Easy Rhubarb Jam

Easy rhubarb jam is exactly that. Easy. Made from just rhubarb, sugar, lemon, water, and a little stirring, it makes simple, pretty, and perfect preserves that taste just like old-fashioned rhubarb jam. No prior canning experience required.

A table with four canning jars filled with easy rhubarb jam

This easy rhubarb jam perplexes us in the best possible way. It tastes far lovelier than you’d expect given that it’s derived from a funky-looking plant with gangly stalks and floppy leaves. It’s also ridiculously easy to make—more so than we’d ever imagined. All you need are a mere four ingredients and an occasional stir to whip up this easy old-fashioned rhubarb jam.–David Leite

Rhubarb Jam FAQs

Do you need to peel rhubarb?

Rhubarb season runs from April to July, and at its peak, you don’t need to peel rhubarb for jam, strawberry-rhubarb crumbles, pies, or crisps. The stalks are tender-ish and crunchy. Later in the season, in July, the stalks tend to get fibrous and tough. Peeling the stalks will make for a tastier more pleasant mouthful.

Is rhubarb high in pectin? Can I make rhubarb jam without pectin?

Rhubarb, which is a vegetable (yes, vegetable!), is low in pectin. But all isn’t lost. While there’s no added pectin in this recipe, aside from what comes from the lemon, it’s created to give you a soft, luscious preserve without the hassle of pectin.

How many cups of rhubarb in a pound?

In case you want to whip up a small batch of rhubarb jam, or size things up, there are 4 cups of cut rhubarb to a pound

What can I make with rhubarb jam?

Rhubarb preserves can be spooned into mini jam tarts (below), spread between layers of Victoria sponge, swirled into pound cake, dolloped onto pavlovas, added to petit fours. A tray of mini jam tarts--orange, strawberry, blueberry--one being picked up by a child's hand : Mardi Michels

Easy Rhubarb Jam

A table with four canning jars filled with easy rhubarb jam
Easy rhubarb jam is exactly that. Easy. Made from just rhubarb, sugar, lemon, water, and a little stirring, it makes simple, pretty, and perfect preserves that taste just like old-fashioned thubarb jam. No prior canning experience required. Here's how to make it at home.
Amy Pennington

Prep 45 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 2 hrs
Breakfast
American
80 servings | 5 pints
44 kcal
4.64 / 41 votes
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Equipment

  • Canning jars and lids

Ingredients 

  • 4 pounds rhubarb, preferably red trimmed, rinsed, and cut into small chunks (about 16 cups)
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 lemon halved and juiced, seeds reserved

Directions
 

Prepare the jars

  • Sterilize the jars and lids for canning by boiling them in a large pot of water. Place a small plate in the freezer.

Make the jam

  • In a large bowl, place the rhubarb, sugar, water, lemon juice, spent lemon halves, and lemon seeds (which provide the necessary pectin for thickening), and let rest on the counter for 1 hour. (If you want to make your life easier later on, tuck the lemon seeds in a tea ball or tie them in cheesecloth to make for simple retrieval.)
  • After 1 hour, dump the rhubarb mixture into a pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to cook, stirring the jam constantly, for about 15 minutes. Skim any foam from the surface of the jam as it arises.
  • After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to medium to keep the jam at a constant simmer, stirring frequently, to make sure the jam isn't scorched at the bottom of the pot.
  • After a total of 30 minutes simmering, check to see if your jam has set by taking the plate from the freezer and dolloping a small spoonful of the jam on the plate. The jam is set when it holds its shape on the cool plate rather than turning into a blob. If it seems a little runny, continue cooking over medium-low heat until set.
  • Remove the lemon halves and seed bag and toss them in the compost or trash.

Store the jam

  • If using the rhubarb jam within a week or two, ladle the jam into the sterilized jars, filling them to the bottom-most ring at the top of the jar. Gently tap the bottom of each jar on the counter to release any air bubbles. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and secure the lids and rings. Place in the refrigerator and use to your heart's content.
    If canning the rhubarb jam and using it over the next year, ladle the jam into the sterilized jars, filling them to the bottom-most ring at the top of the jar. Gently tap the bottom of each jar on the counter to release any air bubbles. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and secure the lids and rings. Continue with the following steps.
  • If not using the rhubarb jam within a week, process the jars of rhubarb jam in a water bath for 5 minutes if using pint jars, 10 minutes if using quart jars. [For more information on canning, see our handy Guide to Canning below.] Use tongs to remove the jars from the pot and let them cool on the counter.
  • When the jam is room temperature, remove the metal rings, check for proper seals, and label with the date and contents. Store in a cool, dark pantry for up to 1 year.
Print RecipeBuy the Urban Pantry cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 2tablespoonsCalories: 44kcal (2%)Carbohydrates: 11g (4%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 1g (2%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Sodium: 1mgPotassium: 67mg (2%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 10g (11%)Vitamin A: 23IUVitamin C: 3mg (4%)Calcium: 20mg (2%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Our Guide to Canning Rhubarb Jam and Other Preserves

1. Prepare the canning jars

Be sure to set up your jars and workspace before making the jam. Wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water and set them to dry completely on a rack or on a clean dish towel. Sterilize jars by placing them in a canning pot, filling it with water, and bringing it to a simmer. Hold jars in water or in a 225° F (107°C) oven until ready to use. (This latter oven trick is not recommended by the USDA, but I’m still alive to give you the option.)

2. Fill the jars

All canned goods need headspace to allow for expansion of the food and to create a vacuum in cooling jars. As a general rule, leave 1/4 inch of headspace on all jams and jellies. When placing lids and rings on canning jars, do not overtighten the rings. Secure just until rings have tension and feel snug. Overtightening will not allow for air to vent from the jars—a crucial step in canning.

3. Process the jars

Fill a canning pot or a deep stockpot half full of water and bring to a low boil. Hold the liquid at a very low boil until ready to use. If using a canning pot, place prepared jars of food on the rack in the canner. If using a deep stockpot, best only for small-batch preserving, line the bottom of the pot with a dish towel and place jars on top. This helps them from clanging around on the bottom of the pot or tumbling over onto their sides. This form of canning is not universally recommended or endorsed by the USDA, although I have seen plenty of farmers and European country folk use this old-school technique, and I’ve adapted their laissez-faire ways.

Do not stack the jars, as you need to allow for the circulation of water for proper sealing. Lower jars into the pot and add enough hot water to cover the jar tops by an inch or more.

Cover the pot and return to a boil. Processing times begin once the canning pot water is brought back to the boil. This can take as long as 15 minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on your pot and a timer nearby.

4. Remove the jars

Using a jar lifter or a set of kitchen tongs, remove jars from the canner when the processing time has elapsed. Set them aside on a folded towel to cool. Make sure you do not press on the tops and create an artificial seal.

5. Know when the canning jars are properly sealed

You’ll hear the sound of can tops popping shortly—a sign that a secure seal has been made. Once the jars are cool, check the seal by removing the outer ring and lifting the jar by holding only the lid. If it stays intact, you have successfully canned your food. If the seal is loose or broken, you may reprocess it in the water bath within 24 hours. Be sure to replace the lid and check the jar rim for cracks or nicks and replace it if necessary. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the jar immediately and use it within 2 or 3 weeks.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This was delicious jam. It was tart and sweet with good consistency. It came together quickly and easily, and the longest part of the process was waiting for the rhubarb to macerate with the sugar.

I worried that a rhubarb jam without pectin wouldn’t set up well, but it was fine. The recipe also scales down very well, as I made only a quarter of it without any problems. I also didn’t can it, but instead made a “refrigerator” jam that I ate within a week. It was delicious on biscuits—and made one of the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I’ve ever had.

There is such beautiful color, tart flavor, and a hint of lemon in this recipe for rhubarb jam.

I cut the recipe in half for a smaller portion of jam–kind of a small batch rhubarb jam–and was quite happy with the results. The jam set up easily on the frozen plate.

The easy rhubarb jam worked very well, even though I made only a quarter of the amount. My only variation from the recipe was that after mixing all of the ingredients, I didn’t have a chance to cook it immediately, so the mixture was left on the stove overnight.

Personally, I found this to be very sweet. Later I used 1 pound of rhubarb with 3/4 cup sugar. This was a better ratio, but I’d still like to adjust the sugar so that the sour and sweet tastes are in just the correct balance.

I must confess, I didn’t go through all of the canning steps for this recipe. I’m storing it in the fridge because I don’t expect it to last long. I love the addition of the lemon. I even snacked on the “candied” lemon peels after I fished them out of the jar. Tastes just like an old-fashioned rhubarb jam.

Originally published May 2, 2012

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Comments

  1. Hi, the only issue I have is getting the jam to set. I followed the ingredients to the letter, but found it very difficult to get it to set. Any help welcome.

    1. Hi Marion. We’re sorry that you found it difficult to set. Jam can be a tricky thing and it seems like no two batches are ever the same. It’s possible that the lemon you used had less pectin than average, particularly if it had few seeds, or was thin-skinned. Try using a lemon with a nice thick skin, and plenty of seeds, if possible. Also, you can cook the jam for longer, checking for set every 5 minutes.

  2. 5 stars
    This rhubarb jam recipe works great as a spread with Brie. The sugar in the jam helps cut the tartness of the rhubarb. If you find it too sweet, you can cut some of the sugar out of the recipe.

      1. Thanks for the detailed recipe. This jam is delicious, but it looks like I failed once again to get a jam to set. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I always end up with sauce, never a proper jam. Do I have to boil it down like maple syrup? Should I be using a candy thermometer? Ugh.

        1. Hi Andrea, if you are having a hard time discerning when you jam is set using the cold plate method, you might use a thermometer as well. Jam should set around 220F.

          1. Thanks, once I get over my frustration at yet another bad batch, I will give it one more try before giving up on jam-making. Why don’t recipes EVER mention that you can use a thermometer, I wonder? I would never try making maple syrup, cheese, or caramels without a thermometer, but that seems to be the tradition for jam.

          2. I understand your frustrations, Andrea. I admit to several jam failures, it happens.

  3. I have bags of frozen rhubarb in my freezer that are washed and cut from earlier this year. If I cut back on the water a bit, do you think it would work as well as fresh rhubarb?

    1. Lori, I think that would work really well. I wish I could tell you exactly how much to cut back on the water but I haven’t tested it that way so I don’t want to offer inaccurate instructions. Perhaps if you thaw the rhubarb, drain it, pat it dry, and then cut the water by about 1/4…? Kindly let us know how it goes!

      1. I finally got around to trying this recipe with frozen rhubarb. I just used 2 cups of rhubarb, and cut the recipe by 8 (I didn’t want to waste my rhubarb in case it didn’t work out 😊) The colour isn’t as nice – more dark brown – but it smells and tastes delicious! The best part, for me anyways, is that it cooked down so quickly. It was broken down and gelled in 10 minutes! Going to try it out tonight over some vanilla ice cream!

  4. 5 stars
    This easy rhubarb jam recipe was very simple and straightforward. If you can cut fruit, boil water, and juice a lemon, there’s not much more you need to know. The recipe was just right on the sweetness level—there wasn’t a lot of sugar, so the rhubarb kept its tart, fresh, distinctive flavor.

    We enjoyed eating it on toast, as well as on vanilla bean ice cream. It’s really very easy, and a lovely recipe overall.

  5. 5 stars
    With an abundance of rhubarb gifted to me from my Father-in-law’s garden, I had some left to make a half batch of this delicious rhubarb jam.

    I followed the recipe to a tee and it was quite foolproof. The flavours were well balanced, not too sweet, not too tart, with a fragrant lift from the lemons.

    I was able to can two 8-oz jars and three 4-oz jars with the half recipe, with some extra.

    Some of the rhubarb jam went into filling Linzer cookies for Canada Day. It was a perfect marriage! And some jam were gifted to very delighted neighbours.

    Thank you for this recipe!

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