Retro Recipes - A Sweet & Sour Fairytale...

Once upon a time a thirtysomething young lady and her dashing Mountie left their home by the sea to travel many many miles across a strange and beautiful land.  They passed bears and mountain goats, crossed rivers and ravines, navigated through forests and finally, after winding their way through the mountains they arrived at their new home in the magical land of British Columbia.

The dashing Mountie found a charming chalet where they, their loyal Woodle, and their extremely peeved  loving and gentle cats could rest.  After a warm dinner and a good rest, the couple stepped out of the chalet and into into the thick fog brilliant sunlight of their new home. 

It was time to search for their castle.

They searched duplexes and condos, houses and apartments and were beginning to lose hope that they would never find a home for themselves and their pack of beasties.  And then, they saw it...not a castle or even a manor, but instead a charming little cottage, appearing through the mist.  Flowering shrubs gently hugged the front walkway, guiding the weary travelers inside to bright whitewashed walls and plenty of big windows to bring in the light.  A picture window in the living room parlour with a majestic mountain view was just about enough to convince them.  Stepping out into a back yard lovingly surrounded by rose bushes and mountain ash, the young lady saw it and knew she was home...

A rhubarb patch!!!!!!

Weary Woodle
Oh come on, if you don't write your own fairy tales, no one else will!!!  And it's all pretty much true, we did travel across Canada, through the Canadian Shield and the Rockies.  We did see bears and mountain goats.  We even stayed at The Chalet Motel upon our arrival!  And for our first year, we lived in a perfectly sweet little bungalow surrounded by decorative shrubs that did indeed have a rhubarb patch.  I was assured that the rhubarb was all mine to enjoy, and enjoy it I did.  That rhubarb made us friends, and was the star ingredient in many of my spring and summer recipes last year.  In fact, pretty much the only thing I didn't make with it was jam, and for the life of me I don't know why I didn't.  And so, all winter long, I looked forward to Spring when my rhubarb would reappear.

It reappeared quite early, actually.  The winter in Kitimat this year was mild, and we accidentally put a patio table over the patch, which we removed when the snow started to melt.  I personally think this acted like a greenhouse of sorts because my rhubarb was popping up through the dirt even earlier than expected.  Every time I took the dogs out I would have a look at its progress.  It grew steadily, and by late March I was counting my mason jars and looking up recipes.

And then we moved.

It's hard to admit this, but two things swayed me to stay in that little house.  One was the view of the mountains from my living room.  During the last year, when I would feel the occasional twinges of homesickness and the voice in my head would ask "tell me again why we're here?" I would look up at those mountains and remember that I did in fact love Northern BC.  The second thing was that rhubarb patch.  Silly, I know, but it was like a little patch of home in my backyard.  I watched for those sprouts the way most people watch for tulips and crocuses.

I got over the issue of the view rather quickly as my new patio has a fabulous view not only of the same mountain I could see from my old house, but of many of the other mountains as well.  And the smart girl in me who knew the new house was better for us reasoned that a rhubarb patch was not a reason to stay put.  And so we moved.  I didn't forget it though and one evening as I was looking through recipes, I remarked to my husband again how sorry I was that I wouldn't be able to make rhubarb jam.  He then pointed out something I had completely forgotten.  We held the lease on our old house until April 30.  The rhubarb was mine for a month.

Rhubarb Watch was on!  Whenever I visited the house I would peek at it, growing away in the backyard.  It was doing well and I was hopeful that it would flourish in time for me to pick some. Please, just one jar of jam, I silently begged of the tough leaves and sprouts growing away in the patch. Toward the end of the month my husband had to go home suddenly and in the rush to get him ready I forgot about preserving for awhile.  Then, the other day as I was going through papers making sure all loose ends were tied up at our old house, I remembered I had one piece of unfinished business there.  The lease on my rhubarb was about to run out!

It was a cold, miserable, rainy day, not a harvesting day at all.  But I had to check.  After all, whoever lived there next may not appreciate it, and the patch might not last if not cared for.  This could be the last jam made from the rhubarb that was no doubt planted by the home's original owners!  And so off I went, armed with plastic bags and a sturdy kitchen knife.  I held my breath as I made my way into the backyard.  We hadn't harvested any last year until late May...I knew I was being optimistic but the winter had been so mild and the Spring quite sunny so far...

It was ready!!!!  Giant green leaves were growing luxuriantly in the mist and rain, and the stalks beneath were pink and gorgeous!!!!  I harvested quickly and efficiently, trying to thin out the patch so that the younger stalks would have a chance to grow (I still foster a hope that the next tenant will love rhubarb, too).  Truth be told, after I finished you could barely tell I'd taken any.  I lugged my bounty out to the truck and whispered a final thank you and good bye to the little house that had been our home during our first year in this new land. 

And so began my weekend project.  For my birthday I had received a couple cases of vintage mason jars (a gift I loved because it was useful, thoughtful, and green).  This was great because a lot of my mason jars are holding craft supplies.  I loved going through them because, unlike brand new bottles, these were all different.  Some had fruit designs on them, others were plain, and there was one jelly jar in a diamond design that I hadn't seen in quite some time.  Anyone who cans will tell you that there is nothing better than being given mason jars!  If you're wondering why, take a cruise by the canning section of your local grocery or department store and see what it costs to buy them new.  One case may not seem like much but it adds up if you do a lot of canning.  And if you are lucky enough to have a friend who gives you homemade preserves, here is a bit of canning etiquette that will ensure the gifts keep coming; return the jars.

I took some time going through the jars and choosing the prettiest (since strawberry rhubarb is such a lovely colour) for this batch of jam.   I had prepared my rhubarb so I would know how much I had to work with and after much deliberation I had decided on two recipes.  The first was Bernardin's Rhubarb Strawberry Pie Filling, and the second was the recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Jam found inside the package of Certo pectin.  I couldn't find the same recipe for the jam online; this one from Certo and Kraft Canada is is similar, but it uses butter.  However, if you preserve you almost definitely have that Certo chart stuck in a cookbook, and if not your mother or grandmother certainly does!

With home canning, preparation and planning is everything.  It's not exactly difficult, but it is time-sensitive and requires you to do a number of things all at once.  As well, sterilization is imperative to prevent food spoilage. All that being said, preserving is fun and satisfying and I wholeheartedly encourage you try it.  (If boiling kettles of goo scares you, start out with freezer jam; nothing could be easier.)  I recommend that you read your recipe through several times, clean everything you're going to use and have it laid out before you begin, and prep and pre-measure your ingredients.  When you are boiling that much fruit and sugar, even a few seconds can be the difference between whether or not it burns.  My suggestion is to pick up a book on home canning basics (Bernardin's is good) and read through the methods before you get started.  If, like myself, you've been helping out with preserving since you were a child, this will all be second nature, but it can be overwhelming to a beginner.

I started out with the pie filling.  I was pleased with the results, although I didn't have a photo to reference as I was making it.  My filling looks different than the filling in the picture shown in the link, but it tastes delicious and looks beautiful.  My batch only yielded 4 500 ml jars, with a little bit left over.  However, mine is quite rendered down, so if it were chunkier it may have filled 5.  I am going to try it in a pie, however I can also see me using it as a dessert topping and in turn-overs.  I loved how this recipe tasted as well, with only 2 cups of sugar it had a  great "sweet and sour" flavour.  If you like your strawberry rhubarb pie a little tart, this is the recipe for you.

Next came the jam.  This was an "old-school" jam recipe with just fruit, pectin, and a whopping 6 1/2 cups of sugar.  But it is delicious and it set up beautifully.  In the picture you can see the difference in colour between the two recipes.  This recipe yielded 7 250 ml jelly jars after skimming, so I was quite pleased. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling (l) and Jam (r)
One of my favorite parts of making jam is listening for the lids to "pop" as they seal.  I was giggling away each time I heard one pop...and then I remembered the window was open and the neighbors probably thought I was losing my mind.  All eleven jars popped and as my husband's aunt pointed out, this is satisfying because it is a sign of a "job well done." Sealed jars can be stored away until you are ready to use them.  That's one of the real joys of home canning, you can preserve summer's produce for use in the winter without taking up any room in your freezer or refrigerator.

I find preserving to be addictive; currently I'm searching for other recipes I can make now, since it will be a little while before there's anything else local to put up!  Bernardin has a recipe for Strawberry Banana Jam that I've made in the past so if berries are still on special next week that may be my next project!

Thanks for reading; this was a longer post but it's one I've been looking forward to writing for a while!  Have a wonderful week and stay tuned for more strawberry rhubarb creations!


  1. Oh Kim, I loved this one!!! Your pictures are beautiful, and I would love to try the pie filling recipe. I canned a TON of stuff during our first couple of BC summers and would love to back into it. Maybe Marbs and I will tackle some when I get home. Happy canning!!
    P.S. Okanogan peaches are delish in January!

  2. Kim- What a great blog !! I actually got teary when you said that the rhubarb patch reminded you of home.We get attatched to the funniest things ... I feel exactly the same about my patch! Warm rhubarb custard pie is a sure sign of spring in our house. Another wonderful recipe that you might like to try is Lavender- Strawberry Jam. It's sooo good on fresh biscuits!

  3. Lavender-Strawberry sounds wonderful...I will have to get the recipe from you!


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