Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam Class presented by a RARE BIRD!

On Sunday afternoon, Jill and I spent a delightful afternoon making preserves at Elawa Farm with Chef Elizabeth Madden, the founder and owner of Rare Bird Preserves. I asked Elizabeth how she came up with the name "Rare Bird Preserves".   She said her grandmother called her that name and it just stuck!  Elizabeth made the class was interactive, fast paced and extremely informative.  She is a pioneer in developing new flavor combinations in the Jam and Jelly world, so it was fun to hear her viewpoint.  She practices making her preserves in small batches in a traditional copper jelly pot.  She does not use commercial pectins.  Instead she uses natural pectin from fruits such as lemons or green apples.  For our class, she placed 3 quartered and peeled  ( the pith was still on the lemon) lemons in a muslin bag to create the pectin for the jam.
Start with the ripest berries you can find!  The best are from the local Farmer's markets. The redder, the better!  Hull them with a pastry tip with sharp points on the edge. Then quarter the berries.

Wash and chop the fresh rhubarb.

Elizabeth uses less sugar than many jam makers.  First we mixed the chopped fruit with the sugar in the mixing bowl.  8 parts sugar to 10 parts fruit for this recipe.

Next, all the fruit and sugar was placed in the copper jam pot along with the pectin bag.

Elizabeth securely ties the pectin bag, so that the lemon's seeds don't fall out into the preserves.

Continuously stirring, so the mixture does not burn.  The larger pan allows the moisture to evaporate faster, causing the mixture to thicken.

 The test to see if the jam is ready-  a "curtain" of gooey goodness forms on the wooden spoon's edge.

 Second test to see if the jam is ready for the jars-  dollop a spoon full on a frozen sheet pan.  If the dollop  "wrinkles" when pushed by your index finger, it is ready!

Take the jars from the 225 degree oven and get ready to fill them.
They have been in the oven for at least 10 minutes to sterilize them. (not the lids!)
Elizabeth adds lemon zest and a bit of sea salt to the cooked fruit.

Each is filled  up into the neck of the jar.
Each is stirred with a skewer to remove any air bubbles before the lid is placed on the jam.

Once the lid is sealed, the center "button" will pop inward.
With the leftover rhubarb, we made a simple syrup with rosemary and rhubarb. Perfect to add to sparkling water for a refreshing summer drink.  ( I'll bet this would be great in a  margarita too!)

This morning I opened this delicious concoction to taste it!  With a perfect consistency, it was like eating fresh strawberries from the field.  I think it would be a great glaze for grilled chicken too!

Look at the beautiful color -


I always have Rare Bird Preserves in my pantry. They are wonderful accompaniments to charcuterie and cheese trays and desserts.  My two newest favorites are Peach Lavender and Cranberry Clementine.  I tried the Cranberry Clementine mixed with a little mayonnaise and put it on a smoked turkey sandwich.  Deelish!   People tend to think of preserves as a breakfast item.  However, a generous spoonful  of Peach Lavender Preserves on a grilled fresh peach with a dollop of whipped cream- a delightful summer dessert. Garnish with a sprig of fresh lavender for a truly gourmet presentation! 
You can purchase her preserves in specialty food stores, in the cheese section at Whole Foods or directly from her website.
If you are in the Chicago area, Elizabeth  will be teaching future classes at Elawa Farm. More info on their website at  This class exceeded my expections and was so much fun.  I can't wait for the Farmers Markets to start- I'm ready to make jam!!


Alison @ The Polohouse said...

LOOKS amazing!
Your vignette is so lovely, Susan.
Hope to see you soon.

Christy said...

Looks delish!

Laurell Banner said...

Looks yummy. Love her jars. I wish I could have joined you.