Thanks to the very hot spring we had here in the mid-Atlantic region, strawberry season has come earlier this year than it has in the last few. This has thrown my preserving time line off in the worst way and has left me unduly panicked, worried that if I didn’t act quickly, I would miss the season entirely.
However, I’ve also been stretched thin by commitments in the last few weeks and have been working hard to reserve at least a few hours of my weekend for relaxing, as opposed to filling every moment with lunches, activities and appointments with my vacuum cleaner.
This means that I made a tough decision last weekend to skip out on my annual strawberry picking day and simply buy a flat of local strawberries instead. Thanks to my friend Albert, I was able to get a flat (eight quarts) of berries for not too much money from the Fair Food Farmstand. I was sad to miss the trip out to New Jersey, but something had to give and the picking was it. After all, it’s not like I can give up canning!
Thanks to that quick acquisition of fruit, I’ve now made a batch of that wonderful strawberry vanilla jam I first produced last year, as well as this lovely, sticky, spreadable strawberry rhubarb butter (I couldn’t help but pop a vanilla bean in this one while cooking as well).
This is my second batch of butter so far this year, and I am totally pleased with how it turned out. I’m finding that while I do get smaller yields with butters than jams, I far prefer having that smaller cluster of jars filled with something I know I’ll eat and enjoy than having a seemingly promiscuous quantity of jam (it might sound strange, but I still have so much jam left from last year that needs to be eaten that it feels a bit burdensome – I hate to be wasteful).
Strawberry Rhubarb Butter
- 4 cups chopped rhubarb
- 4 cups mashed strawberries
- 1 vanilla bean split
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- Combine the rhubarb, berries, the split vanilla bean and a cup of the sugar in a large, non-reactive pot. Stir until the sugar has drawn some liquid out of the berries and then turn the heat onto medium low.
- Cook over medium low heat, stirring regularly, until the pieces of rhubarb and strawberries have broken down. At this point, reduce the heat even further and let the butter simmer over very low heat. This will take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending on how the heat setting and the width of your pan. Wider pans will cook more quickly.
- When the butter has reduced to about half its original volume, taste it. Adjust the sugar to taste, adding up to another half cup. Cook until the sugar has dissolved into the butter. Remove the butter from the heat. Fish the vanilla bean pieces out and put them aside.
- Fill your prepared jars, wipe the rims, apply lids and screw on bands. Process filled jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (starting time when water returns to a boil).When time is up, remove jars from pot and let them cool on a towel-lined counter top. When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and check the seals.
- This butter will keep up to a year in a cool, dark place. It is good to eat right away, though.