As a canning instructor, I often get asked what is the best first time canning project should be for someone new to canning. My response is always “NOT STRAWBERRY JAM!” So many people get inspired early in the season by the beautiful quarts of strawberries for sale at the local farmer’s market, and set out to make a batch of strawberry jam, only to end up with an epic fail.
The fact is, making any kind of jam can be tricky business — it’s easy to burn, needs to have the right amount of pectin to set up, but not too much or it will be tough. Strawberry jam is even more difficult to get right because spring weather can really change the quality of the strawberries every year. Too much rain can result in lower pectin levels and lackluster flavor. Instead, I always recommend stewed rhubarb as an ideal first time canning project.
Rhubarb is a springtime treat popular in desserts and is traditionally made into sauce or pie, this led to it getting the nickname “pie plant.” In my home state of Michigan, fresh field or homegrown rhubarb is available late April through June. It can be mostly green or have a rosy to dark red color and have medium to thick stalks, and is a tasty source of calcium and potassium. Remember to cut off and compost, or discard, all rhubarb leaves when you harvest rhubarb. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid which is harmful to eat.
With a patently unglamorous name like “stewed rhubarb” the real deal doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Stewed rhubarb is wonderfully versatile - it can be used to make a crisp or a pie, or as a topping for yogurt, or used as a sauce for pork roast or venison. All you can use strawberry jam for is for topping some toast or a pb&j for the most part. How much jam does a person really need, anyway? Being a Michigan native, I love to eat local foods - we rank #3 for rhubarb production in the U.S. One of our family favorites is rhubarb streusel muffins. A wonderful treat on a Sunday morning!
Stewed Rhubarb for Canning
Makes about 18 half-pints (two canner loads) of rhubarb
- 7 lbs rhubarb
- 5 cups sugar
1. Trim off leaves.
2. Wash stalks and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces.
3. In a large saucepan add sugar to fruit. Let stand until juice appears.
4. Heat gently to boiling.
5. Fill jars without delay, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process for 15 minutes.
Whole Wheat Rhubarb Streusel Muffins
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 half-pint jar of stewed rhubarb
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
For the streusel topping:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Grease medium muffin pan with butter.
3. In a small bowl, mix stewed rhubarb, egg, oil and vanilla with a fork until well combined.
4. In a medium bowl, mix remaining muffin ingredients and then add rhubarb mixture and stir until well combined.
5. To make streusel topping, put all ingredients in a small bowl and rub between your fingers until the mixture resembles pebbly small sand.
6; Fill muffin tin cups 2/3 full with muffin batter and top each with some streusel topping.
7. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until golden on top. A skewer put in the middle should come out clean when the rhubarb muffins are done
Cynthia Hodges loves cooking and the lost domestic arts of home canning and sewing — those skills they used to teach in home economics. She’s been keeping her home economics blog, Mother’s Kitchen, since 2006. Connect with Cynthia on Facebook at Mother’s Kitchen and Michigan Inspired. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.