Sugar-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (gluten free, vegan, ACD option)

I saw the most frighteningly gorgeous strawberries at the farmers market last weekend. They were perfect - vibrantly red, plump, shiny, local, and organic. You could smell them from 5 feet away (no kidding).  These berries had the perfume of summer and sunshine and all things gorgeous and amazing.

Without batting an eye, I promptly bought two containers.  Seconds later, I had a mouthful of strawberry.

Oh. My. Goodness.  

The beauty that exploded from that berry made me close my eyes and take a tiny personal moment amidst the busy chaos of the market.  

Me, with mouthful of ripe summer strawberry. Heaven!

When I returned home with all those berries, which were ripening (and disappearing into my mouth) by the second, I knew I needed to use them fast. I grew up eating rhubarb strawberry jam all summer long, and it was always one of my favorite ways that my mom used rhubarb.  I've missed it rather terribly, so I decided to recreate a me-friendly version of my childhood favorite with some of those gorgeous berries.  I free-wheeled a recipe, and it turned out beautifully.  And conveniently, it is the perfect recipe to include as part of this month's Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge.  Ricki from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs and I are hosting our third SOS Kitchen Challenge, and rhubarb is the key ingredient.  I made a very tasty Rhubarb Strawberry Crumble Cake with Rosewater and Pine Nuts last week, so why not follow it up with some jam this week, right?

If only I had some sourdough toast to eat it on! Strawberry rhubarb jam on sourdough toast with salted butter is, quite possibly, one of the best things on earth.  I will need to try my gluten free sourdough experiments again, and save a container of this jam in the freezer for when I have a loaf.In the meantime, I just may eat this jam with a spoon right out of the jar.  

If you're feeling inspired by rhubarb, submit your rhubarb recipe to this month's SOS Kitchen Challenge by midnight CST on June 20, 2010!  Recipes need to be vegan or include vegan substitutions, must use whole foods ingredients, and should be sugar-free and use stevia or other natural sweeteners like maple syrup, agave, etc. instead. Check out the full rules here, then send your recipe to soskitchenchallenge@gmail.com.   I need to come up with savory rhubarb contribution. I have a few ideas, so we'll see what happens. Hooray for rhubarb!

Oh, one more thing - don't forget to enter my giveaway for a little jar of Ames Farm single source honey and a 100% beeswax candle, another treat from the farmers market!  The contest ends at 9 pm CST on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 so hurry up and check it out!  Some of that honey would be great in this jam, if you aren't vegan.  ; )

Sugar-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Yield approx 6 cups

Instead of packing it with loads of refined sugar, this jam relies mostly on the sweetness of strawberries, along with a bit of pomegranate juice, stevia, and local raw honey.  If you are vegan or intolerant to honey, you can easily substitute the honey with agave, yacon, maple, or brown rice syrup instead, or sweeten solely with stevia.    This would be easy to make strict ACD acceptable without the juice and sweetened only with stevia. If you eat honey, and have access to the honeys from Ames Farm, I highly recommend them. They are superior single source honeys with a wide variety of flavors and characteristics. I chose the spicy, rich flavor of their wonderful dandelion honey for this jam.  Instead of gelatin, I used agar agar, a wonderful sea vegetable that makes a perfect gelatin substitute.  

4 cups finely chopped strawberries

3 cups finely chopped rhubarb

2 cups water or juice (I used half water and half pomegranate juice)

6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

4 rounded Tbsp agar agar flakes or 4 tsp agar agar powder

20-30 drops liquid stevia, to taste

2 Tbsp lemon, orange, or lime juice or 1/2 tsp vitamin C crystals

optional: a couple pinches grated lemon, lime, or orange zest

1-2 Tbsp (or more) raw honey, maple syrup, yacon syrup, or brown rice syrup,  to taste (omit for ACD and use more stevia)

Sprinkle the agar agar over the water/juice in a medium saucepan, and let it sit for a couple of minutes. While it sits, finely chop the fruit.  Add cardamom pods and bring water/juice to a boil, then stir agar agar, then add chopped fruit and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until fruit is soft and mixture has thickened and cooked down slightly. Remove from heat and stir in sweeteners, vitamin C/lemon/lime, and zest (if using), and adjust sweetener to taste. Transfer into small jars and let chill in the refrigerator until firm.  Once cool, screw on lids.