Thursday, August 14, 2008
A late-night strawberry jam session
It worked! I went pectin-free this time, using a bit of grated apple instead. The resulting jam is much softer than our peach jam, but I like the texture. And it tastes wonderful - the Tristar strawberries from Fantasy Fruit Farm are so sweet and flavorful.
The one drawback to my jam experiment beyond being up past midnight on a work night? It was pricey. Figuring in the cost of six pints of strawberries, three lemons, an apple, and the jars, I spent more per half-pint jar than the $5.50 Phillips Farms charges for their delicious jams.
But I did get to use agave nectar instead of sugar or white grape juice concentrate, and go without the pectin. And my photo assistant and I were careful to adjust the sweetener just perfectly to our liking. If I had my own garden, or if I lived near a much-less-expensive "pick your own" farm, this jam would have been a lot more economical. As it is, I have four beautiful jars of strawberry jam I can crack open to combat winter doldrums.
Next on the list? Blackberry. Or nectarine. I'm going to try pickling jalapenos, too - and maybe some cucumbers to keep things traditional.
6 pints strawberries (makes 4 cups mashed berries)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup grated peeled apple
1. Sterilize five 1/2-pint jars by boiling them in a hot water bath for five minutes. Turn off heat and leave jars in water until ready to pack.
2. Wash and stem strawberries (I washed mine three times - little ones can get quite dirty).
3. Transfer stemmed strawberries to a wide-bottomed bowl and mash them. You can use a potato masher, but I used my fingers.
4. Stir mashed berries, lemon juice, agave nectar, and grated apple together in a heavy-bottomed three-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.
5. Bring to a full, rolling boil and boil at least 10 minutes, or up to 15 minutes. Adjust sweetener to taste after 5 minutes and again after 10 minutes. To test for jelling, put a white plate in the freezer when you start cooking the jam; when ready to test, put a teaspoon of jam liquid on the plate, and return to freezer for one minute. You should be able to make a line in the jam with your finger that doesn't fill back in at all, but this never happened to me - the line filled in most of the way even after 14 minutes boiling. My jam turned out awesome, though, so just boil it as long as you see fit, but no more than 15 minutes. Remember, the worst possible outcome at this point is runny jam, which will be delicious on ice cream or yogurt, so don't overcook your berries to try to make them jell.
6. Remove a jar from the water, ladle hot fruit mixture into jar leaving 1/4" headspace, wipe threaded rim of jar clean, and attach lid and band. Repeat until all jars are full. You will probably have enough to fill four jars, with some left over. Fill another jar partially with the excess, refrigerate, and use within a few weeks.
7. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Leave undisturbed overnight or until completely cool (about 12 hours), check seals (they should be concave and should not pop in and out), and store. Any unsealed jars should go into the fridge and be used within a few weeks.