Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam

Rhubarb stalks

During the years I was in middle school, my family lived in a house just off Canyon Drive, in SW Portland. It was an isolating neighborhood, without sidewalks and with very few kids of similar age. One of the few things the house had going for it was the fact that it had an enormous yard (more than a quarter of an acre) that had been carefully tended during the sixties and seventies by a botanist.

Chopped rhubarb

The back yard was dotted with interesting trees (many of them fruit-bearing) and shrubs, featured a row multi-colored lilac trees (forever endearing me to those springtime flowers) and had a hidden rhubarb patch right up against the neighbor’s fence. Each spring, the refrigerator would fill up with vibrant, pink stalks, as my dad felt it was his duty to harvest all edible items from the yard. My mom would try to keep up with the bounty, but the sheer volume would overwhelm her and bags of the rhubarb would get passed out to neighbors and co-workers.

10~ cups chopped rhubarb

Now I mourn for all the rhubarb that we didn’t use and dream about a life that includes a prolific rhubarb patch, as it is one of my favorite spring treats. I love the fresh, apple-y scent it has when you cut into it, and I adore the electricity of its color. After a winter of dark greens and root vegetables, seeing that vivid pink on the cutting board feels like salvation.

Into the pot

Unfortunately, rhubarb doesn’t actually appear to be in season in the Philadelphia-area quite yet, so I broke down and made this jam with stalks from Washington State (I give my local produce store credit for having the origin so clearly marked). The first batch I made didn’t set particularly well after 24 hours, so I made another round, only to have that one become nearly solid (I used a full package of Sure-Jell powdered pectin that time and remembered why I don’t like it). I found that with refrigeration, the first batch finally firmed up a bit and achieved a really nice, if slightly loose texture. That’s the recipe I’ve included here. If you like your jam a bit firmer, use two packets of liquid pectin instead of one and skip the Sure-Jell.

Cooking rhubarb

And, of course, I’ll be giving away a half-pint of this jam to one lucky person. If you want a chance to be the winner, leave a comment (and if you feel so moved, share any rhubarb memories you might have). I’ll pick a winner on Friday, March 27th at 12 noon and post/Twitter the lucky individual sometime shortly after that. The recipe is after the jump.

Filling jars

Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam

Yield: Four Pints

Ingredients

  • 10 cups of chopped rhubarb (approximately 2 1/2 pounds of stalks)
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup brewed Earl Grey tea
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 packet liquid pectin (Ball brand is preferred)

Instructions

  1. Sterilize your jars in a large pot of boiling water. If you're making refrigerator jam (it will keep nicely unprocessed in the fridge for 2-3 months), skip this step.
  2. In a 5-quart, non-reactive pot, bring the rhubarb, sugar and tea to a boil.
  3. Add the vanilla bean, lemon and salt to the pot and let it bubble gently for about ten minutes (on my stove, this means I set it to medium-high).
  4. After ten minutes have elapsed, add the pectin, stir to combine and let cook for a few more minutes.
  5. At this point, dip a spoon in the jam and see how it coats the back of the spoon. If you get a nice, even sheet, the jam is done. You can also taste at this point, to see if you like the balance of flavors. Add a little more lemon juice if you feel it needs additional brightening.
  6. Pour into hot jars, wide mouth and rings to remove any spillage and apply lids/rings.
  7. Process in a hot water bath for ten minutes.
  8. Remove from water and let cool.
https://foodinjars.com/recipe/vanilla-rhubarb-jam/

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110 responses to “Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam”

  1. It’s going to be a good 4 weeks before I see rhubarb. Its taste and brightness can indeed waken up the taste buds! I have not had that much success growing it, but I know I am not giving it the moist rich soil it needs (with afternoon shade in my area). Guess I’ll have to buy again this year.

    Just found your blog, and I am very curious about all that you’ll come up with. I do a lot of food preserving myself (some in jars, some not), and I am always looking for new ideas and the experience of others.

    Thank you

  2. I adore rhubarb. My friend Susann and I always call each other when we buy our first rhubarb of the season. I love that distinctive rhubarb smell too. Mmmm.

  3. Can’t wait for rhubarb season here in NY! Some people eat it raw, I think with salt?–I want to try it that way this year, assuming it ever warms up here

  4. I have a friend who ended up poisoned by oxalic acid from a rhubarb leaf that ended up in a pie. That said, I’d love some jam. It sounds delicious and complex.

  5. oooh that looks amazing. I’ve never canned/jarred/jelled before but that recipe is tempting! My favorite pie ever is strawberry-rhubarb. My mom often made it around my birthday – late August in Rhode Island. The ingredients weren’t really in season, so she’d freeze them when they were fresh in order to make me my favorite pie!

  6. I planted some rhubarb seeds a few years ago. It is starting to come up, and this year will be our first harvest! I got tired of begging rhubarb from my neighbor. 🙂

  7. After years of seeing strawberry rhubarb pie at local diners, I tried my hand at making one a few years ago. I fell in love with its tartness. I need to snatch some rhubarb from Sue’s soon, too.

  8. The first time my bf took me to meet his parents his mom sent me home with a gigantic bad of rhubarb. I froze it and used it throughout the year. Nothing makes a cold winter day brighten up like some rhubarb. It’s like springtime in your mouth.

  9. Growing up on a farm in Kansas we always had rhubarb, but my parents hated it. My dad would mow it over whenever it would pop up. Now that I am an adult, I love rhubarb. I am definitely going to have to try this.

  10. I feel like this might be a better accompaniment to the blue cheese than the orange marmalade, what do you think?

    Hmm, that is an interesting thought. I’ll have to give it a try! -Marisa

  11. New to the blog, and heavens I love rhubarb. It’s so pretty…I can’t wait to get some local fresh and make this myself.

  12. Marisa, aren’t you the savvy marketeer!?! A contest with a wonderful, intriguing, delectable prize one could win just by leaving a comment. One would have to be a fool not to participate. And so clever a way to build traffic. Your parents must be very proud of you.

    Thanks, Dad! -Marisa

    • Oh by, thanks for point that out. It’s most definitely a typo, the recipe calls for 10 cups of chopped rhubarb, not 1 cup. I’ve updated the post to read accurately. My apologies!

  13. I finally made some rhubarb jam but made mine without pectin and with honey instead of sugar. since I didn’t have a vanilla bean handy I just stirred in a good glug of vanilla and it was lovely. I’ve also decided that cardamom and cloves are the ideal spices for rhubarb.

    my only complaint: I used some rhubarb from the farmer’s market that was more green than pink and my color is far from sunset. it’s more swamp. disappointing but I have a feeling I’ll still manage to eat it…

    what else should we do with rhubarb jam, other than toast? love the blue cheese pairing idea…

    Sarah, I recently got some farmers market rhubarb and it was disappointingly green as well. I admit though, I cheated when I used it and added some less local rhubarb to brighten it up. I imagine that rhubarb jam would be heaven in a thumbprint cookie or jam-filled pastry. Just sayin’! -Marisa

  14. My grandfather had a patch of rhubarb in the corner of his garden, and we would eat it raw every year as soon as it popped up. The garden has since been plowed over and turned to grass (so sad). I was planning ahead for canning some rhubard soon, and found your recipe – looks delicious and I will definitely be trying it out.

  15. I KNEW I could turn to you for an exciting rhubarb recipe. I can’t wait to try this one! I’ve been trying to grow rhubarb in various places around our yard ever since we moving into our house, and I’ve managed to kill 9 rhubarb starts in 5 years. Finally, a neighbor gave us a plant last summer because she hates the stuff; she had unsuccessfully tried to kill it by mowing over it, digging it up and chucking it behind her garage the previous year. Apparently, a rhubarb plant of such surpassing hardiness is the only kind of rhubarb plant that I can grow. (Now, I only hope I’m not jinxing it by saying that . . . .)

  16. I can’t wait to try this. I don’t know how far of a drive you want, but I am in Bucks County and drive up every spring to Rush Rhubarb farm and buy myself a huge bag of rhubarb. Its $2/lb and its in season now. If you want their number let me know, I can find it for you.

  17. Hubby and I made this today… AMAZING! Literally quite possibly the best jam I’ve ever had. Did come out kind of syrupy… our first time using pectin and probably could have cooked it another 2 or 3 minutes. But who cares! SO GOOD! The tea is genius!

  18. LURVE rhubarb. I planted a plant here and it grows like something prehistoric! I don’t know WHAT I planted, but I do prowl around neighborhoods in my car, looking for rhubarb plants that I can steal from late at night………………

  19. I’m just so in awe! I just ordered 40 vanilla beans and this shall be added to my list of all things vanilla, which includes also your creamsicle jelly recipe. I haven’t used rhubarb too much, but have made the obligatory strawberry-rhubarb pie, and look forward to trying more things. 🙂

  20. Is all liquid pectin the same? Does the brand matter? Also, could I add vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean (although, I’ll admit that the vanilla bean addition sounds dreamy!). This might be my first year where my rhubarb is productive enough to make jam! I can only hope! (if not, farmers’ market here I come!)

    • I prefer the Ball brand liquid pectin, as opposed to the Certo kind. I’ve just found that it sets better. You can use vanilla extract, though it doesn’t lend the same depth of flavor and you won’t have those gorgeous vanilla bean flecks throughout your jam.

  21. i grew up with rhubarb growing around our icendiary, it must have loved the ash, burning trash provided. as a child my grandmother would fix rhubard shortcake and rhubard pie….i still love making these recipes instead of using strawberries. yummmm!

  22. My rhubarb is poking up right now. This will be the first year of canning for me, and I believe this will be my first recipe. Can’t wait!

  23. Just made this after seeing it on your FB page and it is officially my go-to rhubarb jam! YUM! Finally, a rhubarb jam that is actually a bit tart and screams “I am rhubarb, hear me roar!” instead of whimpering something about being some rhubarb drunk on sugar. ;o) Love.

  24. I love your blog! I am so glad I saw your article in Country Woman. I bet you get a lot of responses. I am looking for an old recipe that my mom used to make. She is gone and I didn’t get her recipe. She made the best custard rhubarb pie. I’ve never seen a recipe for this anywhere. Anyone out there have this delicious recipe?

    Cathy
    Yakima, Washington

  25. There is an episode of Friends when Joey eats a huge amount of jam because he accidentally spit in the pot. I made this jam this morning. I really wanted to spit in the pot! Outstanding recipe.

  26. Just planted my own little patch of rhubarb this January (so I won’t be harvesting my own this year), but it’s already started showing up at my grocery store so I know I’ll be making this in the next few weeks. Thanks for the great recipe…my whole family is looking forward to eating this in the future.

  27. I made this jam yesterday and gave my neighbors a jar. They just sent a text that it is delicious on vanilla gelato. YUM!

  28. Holy cow!!! The BEST Rhubarb jam recipie hands down!! Just got done making a batch and I can’t stop eating the stuff. Can’t wait to use this in my thumbprint cookies for the family reunion next week. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  29. Decided on a whim to make rhubarb jam this morning. I put in 2 packages of liquid pectin and sadly, I have more of a sauce than a jam…I refuse to open it all up and redo so we will enjoy rhubarb sauce on our ice cream and pancakes!

  30. It’s interesting that you associate the smell of rhubarb with apples. I hadn’t really noticed that, but last year I was made some crab apple butter, and as it was cooking away, I thought it smelt of rhubarb!

  31. YUM!!! I just found your site and wow – this is perfect for me as a small backyard perserver!! I live in a regular subdivision, but we’ve converted our backyard into a sustainable garden full of fruits and vegetables – but only enough at any one time to make small batches. Thanks for the great inspiration and keep those recipes coming!!

  32. I live in Kodiak Alaska where we have a lot of rhubarb. I am always looking for a new recipe for this plant and yours seems easy and fun. I love the idea of using Earl Grey Tea which is one of my favorites.

  33. Just came across your recipe and love the idea of Earl Grey Tea – it’s my favorite! :=) I was just wondering if I could us frozen rhubarb? I have lots in my freezer but it’s fall so no fresh stalks.

  34. I am curious. As rhubarb is tart, and most jam recipes usually has the sugar equal to the fruit, wouldn’t this be a bit puckery to eat? I love the idea of adding vanilla to it, but perhaps a bit more sugar is required? Or maybe this mellows as it cooks down.

  35. Hi there,
    Here in NZ spring has only just started and my rhubarb is looking appealing already, just a bit longer to get some more volume. YUM.
    I’m sort of a newbee to jam/marmalade making but enjoying it, specially ’cause I can create flavors that are interesting and not in stores by far. What I’m wondering is, why this recipe calls for pectine to be added whereas your rhubarb&rosemary one (LOVE rosemary, never thought of using like this. Can’t wait!) does not and apparently will still set anyway?

    Looking forward to your reply and thanks for all the nice ideas here. Cheers

    • It’s because of the difference in batch size. Larger batches often need pectin, whereas smaller batches are able to evaporate out their moisture levels more efficiently and so set up better without additional pectin. Additionally, I wrote those recipes in different points in my canning career and things evolve.

  36. Just made this last night, first time canning/preserving! I’m a huge rhubarb fan and this turned out lovely. Really nice blend of flavors. Pretty proud of myself right now, I used a mix of weck and ball jars, all but one jar sealed!

    • You don’t get nearly the same depth of flavor from vanilla extract. Because it is alcohol based, most the flavor will just burn right off.

  37. […] on her Quick Indonesian pickles).  Another great resource is the blog Food in Jars.  Today I made Vanilla Rhubarb Jam from the Food in Jars blog.  The recipe called for Earl Grey tea, but I substituted Rishi Vanilla […]

  38. I love your website! New to canning and I’ve used three of your recipes this year with success. This may be a silly question, but do you add earl grey tea leaves, or 1 cup of prepared earl grey tea (like the drink). Thanks!

  39. I tried this last night! … … I will try it again in a few weeks.

    In my defense, a lot of recipes start with just fruit and sugar.

    So when the first step in the recipe for vanilla-rhubarb jam was, “Bring rhubarb, sugar, and 1 cup of earl grey tea to a boil,” it made total sense in my head.

    So I cut up the rhubarb – measured the sugar – cut open a bunch of teabags, since I didn’t have loose Earl Grey, and measured out one cup. I wondered how the tea would dissolve and not stay kind of … ground-y … once the jam was cooked, but I trust Marisa’s recipes. Marissa is the bomb! (You see where this is going, right? I *did not* see where this was going.)

    I mixed everything up in the pot and stood there frowning at the mixture, then went back and checked the recipe twice, trying to figure out if I’d missed an instruction to add some sort of liquid. Fruit and sugar cooks down into liquid really fast, but rhubarb is not a fruit. It doesn’t hold as much water and it’s not going to break down fast enough. I mean — come on. I’m not dumb. In what universe am I not about to carbonize dry sugar on the bottom of the pan? Where is the liquid in this recipe, Marisa? I trust you but something is wrong. WHERE IS THE LIQU–

    Oh.

    One cup of Earl Grey tea.

    Not tea leaves.

    Tea.

    I didn’t have the energy to rinse the sugar and tea out of the rhubarb and salvage it. Once I stopped flailing and laughing, I dumped the entire mess and decided this was a pretty good indication that I was done canning for the week.

    My kitchen smells, overwhelmingly, of bergamot.

    • Oh god, Christine! So funny! And I’m so sorry for the wasted ingredients. I’m going to go add the word “brewed” to that recipe, so that no one else has to take this particular journey.

  40. I made this using a pouch of Ball pectin, and it was SUPER runny. I had to label the jars “Vanilla Bean Rhubarb COMPOTE” because it really wouldn’t pass as jam. Any idea why? I used a madagascar vanilla red rooibos tea instead of earl gray (keeping things decaf), but followed all the quantities and cooking times exactly! Not sure why it didn’t set up properly.

    • The issue is that cooking times are just suggestions. Your rhubarb may have contained more water than mine did and so could have needed a minute or two longer on the stove. That’s why I suggested that you use look at how the jam is sheeting to ensure that it’s ready to set up before you pull it off the stove.

  41. Tried this recipe last year and followed it exactly. The flavor was wonderful, but it did it not set. It comes out extremely runny, which made a fantastic topping for ice cream and a mix-in for plain yogurt. I am going to try it again today now that I have a candy thermometer and see if I can get it to the gelling point to see if it makes a difference.

  42. I used oranges rind and juice from 1 orange instead of lemon juice, vanilla instead of vanilla bean and organic blueberry jam tea instead of earl grey. Didn’t quite use as much sugar as I don’t like mine quite as sweet. Was very tasty!!

  43. Two jam covered thumbs up! This recipe inspired me to start canning, and was the very first thing I’ve ever canned. I LOVE it, it is so yummy! I made it with the intent of giving it as gifts, but I’m unsure if it will last that long, I’ve eaten a great deal of it myself already. This recipe will be made during rhubarb season every year, without fail, from now forward. This recipe was so good, I immediately went online to buy your two cookbooks. Thank you!

  44. Hello! I have your book and am excited to can this in the next few days. I was wondering about pectin. Can Pomona’s Universal pectin be used instead of liquid pectin? I generally don’t make recipes that call for pectin, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it. Also, this can be processed in smaller jars, right?

    • This recipe has too much sugar to work with Pomona’s Pectin. It is not interchangeable with liquid pectin. This can be processed in smaller jars.

  45. Can I substitute Pamona’s (powdered) pectin for Ball’s, and if so, how much?
    I only use Pamona’s because I like the option of using a flexible amount /less sugar while still getting a firm jam.
    Thanks!

  46. Trying this tonight. However, I no longer use a hot water bath after jarring my jams and jellies (and pickles for that matter)…instead, I keep the lids and rings ‘hot’ in water until ready to put them on the hot jars, and then turn each jar upsidedown for 10 minutes on paper towel. Turn them back right side up and within minutes I hear the ping and pop as the lids ‘seal’ and the center dip forms in the lids. The ‘canned’ ones are stored in the pantry; any that didn’t seal (there is always that one!) go in the refrigerator to be consumed first. This saves me the water bath step and with jam, every step saved is time out of the kitchen…

  47. Is there a way to sub pomon’a s Pectin instead of the liquid ball pectin. I frequently run across this type of problem when looking up different recipes. I like the recipe, but I have a ton of pomona’s pectin and don’t really want to buy a bunch of different kinds, especially since pomona’s is awesome!!!

  48. I love this recipe and have made it a few times now but I am wondering if it would be safe to use honey instead of sugar for this recipe? Thanks

    • Yes. Sweeteners don’t play a role in safety. You will need to use a pectin designed for alternative sweeteners, though. Pomona’s Pectin is a good choice. I wrote a whole book about using natural sweeteners in canning, if that’s a topic you’re interested in. It’s called Naturally Sweet Food in Jars.

    • You can use smaller jars, but they still need to be processed for 10 minutes. That’s the minimum time needed for sterilization.

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