The family of one of my best childhood friends owned a strawberry farm in our town so I grew up eating freshly picked berries still warm from the Carolina sun. Strawberries taste like June and sunshine to me, and they are the first edibles to wake up in my backyard garden. The few jars of ruby sunshine that I put up each year are insurance for the future, a little hope for the dreary winter.
I started with 6 pounds of local fruit + a handful from the backyard berry patch, a few stalks of rhubarb, two kinds of honey, and a handful of herbs from the backyard.
This isn't an exact recipe, because I'm not an expert. But I've been jamming long enough to know what I feel comfortable with, how I like to preserve, and what we will actually eat. (after the summer of 30+ nearly uneaten jars of pickles, I'm a little picky about what gets canned)
Nearly cutting out all the cane sugar in my diet, organic or not, meant that I was going to need to get a little creative with the preserves this year. Add in my distaste for commercial pectin, and things can look a little unconventional.
On Sunday night, I broke the berries down into three batches of hulled fruit + a scoop of unrefined organic cane sugar. Bless my collection of large glass measuring bowls. After work on Wednesday afternoon, I made jam.
Small batches work best when you're avoiding lots of sugar and/or commercial pectin, so I worked with 4 cups of strawberries at a time for the jam. The first batch was pure strawberry and sweetness.
For the second batch, I strained off the macerated berry syrup into my big blue pot and added a small handful of fresh, clean basil & mint stems+leaves from the garden. Leaving them on stem makes it easier to fish the herbs out of the hot jam. I let this simmer until it smelled nice and fragrant, removed the herbs, and added the berries.
For both batches of jam, I added 10 ounces of raw wildflower honey + a 1/2 cup of unrefined organic cane sugar for sweetness/preservation and a grated green apple + 2 tbsp bottled lemon juice for pectin. This is fairly low-sugar, but open jars of jam don't tend to sit around our fridge for very long, so I'm not worried about them going bad once open.
I let the fruit + syrup cook until it reached 200 degrees and then pureed to my preferred jam consistency with an immersion blender. It took 10 more minutes on the stove to hit the jam set point of 220 degrees, and then I canned each batch separately in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
After prepping the two small batches of jam, I had two cups of strawberries leftover, so I added an equal amount of fresh rhubarb, 4 cups of filtered water, and 3 cups of unrefined cane sugar. I let the whole mixture simmer while the jam cooked and then strained it through my recently thrifted vintage chinois. The syrup got canned along with the last batch of jam and will be oh so fabulous in sparkling water or on ice cream later this year.
I haven't come up with much of a game plan yet for my summer preserving. I'm hoping 8 more quarts of strawberries will come home with me from the market tomorrow, destined for the freezer.
Any favorite recipes or must haves for your pantry?