This late night experiment in Strawberry Jam making was thrilling, exhausting, and luckily successful! Thank god, because if I had wasted 6 pounds of gorgeous fresh picked berries, on some gloppy mess of jam, I don't think I would have gotten over it so easily.
As soon as Strawberry season hit I found the first available moment to grab my 3 year old daughter and head to the fields. In what must have been the hottest hour of the summer yet, we picked 15 pounds of gorgeous strawberries. Heading home with stained fingers and full bellies I placed the huge mound of berries on the counter where they sat, waiting to be cleaned. It wasn't until late that night that I managed to make space for some of the strawberries in the fridge, and two days later that I found time to trim them and start making some jam.
Usually making jam, (which I have done only a few times, and never with strawberries) would be a well thought out process with plenty of time and preparation. In my busy life, this was far from the case. I was making dinner for my family after a busy work day and noticed a few of my precious berries starting to rot. I dropped my parental responsibilities and started slicing berries into a pot, the pile of red juice stained strawberry leaves growing next to my forgotten plans for dinner. Needless to say my kids were hungry and fussy, and it was a long long night, but in the end, worth the effort! Thank goodness I had done some preparation; finding a no pectin strawberry jam recipe on line the night before, and purchasing some jam jars for canning from the grocery store.
The thing that makes jam or preserves thick is pectin. Some fruits like apples, lemons or raspberries contain it naturally, some fruits you need to add pectin either by mixing them with a pectin rich fruit or by purchasing pectin, (some is natural, some is manufactured and has preservatives, so read the labels). Some pectin can make jams cloudy, and if you use too much it can make your jam turn to jello. I didn't have any pectin, and I liked the idea of trying to make the jam without adding something out of a box. A google search resulted in a great recipe that used green strawberries as source of pectin, YES! The recipe also utilized a technique that I had developed for making strawberry ripple ice cream. To keep the fresh taste of the fruit, and not turn the gorgeous red berries into a light pink murky mush, you macerate the strawberries by tossing with sugar and mashing them, releasing their juices, then strain the juice from the pulp.
The strawberry juice is boiled with sugar (I cut the amount by more than half and it still worked!) until it reduces down and the sugar reaches a high temperature and thickens.
The fruit pulp is added in at the last minute and brought to a boil and then turned off, so it tastes fresh and maintains a deep red color, more reminiscent of raspberries than strawberries. A handful of green strawberries worked as the pectin, and since I wasn't certain of their thickening power, I added the pectin rich white pith and seeds cut from a lemon, wrapped in cheese cloth (a trick I learned from making meyer lemon jam in the winter). As the finishing touch I added fresh herbs: lemon verbena to two jars and thyme to one. Both herbs proved to be exceptionally delicious, and a spoonful of this jam on my morning slice of toast or on top of a bowl of yogurt is an incredibly wonderful tiny gift, and worth all of the effort and late night mess the project demanded!
Strawberry Jam - no pectin
with Lemon Verbena or Thyme
Original basic recipe from the Cincinnati Locavore Here
This is how I modified this recipe:
- Add the white pith and seeds from one lemon tied in cheese cloth for extra pectin.
- Reduced the amount of sugar by about half and strain the juice from the pulp before boiling.
- Add herbs like lemon verbena or thyme for a wonderful flavor. If you are going to eat the jam within a few weeks, you can add the fresh herbs directly into each jar of jam and let the heat infuse the fruit - refrigerate. If you want to can and store the jam in a cabinet rather than in the refrigerator, you will need to boil the herbs in the jam to ensure that all bacteria is killed and that the jam is shelf stable.
I picked my berries at Jones Family Farm (the green ones were from my tiny patch in the backyard)
To find a pick-your-own spot near you check out: pickyourown.orgor in CT search Buy CT Grown
My apologies that this didn't make it onto the blog while there were still strawberries around for picking, but maybe it will inspire some great raspberry jam later in the season, or some other wonderful late night cooking in your kitchen. Enjoy!