer to two small glass jars that have been sterilized in boiling water. Let cool for 20-30 minutes to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours to allow the jam to thicken. Keep refrigerated, and use within three weeks. (Jars also can be processed in a water bath for longer storage.)

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Double strawberry tartlets
Mozambique chicken
Beer marinade

Comments

Lydia - I recently discovered that there's vegan sugar! Apparently, some processing plants use charcoal made from bone, so ardent vegans will buy sugar processed with mineral or vegetable based charcoal instead.

I have absolutely no idea about preparing jams.

But common sense wise, don't you need any gelatine to make jams? And what about citric acid or other preservatives?

May be you are fortunate to stay in a cold country, in hot and temperate climate of India, canning and preserving come hand in hand

This looks SOOOOO delicious. And I love those little squat and fat canning jars! I'm trying this this weekend!

Hi Lydia, Sometimes when I think about sugar, I laugh. When my parents were just beginning to date (over 30 years ago), my dad decided to try to impress my mom by serving her borscht. The recipe said "add sugar to taste," so he poured in a pound. Mom spent the evening lying through her teeth about how good it was, and pouring it into a plant when he wasn't looking. :) She still married him anyway.

The jam looks great. And I love the picture of the sugar :)

Lydia,

Looks wonderful. My mother is the jam maker in our family, but I think I'll try your little recipe and use up some of the excess rhubarb from my 2 large plants. I wonder if this would freeze well??? Have you tried?

I've never eaten rhubarb...I may have to give this a try! :)

Ahh, rhubarb. Great stuff.

And Arundhati, it's pectin (in many fruits) and acid that does the jelling in jelly. But I suppose it makes a difference what fruit you're using and the temperature it will be stored at; it makes sense that you would have to can fruit-containing foods in India.

I love rhubarb-strawberry jam!!! Haven't tried it with lemon juice, though - but last year's versions with star anise and vanilla were great :) /Two different jams, mind you/

I have a bunch of chopped of rhubarb in my freezer--I'll have to give this a try! But how much (measured) is 4 stalks? I can't remember how much I have in there, but I know it's more than 4 stalks...

This looks delicious. I'm determined to learn how to can this summer.

I have to try this recipe. My daughter loves strawberry rhubarb jam.

Sugar has such a fascinating history as well. "Sweetness and Power" by Sidney W. Mintz is my favorite. He describes the horrors of the Carribean slave trade and the horrors of life in Industrial Revolution England -- where factory workers ate _sweetened_ jam, weak tea with _sugar_, and cheap bread instead of a nutritious meal. The connection between the slaves and the poor in England was sugar. (Leaving aside rum made from sugar as well.)

So glad we can enjoy our sugar with a pretty clean conscience -- it's not made by slaves now.

looks lovely...i'm hoping to do some canning this year. haven't done any in years.

Our rhubarb patch (planted by the previous owner)has always looked pretty dismal. It was growing in the shade of an apple tree. December's ice storm uprooted the tree and the rhubarb has gone wild! Even flowering. Jams make a great gift, so I think I'll make your jam & get my Christmas shopping done early. thanks!

Oh, I love rhubarb. I think I will run to the local farmstand and see if they have any. Thanks for the reminder!
Janet

The color of that jam is perfect and I bet it is so tasty!

I will have to try this recpie since I have abou a pint of strawberries I got only because they were on a to die for sale.
Now I have something to make with them.
Ok, I guess I should be embarrassed I always have at lease 25lbs of white sugar, 10 lbs each of dark and light brown sugar.
But in my defense I do bake a lot of cookies and muffins for gifts or to make for the non-profit that I work with that provides meals for the homeless.

Sugar gets a bad rap! I used to avoid it at all costs for "health reasons" and used only the artificial stuff. But I have given up the artificial stuff and have gone back to old fashioned sugar in great moderation of course. I feel better for it. After all... many a generation grew up just fine on plain old granulated sugar!

Nice! I have been looking for a good strawberry rhubarb jam recipe since I have both items pouring out of the garden. Heck right now the only things that are available in the garden :-(

this sounds like the perfect jam for the morning toast with coffee....

Lol @ Deena's comment. Sugar to taste? Maybe he had a sweet tooth.

Though I have a sweet tooth I never use sugar in my tomato sauce or salad dressings. I love the tartness, the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar.

hhmm..love strawberry rhubarb anything!!! have to try this one out!
thanks lydia!

I love that red bowl where did you get it?

Oh Boy, Strawberry rhubarb is my favorite combination, I make a cobbler that is out of this world. Can't wait to try this
Thank you for all your wonderful recipes
Josephine

I don't love rhubarb in dessert but I love jams and this sounds really good!

Julia, thanks so much -- I had no idea there is vegan sugar, and I'm sure other readers are glad to know about it too.

Arundhati, this jam must be kept in the refrigerator, and will only keep for three weeks. If you were going to keep it longer, it would definitely have to be processed.

Natasha, I'm crazy about these little jars too.

Deena, oh the things we do for love! Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

Martha, I haven't tried freezing it. Seems like it should work....

Pille, star anise would be a wonderful flavor with this. I'm going to try it with the next batch.

Erika, I don't think proportions are terribly important, so four stalks (or five, or three), plus however many strawberries you have on hand, should do the trick. I estimate that it's a total of 3 cups of fruit.

Mae, thank you so much for sharing this. I knew that sugar had a complicated history, much as it has a controversial present.

Victoria, it sounds like Mother Nature has stepped in to help your rhubarb! How lucky you are.

Kim, there's never a need to apologize for a well-stocked pantry. My family needs to use sugar in very limited ways, so a five-pound bag will last a long time. But for people who bake a lot, five pounds of sugar isn't much at all.

Carol, Julia Child used to advocate using real ingredients, like butter, but in moderation. I believe in that too, except in cases (like diabetes) where eating real sugar can do real harm.

Jeff, I'm jealous. I wish I had both rhubarb and strawberries in my garden!

Tania, I bought it in the jumble of odds and ends of kitchen stuff at TJ Maxx.

Maris, I'm the same. Not a rhubarb pie lover, but this jam is nice because it's not super sweet.

I'm a recent rhubarb convert, thanks to a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler recipe I discovered as I poked around the blogasphere. I can't wait to try this recipe...thanks! :)

just for reference sake and in case making jam isn't your cup of tea, Hero makes the best jams......sugar+whatever fruit E.G., sugar+strawberry. Thats it. Nothing else is added. It can also be stored on a shelf instead of in the fridge

I love that homemade jam is so simple! A coworker of mine LOVES strawberry-rhubarb. This jam would be the perfect gift for her!

Lydia, I only started using granulated sugar in baking when I began using American recipes - most recipes from here call for caster (superfine) sugar. Granulated sugar gives such wonderful texture to cookies that I can't go without it in my pantry anymore. :)

Hmm...made it last night and it never firmed up. But it was still delicious, and I made pancakes this morning & used it as a sauce. mmm....

Lydia, I listened to the webcast on Six Apart today and it was great. Thank you so much for the helpful blogging tips. You have a fabulous blog and offered great advice that bloggers everywhere can use. It looks like you have some great recipes here and I can't wait to try a few out! :)

ohhh, I want jam now!! The color is wonderful.

Yay for sugar! We're big fans around here.

Congrats, you win for the first jam post I've seen around. I couldn't think of a better combination myself.

I can't wait to try my hand at strawberry jam this summer, although I think I've missed rhubarb season at this point.

Milton, I'll have to look for this brand -- it's new to me. Thanks.

Erika, I can't imagine why it didn't thicken up. Wish I knew more about jam making so I could come up with a theory. I'm glad you liked the flavor. Maybe you'll try again?

Dani, thanks for listening in! The webinar was recorded and I'll post a link somewhere when it's available. So glad you found your way to The Perfect Pantry, too.

Aimee, I win?! Hooray! I hope you like this one -- the color is so seductive, isn't it?

TW, maybe there will be some rhubarb in your CSA share....

Are agave sugar and honey better (nutritionally speaking) than sugar? I feel as if I should know this, but I don't, so I always wonder. There are so many sugar-like options - all the non-sugar sugars (Splenda, Stevia, etc.), and sugar in the raw - that it gets confusing. I like maple syrup in savory dishes - I think it adds depth as well as sweetness.

I love making small batches of jams, jellies and pickles. This is perfect!

I have the exact same problem, never using granulated sugar. So when I got some great rhubarb and strawberries at the market today, I decided to try for some jam. Right now two jars of jam are cooling in a big pan of cold water, and my entire kitchen smells delicious. Can't wait to taste! I think I'll drive down to Rotterdam tonight to bring one of the jars to my grandma. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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