|Cathy Barrow, aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow|
(Photo © Christopher Hirsheimer)
The timing could not be better, both for those unfamiliar with canning techniques and experienced jammers who want to step up their game. Cathy Barrow, whose debut cookbook, Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry, recently earned the 2015 International Association of Cooking Professionals award for best single-subject book, will unlock the secrets of strawberries on May 11 at Southern Season.
"Every new canner starts with strawberry jam and it's really the hardest one to make," says Barrow, who writes about preserving for The Washington Post and in her Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen blog. "I've got a few tricks up my sleeve to make sure those first-time jammers are successful."
Those tricks benefit experience canners as well. Using her directions, I've produced the most glossy, flavorful strawberry jams and sauces ever. I'm a particular fan of her Double Strawberry Preserves, which uses both fresh and tart dried cherries, and the lightly floral Strawberry Mango Jam.
I had the privilege of being among a group of testers, her Practical Pantry Posse, who made those recipes before the book was published. Trust me, there's just no going back after you've made these flavor-packed treasures.
The book lists for $35 but often is available for less online. While there's nothing a diehard canner likes better than a jam-splattered cookbook, note that the Kindle edition currently is on sale for just $2.99.
The following is one of her strawberry-based recipes that will not be on the menu at Southern Season. While I'm told that local rhubarb can be found at some farmers markets, you are more likely to find it imported from a cooler climate at a well-stocked grocery store. Local strawberries, however, are abundant and should be your first choice.
Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
Reprinted with permission of Cathy Barrow from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving (W.W. Norton & Co.).
- 4 pints (48 ounces or 1380 grams) strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and quartered
- 3 pounds (1350 grams) rhubarb, rinsed and cut into ½-inch dice
- 5 cups (35 ounces or 1 kg) granulated sugar
- Juice of 3 lemons
- Star anise (optional)
- Put the berries to a large glass or ceramic bowl and, using a potato masher or wooden spoon, gently crush them. Add the rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice, and star anise (if using) and stir well and completely until the sugar has dissolved. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture macerate for 4 hours, or if refrigerated, for as long as 2 days.
- Scrape the mixture to a preserving pot and clip on a candy thermometer. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Then bring to a vigorous boil and stir constantly until th sauce thickens to the consistency of ketchup, about 25 minutes.
- Turn of heat and discard the star anise. Ladle the sauce into warm (sterilized) jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Clean the rims of the jars well with a damp paper tower. Place the lids and rings on the jars and finger-tighten the rings.
- Process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.
Note: You can skip the water-bath process and tucked the cooled sauce straight into the refrigerator, but processing keeps it shelf-stable for a year. You'll be glad to have some stashed for the holidays, or on a frigid day when you can laugh at the weather with a bowl of warm oatmeal topped with Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce.