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Strawberry rhubarb preserves are made by combining strawberries, rhubarb, adjunct flavor ingredients, and sweetening or setting agents. Many different varieties of strawberry rhubarb preserves exist, and these recipes are usually classified by how the berries and rhubarb are processed and flavored. These preserves often rely on a canning process, but versions that use freezing for preservation are becoming increasingly popular.
Plain rhubarb has a very tart flavor. Even lovers of rhubarb typically add some other flavor, as well as some sort of sweetener, to reduce this tartness. Strawberry rhubarb preserves cut the tart flavor of rhubarb through the addition of sweet strawberries. Additional sugar or other sweeteners are typically added as well both to aid in the preserving process and to further modify the flavor of the finished preserves.
Preserves come in many varieties, and the exact names for different styles of preserves vary widely from region to region. As a general rule, strawberry rhubarb preserves are most often found in the form of jams and jellies. Jams contain bits and pieces of the original berries and rhubarb. Jellies typically do not, and use only juices for flavor. These names are not normally enforced by law, but jams and jellies are both typically sold in clear jars, so a quick visual inspection can determine what sort of strawberry rhubarb preserves are contained in a particular jar.
Both homemade and commercial varieties of strawberry rhubarb preserves are made by mixing the two main ingredients with water, sugars, other flavors, and pectin. Pectin, which is generally derived from citrus fruit, is used as a jelling agent to add body and density to preserves. The boiling process kills any pathogens that might be present and serves to break down the components and blend their flavors. The boiled mixture is then packaged and preserved.
Traditionally, strawberry rhubarb preserves are preserved by canning and boiling. This kills any pathogens in the mixture. A high sugar content in the preserves inhibits future spoiling. This method of making preserves remains popular.
A more recent trend in the making of preserves relies instead on freezing to protect the finished product. Strawberry rhubarb preserves made using this method are typically less-heavily sweetened, as the sugar is not used as a preservative. In typical freezer jam recipes, uncooked ripe fruit is crushed and mixed with a hot solution of sugar, water, and pectin. Rhubarb used in these applications should still be cooked down and then mixed with crushed berries. This type of preserves must be kept frozen until used and should be refrigerated while in use.
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