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After more than two years of baking with the Sweet Melissa Sundays group, we are approaching the end of our time together.  At our current pace of two recipes per month and with just 8 recipes left, we’ll be finishing up in August.  Crazy to think we’ll have made every recipe in the book!  So, with that said, I’m thrilled to be hosting for what will probably be the last time today.  Even though we’re down to just a few recipes remaining, there were several that caught my eye.

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I ended up choosing these strawberry rhubarb preserves because they were somewhat seasonal and because I’m obsessed with the combination of strawberries and rhubarb lately.  I think it wound up being just a tad too early for good, juicy strawberries except in a few lucky areas of the country.  Mine were decent, but definitely not on par with the ones that’ll be available in a month or two.  Fresh rhubarb also proved tricky to find.  I thought I remembered it appearing in stores in April last year but perhaps it was May.  I did find some at Whole Foods, but I only bought a little because it was pretty expensive.  Luckily, they also had frozen rhubarb so I used that in combination with the fresh for this recipe.

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We’ve made the master preserve recipe from this book a few times now and I just love its simplicity.  You just throw everything in a pot and cook until it breaks down and thickens.  There’s no need to worry about buying pectin (which is basically a thickener); instead apples are used as they are a natural source of pectin.  The recipe calls for a candy thermometer, but I honestly think you could make it without one – just use the tip in the recipe below to stick a spoonful in the freezer and check the consistency once cool.  Mine took about 45 minutes to an hour to thicken up.  You won’t hear me say this very often because I have a major sweet tooth, but I think I may cut back on the sugar in this recipe next time.  Even for me it seemed a little overly sweet.  Otherwise, it was great, and so versatile – spread it on toast, scones or muffins or even bake with it.  I’ve already put a little stash aside so I can adapt this awesome recipe for raspberry squares.

Many thanks to everyone who participated this week!  You can see the other members’ results here.

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves
from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
4 cups sliced rhubarb
2 cups peeled and cubed Granny Smith apples (about 2-3 apples cut into 1/4 – 1/2-inch pieces)
2 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons orange zest

Combine all of the ingredients in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Set the pan over medium heat and cook the mixture until it registers 212 F on a candy thermometer, stirring frequently.  The fruit will break down as it cooks; you can also mash it slightly if desired.  After the preserves reach 212 F, continue to cook for about 30 minutes more, or until they are thick.  To verify you have the correct consistency, you can place a spoonful of the preserves on a small plate and pop in the freezer until cool.  The preserves should be quite thick – if they’re runny, you need to cook them a little longer.

Cool the preserves to room temperature then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.

Makes about 4 cups