M. Bullwinkel's Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

malnaJanuary 4, 2011

I made this last week. Lovely taste, but it is pretty runny. The directions say to heat to 212 degrees. Shouldn't that be higher to get a firmer set? Or would that affect the taste?

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readinglady(z8 OR)

Wow, that's interesting. I have that book but I've never paid attention to the temperature.

I notice now there are some recipes that say 212 and others that say 216-218. None of those are standard. ( I won't say incorrect; maybe she knows something we don't.)

With strawberry-rhubarb especially this would be an issue as they are low in pectin.

So, the rule-of-thumb is boiling + 8 degrees, whatever that is for your altitude. Generally it's 220.

There is a range depending upon the preserve and your preference. Starting about 217-218 you'll get a syrup or soft-set. Then 220-221 you'll get jam. With a lot of preserves 221 is just too "hard" for my taste and there is a risk of over-cooking.

In most areas a strawberry-rhubarb will not set terribly firm unless you really boil hard and evaporate out more water than is optimal for flavor.

I use a thermometer but it's my back-up (for notes). I really prefer the plate test. And if I'm really doubtful I'll chill the entire batch (uncovered) overnight. That tells me precisely how set it is.

You could always decant and cook additionally.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 3:27PM
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Thanks for the input, Carol. I thought it sounded a bit odd but, as you said, she may have known something I didn't.

It really has a lovely taste - not overcooked at all, which is what I was afraid of. I think next time (I still have loads of fruit in the freezer), I'll cook it a bit and strain out the fruit, then cook the juice more.

Oh, and her Spiced Blueberry Preserves are wonderful! I was gifted with five pounds of wild Maine blueberries and had to do something special with them :-)

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 5:21PM
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Ooh, I hope we get blueberries (wild CT, not Maine LOL) this year. Please share the recipe!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 8:35PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I have made those spiced blueberry preserves. I think that was the first recipe I made from her book. That was the one that sold me (despite any temperature quirks or glitches).

Using the French plunge method is probably a good idea. You'll be able to preserve the integrity of the fruit while cooking the syrup to the desired level.

IIRC, an old Time-Life recipe in the Good Cook series shows that very method with strawberry preserves.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 11:39PM
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Here's the recipe:

Spicy Blueberry Preserves
From Gourmet Preserves Chez Madelaine

3 pounds blueberries
1/3 cup water
1 cinnamon stick (4-inch)
2 strips lemon peel (2-inch)
2 cloves, whole
2 allspice berries
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2-1/4 cups sugar, divided

Combine berries and water in an 8-quart non-reactive saucepan. Tie the lemon peel, cloves and allspice in a cheesecloth bag. Add to the berries along with the cinnamon stick. Cover and bring slowly to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

Strain the blueberries for 5 minutes. Reserve the berries and the spice bag. Pour the juice into a clean 5-quart pan and reduce to 2 cups. Return juice to a boil, stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and add 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Allow the mixture to return to a boil after each addition of sugar before adding more.

Continue cooking until the mixture reaches the jell point (8 degrees above boiling). This takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

Pour the hot jelly into the bowl containing the blueberries and the spice, allowing them to steep for 15 minutes. Return the mixture to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. The thickened preserves should heat to 216-218 degrees F.

Pour the mixture into a clean 1-quart bowl (I didn't bother messing up another bowl and just left them in the pan), remove the spice bag and the cinnamon stick. Stir the preserves once or twice over a 5 minute period. Fill jars (leaving 1/4" headspace), apply lids and rings, and process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 6:48AM
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Thanks! I hope we get enough berries this year to try this - 3 lbs is a lot when they're tiny wild ones! You were very lucky to receive those as a gift (and not have to buy or pick them yourself - do you have any idea how long it takes to pick 5 lb of wild blueberries LOL?)!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 9:02AM
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As a matter of fact, I DO know (ROFL)! My SIL is from Maine, and one of her relatives had a big farm with a huge patch of wild blueberries. We used to go up there when I was younger and I'd help pick. No such thing as child labor laws back then LOL!

Trust me, I was very happy I didn't have to pick these :-)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 11:05AM
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Well, if it's a big patch and they're lowbush, at least you can use a rake! Ours are "wild" (my family has been here 100 yrs and no one planted them since then) but are a mixture of high and lowbush. Even have tiny berries on some of the tall (6-7ft) bushes - I don't know which is more of a pain, bending the branches down to pick or let DD pick, or bending over (and moving the leaf clutter) to find/pick the low bushes!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 11:55AM
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This is my third year growing blueberries and finally may have enough to really eat more than a handful. They are loaded but not quite ripe. I lay an old sheet under each bush and just pick/drop, then fold up the sheet to sort out in the house. (It's in the 90's here so staying outside too long is not healthy.) Another trick for picking the low branches (or for picking any low growing fruit or vegetables) is to sit on a one-step stool or crate. Much easier on the back.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 7:37AM
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I am reporting back in with the results of my latest batch of Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (and imagine my surprise to find this on the first page LOL).

I did use the French plunge method - took the fruit out, cooked the syrup a little yesterday, put the fruit back in to steep in the sugar syrup and let it set overnight.

This morning, I strained the fruit back out and cooked the syrup to 220 degrees, put the fruit back in, returned to a boil and BWB'd.

Really, really, REALLY good stuff. Chunks of fruit suspended nicely in the jar and no hint of overcooked flavor. I put a jar in the fridge after I had a few tastes and it looks like it will set just perfectly.

I'm sooo happy I finally found a method that works for DH's absolutely all-time favorite jam!

Thanks for the tips, Carol!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 2:35PM
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robinkateb(z4 VT)

This thread finally threw me over the edge and I ordered a copy of the book. It has been on my wish list at paperback book swap for ages but I am getting tired of waiting for someone to get rid of theirs.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 4:55PM
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