One of the first true signs that summer is here is the harvest of rhubarb! It is one of those vegetables I just haven’t quite figured out. It is one of those legendary vegetables becuase it is a perennial and can survive for hundreds of years! In fact my in-laws transplanted a rhubarb plant taken from a family farm that is north of Duluth. The plant has survived generations.
Given the tartness of the vegetable, it seems rhubarb is destined for baking. I must admit I have tried my hand at manipulating rhubarb into a savory dinner meal in which I was unsuccessful and the dish was quickly voted out of our meal rotation. My inability to succeed with cooking rhubarb has lead to more success with baking it. Now as a dietitian I know limiting added sugars and saturated fats such as butter are recommended, but I also believe we need to have balance and variety within our diet. Rhubarb does have healthful benefits. And it just so happens, perhaps in a serendipitous fashion, that the harvest of rhubarb falls in line with the harvest of strawberries. Both are a good source of antioxidants and fiber. Antioxidants help clear potential harmful agents from the body. Fiber helps protect agains certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
I like to make my baked goods somewhat on the more healthful side, for instance using more whole wheat flours and oats and substituting some of the saturated fats with applesauce or pureed fruits like banana. Like I said, we can still enjoy sweet things just in moderation and in a more healthful way. One of my favorite ways of combining rhubarb and strawberries is by making jam, which can be spread on whole wheat toast or used in place of syrup on whole grain pancakes. It is even a fun way to add a little bit of healthy fiber to dessert as an ice cream topping! It can be time consuming though I find the best time to make this is when I’m preparing dinner, multitasking is a time saver!
Rhubarb Strawberry Spread
5 cups of Rhubarb, cut into cubes
2 cups of Strawberries, tops removed and cut into quarters
2 ½ cups sugar Dash of lemon juice
The recipe makes about 3 cups of jam.
Put all ingredients into a saucepan large enough to fit all of them. Bring ingredients to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir occasionally until the rhubarb begins to break down and the mixture thickens (about an hour). You can cook it to your desired thickness, but for a jam it is best to cook it until the mixture holds firm when a dollop of it holds it shape when put on a small plate.
At this point the jam can be canned. Follow the instructions below for the canning process. Otherwise put the jam in a sealed container and use within 2 weeks. Canned jam can be stored for up to a year.
Canning: 1.Sterilize the cans: Submerge jars along with lids and rings, into a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Transfer sterilized jars, lids and rings to a clean dish towel. Fill each jar with hot jam, leaving at least ¼ inch of space at the top. Wipe the jar rims clean, place lids on jars and secure with rings.
2.Transfer the filled jars to a canning rack if you have one, place rack in a pot of gently boiling water so that the jars are covered with about an inch of water above the top of them. Boil for 10 minutes. Transfer jars to a dish towel to cool for 24 hours. The lid should hold tight, if you are able to move the lid when the ring is removed, the jar did not seal and the jam should be used within two weeks.