Monday, June 11, 2012

Preserving: Strawberry Jam

In the previous post, I mentioned getting two quarts of strawberries from the farm this weekend. One quart would have meant gorging ourselves on delicious berries, but two quarts meant it was finally jam time! (Don't worry - there were still some to spare for gorging.)

Strawberry season is short and precious. I spend months looking forward to it, hoarding recipes that I will make when I am flooded with delicious berries. Yet, once those berries arrive, I find myself loathe to do anything but eat them straight up. I want to preserve the flavor, but I don't want to deprive myself of any berry-eating in the process. So while I've purchased and picked a number of pints and quarts so far, it took until this weekend, with its two days in a row of berry-picking, for me to be willing to sacrifice some berries for my future enjoyment.

I've only made jam once before and was surprised at how easy the process was. Of course, since the jam I made was chili-tomato, the process wasn't much fun. I seem to recall wearing sunglasses as I stirred the mixture, to keep the noxious pepper fumes from singeing my eyeballs. It was hard to breathe in that kitchen. And poor Jeff, who chopped all those peppers, had tingly fingers for days. Strawberry jam is not at all like that. Hulling berries is simple, mashing them up is fun, and the jam gels up lickety-split. I just wish I got more out of the batch (somehow, the recipes I make from this book yield half as much as they should - this time I got two and a half cups, rather than four. I have no idea why).

Now that I have delicious jam, I need to bake a batch of fresh bread to enjoy it on!

Quick Strawberry Jam
From Put 'Em Up!, my go-to canning book.

1 c sugar
1 tsp Pomona's Universal Pectin
4 c strawberries, washed and hulled
1 tsp calcium water (comes with the pectin)
1/4 c bottled lemon juice (the acidity of fresh lemons can vary widely, so bottled juice is safer)

Whisk together sugar and pectin in a small bowl and set aside. Measure out the lemon juice and calcium water and keep them ready.

In a nonreactive saucepan, mash the berries with a potato masher (the fun part!) until they reach a fairly even consistency.

Slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Stir in the calcium water and lemon juice, then slowly add the sugar and pectin, stirring to dissolve. Bring back to a boil, still stirring. When the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat.

Let rest five minutes, stirring occasionally to release any air bubbles. Skim off the foam. (I neglected this step - all the stirring dissipated my foam so much that I couldn't corral it with a spoon. I'm not sure what difference it makes.)

Ladle into clean half-pint (or 4 oz jam) jars. Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes, then rest 5 minutes more before removing.

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