Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Jam Session with Local Strawberries
I had nearly finished my shopping at the farmers market and was making my way back when I slowed down at one stall that had strawberries out for tasting. I ate one, and it was so good that within seconds I was inexplicably taken by the idea that I should (or could?) make jam out of it, and before I had thought it through I was lugging a pack of 3 pint boxes of strawberries. There is a good reason these farmers offer those samples, you know.
One thing was sure though, these strawberries tasted amazing, and were easily the best I have had. For within hours, the lot had whittled down, and I was rethinking the plans for the jam. After all, it would be just a load of sugar, under the guise of preserving the season's bounty. Honestly, I was also getting worried about whether it was really worth the efforts. The more I read about canning and sterilizing bottles, the more doubtful I got about what I was getting into.
Flip-flop, flip-flop, but finally, I settled on this basic recipe that does not use any additional pectin, and decided to use clean sterilized jars and not bother with the whole processing in hot water bath, which was becoming the real detriment in my path. Anyway, I had only about a pound and half of strawberries left by now so this wasn't going to be a whole lot of jam - about one jar's worth which would last a few weeks at the most.
After I read some of the comments, I decided to reduce the sugar by half, because the strawberries had an intense and sweet taste on their own and I did not want to overpower that.
The process in pictures
Top L-R: Strawberries, Chopped and mixed with sugar
Bottom L-R: Mashed berries on the stove, Coming to a rolling boil - thermometer firmly in place
2 pounds fresh strawberries
2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
Place three plates in a freezer.
Hull the strawberries. That is, remove the stem and green ends. Chop them up.
In a wide bowl, mix the strawberries and sugar, and crush the berries gently. [I did this by hand.] Leave this for about half an hour, and the sugar will dissolve in the resulting juice.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.
Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Stir often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F (105 degrees C).
After about 10 minutes of boiling place a spoonful of the liquid of the jam onto one of the cold plates. Return to freezer for a minute. Run your finger through the jam on the plate. If it doesn't try to run back together (if you can make a line through it with your finger) it's ready to be canned. If not, repeat after a few minutes with another cold plate.
Let it cool a little, and then transfer to hot sterile jars. Refrigerate after it has completely cooled.
Now, the real test of a good jam also includes how long it stays good, and so far, a month later, this jam has passed it. It tastes just as fabulous as it did to begin with, and many a toasts have been elevated. In fact, the jam making was such a success that last week I bought another 3 pint basket, and made another batch of jam. Now I hope that it lasts just as well, for at least a couple of months, or thereabouts, to remind me of this glorious summer.