An easy small batch freezer jam with vibrant color, and a hint of vanilla and citrus. There’s no commercial pectin and no canning for this recipe. Simple. Easy. Slather it on all the things! This recipe is vegetarian, vegan and gluten free.
Easy Homemade Jam
Spring and summer’s freshest fruits and veggies call on us to preserve the bounty! It’s that time of year.
Making homemade jam without commercial pectin means you can whip up a batch from ingredients you probably already have on hand.
Too, many fruits, and rhubarb, a vegetable, already contain pectin in varying amounts. The trick to homemade jam without commercial pectin is to capitalize on the pectin already there, add a little high pectin fruit if needed to the mix and cooking the jam to a proper temperature.
To make jam, all you need is fruit (in our case a vegetable), sugar and acid. Because rhubarb is low in pectin, I include a high pectin powerhouse that also happens to provide the acid needed in this recipe: citrus! Rhubarb and orange play so well together, but I just had to add another component to bring out the best in this rhubarb freezer jam.
Yup, you guess it – vanilla!
Jam made without commercial pectin is a little softer than jam made with it, but still creates a spreadable, luscious homemade jam.
Each ingredient plays an important role in the jam making process. Let’s break it down:
- Rhubarb: a low pectin vegetable, it contributes bulk, and flavor.
- Sugar: activates the pectin, and sweetens and thickens the jam when cooked to proper temperature. It also acts as a preservative.
- Citrus: in this case, orange, provides flavor and a boost of pectin the jam needs to help it set. It’s also the acid in this recipe, helping to draw out the natural pectin in the rhubarb.
- Vanilla Bean: helps tie the rhubarb and citrus flavors together. It’s optional, but recommended!
Why Freezer Jam?
Since discovering freezer jam, it’s become my preferred method of making jam. Here’s why:
- I can make small batches of jam when fruit is in season.
- It’s quick to make – no water bath/canning or sealing.
- The color of the jam stays truer longer.
- The fruit tastes fresher.
How to Make Rhubarb Freezer Jam
Use a large, heavy bottom sauce pot or a large Dutch oven, at least 4 quarts, larger if you have it. You’ll need a wooden spoon, three 1/2 pint mason jars and preferably, a food thermometer. Here’s how to make it:
- First, in a large heavy bottom pan, add the sliced rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, zest and 1/2 a vanilla bean pod with seeds scraped out. Stir.
- Second, bring the fruit to a simmer, then turn the heat up to medium-high to high where it will begin to boil. Skim off any foam.
- Third, stir frequently so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 220F (about 20 minutes), mashing the rhubarb with the spoon to help break it down as it cooks.
- Fourth, once the mixture reaches proper temperature, dip the pan in a shallow pool of water in the sink to stop the cooking. Stir in the vanilla beans.
- Next, allow the mixture to cool slightly and transfer the jam into storage jars.
- Last, cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator to allow jam to fully set overnight.
The jam can be enjoyed once chilled and set. Transfer the jam to the freezer or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Kitchen Tools for Freezer Jam (these are affiliate links):
- 4 Quart Dutch Oven – my favorite and most used DO.
- Food Thermometer
- Wooden Corner Spoon
- Half Pint Mason Jars
- Jar Funnel
A Few Recipe Notes
- Because this jam is made without the addition of commercial pectin, this recipe creates a softer yet spreadable jam.
- For the jam to set properly, I recommend cooking the jam to a temperature of 220F. However, in a pinch, this recipe can be made using a freezer test technique (see notes on the recipe card).
- Vanilla Bean is wonderful in this rhubarb freezer jam, however it can be left out if desired.
- Because freezer jam has a short refrigerator life, use small containers to store your jam in so it’ll be used up quickly. I like 1/2 pint jars.
Rhubarb Freezer Jam
- 1 lb 10 oz (750g) Rhubarb stalks
- 1 Tbs Orange Zest from about 1 large orange
- 1/3 C (70g) Orange Juice fresh squeezed, from about 1 large orange
- 1 3/4 C (400g) Cane Sugar
- 1/2 Vanilla Bean optional but recommended
- For this recipe I use three 1/2 pint mason jars with screw top lids. Wash and rise the jars and lids in hot soapy water, or wash in the dish washer. Set aside to dry.
- Find a large heavy bottom nonreactive sauce pan (like stainless steel) or use a Dutch oven to make the jam, at least 4 quarts (3.8L), larger if you have the capacity. You want a heavy bottom so the jam doesn't burn and the pot large enough so that the fruit is at least 2 1/2 - 3 inches (7.6 cm) below the rim of the pot.
- Wash the rhubarb stalks to rid it of may dirt or debris. Trim the ends and discard. Cut the rhubarb stalks to 1/2 - 1" (1.7 cm - 2.54 cm) pieces. If there are thick pieces, cut the rhubarb through the center lengthwise so that all the pieces are of about equal size. You should have about 5 1/2 C (685g) once the rhubarb is cut. Set aside.
- If using the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and set aside, reserving the pod.
To Make the Jam:
- To the heavy sauce pan or Dutch oven add the rhubarb, orange juice, zest, sugar and vanilla bean pod (empty of its seeds). Stir, coating the rhubarb - use your longest handle wooden spoon. On medium high heat, bring the mixture to a simmer. The sugar will start to melt and the rhubarb will begin breaking down. Once simmering, increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring as needed (often) to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot. Rotate the pan if needed to avoid burner hot spots. The mixture will boil vigorously at first, but as it cooks down, it will boil more slowly.
- You'll notice foam starting to form on the surface. Skim this off and discard (don't worry about getting all of it, just do the best you can). Continue cooking, stirring and adjusting the heat a bit as needed to avoid sputter and spattering, while keeping it bubbling. Use the spoon to mash the rhubarb to help break it down.
- Meanwhile, fill the sink with a very shallow pool of water. Cook until a temperature of between 220-222F (104-105C) is reached. This will take about 18-20 minutes (see note* if you don't have a thermometer). Remove from heat and dip the bottom of the pot in the shallow pool of water to stop the cooking process.
- Stir in the vanilla beans.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes and allow the mixture to cool slightly, stirring occassionally to help cool. You'll notice the jam start to thicken. Fish out the vanilla pod and discard or place it in one of the jars where it will continue to flavor the jam.
- Transfer jam to clean jars leaving about a 1/2" (1.3cm) head space so the jam has room to expand as it freezes. Lid and allow to cool to room temperature. Chill in the fridge overnight where it will thicken further and set, then transfer to the freezer.
How to Store the Jam:
- Jam can be enjoyed after chilling in the fridge for an hour or two. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or in the freezer for six + months. Do not store at room temperature as this jam is not shelf stable.