I love making jam. If there was a song about making jam, then that song would be my jam ?! Jam jam jam jam. Sorry, that was weird.
I made this rhubarb jam with vanilla a few weeks ago now. I gave some of it away and I have some stashed in our pantry. I feel like such a Suzy Homemaker when I make jam and I love making jam to give away as presents too. For ages I thought making jam and stuffing around with sterilising jars was all too hard, but then I read about an easy way to sterilise jars somewhere online and ever since then, I’m all about making jam.
I’ve got some instructions on sterilising jars for you below, as well as some tips on checking the jam setting point and filling the jam jars. And of course, there is also a recipe for rhubarb jam with vanilla for you too :)
The cheat to sterilising jars is using sterilising tablets that are normally used for sterilising baby bottles. You can find them in the baby aisle at the supermarket and sometimes they are also labelled as antibacterial tablets. You can also buy the solution already made up, but I’ve always just gone for the tablets.
You add the tablets to water (ratios differ depending on the brand, so just check the packet directions) then submerge your jars, lids and any other equipment you will be using. Again check the pack to see how long the jars will need to stay in the solution. The pack I used only needs 15 minutes.
Once the jars and lids have soaked for their allocated time, let them drip dry upside down on a rack that has also been sterilised (The sink is a good shape to sterilise a cake rack in) The tablets are safe to use on baby bottles so they are definitely safe to use on jam jars :)
How to Sterilise Jars and Equipment for Jam Making
You Will Need
- Glass jars with lids – preferably with pop cap lids, lids with inner rubber seals, or lids that have both of those
- Baby bottle steriliser tablets, sometimes also labelled as antibacterial tablets (found in the baby aisle at the supermarket)
- Big bowls or pots
- Metal cake rack
- Metal tongs
- Large metal ladle or a canning spoon
- Wash the jars, lids, bowls, cake rack, ladle and tongs in warm soapy water, then rinse them.
- Fill the large bowls or pots with cold water and add the steriliser tablets in the ratios directed on the pack. For example, 1 tablet to 2L of water. Make sure you have enough water to submerge all of the jars, lids, cake rack and the end of the tongs and ladle. I used a big bowl and a large pot for the jars, lids and utensils and the sink for the cake rack.
- Place all of the jars, lids, utensils and cake rack into the sterilising solution. Ensure the jars and lids are completely submerged with no air bubbles present in the jars.
- Let all of the equipment sit in the sterilising solution for as long as recommended on the pack.
- Once done, remove the tongs first and without touching anything with your hands, use the tongs to sit the cake rack on the bench then again use the tongs to place the jars and lids onto the rack to dry upside down. It’s ok to touch the outside base of the jars if need be, but do not touch the insides, the rims or the lids at all with your fingers.
- Once everything is dry, you can use the sterilised ladle to fill the jars with jam.
Top Jam Tips
Before you start making the jam, place a small plate into the freezer. When you are ready to test if your jam is at setting point, dot a small amount of jam onto the cold plate, then run your finger through it. Once it is at setting point, the jam will have a light skin and wrinkle and pucker slightly as you move your finger through it. This is how I tell that my jam is at setting point.
When filling the jars with jam, ensure that no drips get onto the rim of the jars. Any jam on the rim could stop the lids from sealing properly.
Fill the jars when the jam is still hot. Leave a few millimetres of space at the top of the jar, then put the lid on but don’t screw it too tightly. Invert the jars once the lids are on and let them completely cool upside down.
After a few hours, the lids should have depressed inwards so that the pop caps no longer move when pressed. If you have any jars that the pop cap can still be pressed down on, try pressing down on it and then inverting the jar again. Sometimes this is all that’s needed to make the lid seal. If you still end up with some lids that don’t depress, use these jars first and keep them in the fridge, as they won’t be shelf stable.
Rhubarb is quite tart so it really does benefit from some sweetness and therefore lends itself perfectly to jam. You will just need to roughly chop the rhubarb into even sized chunks.
The first stage of cooking is to break down the fruit. Use your spoon to bash it gently and stir often to help it break down quicker.
After about 20 minutes, the fruit will be soft and broken up and then you can add the sugar. Half of the sugar in my recipe is jam setting sugar, which contains added pectin. The jam will come to setting point much quicker thanks to the pectin. Yes, this is a lot of sugar. Most jam is equal quantities of sugar to fruit, that’s what makes it set and turn into that gorgeous jammy consistency.
When you first add the sugar, stir constantly until it’s completely dissolved. Then you can increase the heat and let the jam boil steadily for about 8 minutes or until it is at setting point.
Fill those lovely sterilised jars and turn them upside down. Make sure they are undisturbed for at least a few hours before you check the lids to see if they have sealed.
The black vanilla specks in this jam look lovely and of course the warm vanilla hum throughout it is super tasty.
Jam that has been packaged into sterilised jars that have sealed properly upon cooling, will last in a dark, cool pantry for at least 6 months and probably even up to a year or so.
Rhubarb Jam with Vanilla
Ingredients – Makes approximately 7 cups of jam
- 1kg of rhubarb, chopped into roughly 1cm pieces
- 2 tbs of vanilla bean paste
- 500g of raw sugar
- 500g of jam setting sugar
- Place the rhubarb into a large heavy based saucepan with 1 cup of water. Place it over medium low heat and stirring often, simmer it gently until the fruit is soft and broken down. This should take about 20 minutes.
- Lower the heat to low and add the vanilla and sugars. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium and let the jam boil steadily for about 8 minutes or until it is at setting point.
- Pour into sterilized jars, place the lid on and cool upside down. If using jars with pop cap lids, the lids should depress. If any don’t, these jars aren’t properly sealed and are not pantry stable, so they will need to be kept in the fridge.
- Jam in properly sealed jars will keep in the pantry for months but refrigerate the jar once opened.