May 2009 Archives

Strawberry Jam

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This year I decided to be strategic about strawberries, so I could make some jam. We don't get enough berries in one day to make jam, and they don't last, so every few days I would go out, harvest the berries, clean and hull them, and weigh them, then put the results in the freezer. After a few weeks we had 2 1/2 lbs of berries, and I was ready to make jam.

I used a recipe from Christine Ferber's phenomenal Mes Confitures (translates to: My Preserves) as a guide. The recipe is for a Gariguette Strawberry preserve, but it adapts well enough to any flavourful strawberry, which our garden strawberries are.

You begin by putting about a kilo (2.2 lbs or so) of cleaned, hulled berries (I put the last day's fresh berries, and the little bricks of frozen berries I had accumulated in together, no thawing) in a non-metallic bowl with the juice of a small lemon and about 850 grams (4 cups to you and me) of sugar. You cover that bowl with a piece of parchment paper (I laid a heavy kitchen towel over the top to keep the paper down), and put it in the fridge overnight to macerate.

24 hours later, I had this:

macerated strawberries

Yum. I put that in our large saucepan and brought it to a simmer, stirring. Basically, you want to dissolve all the sugar and get a little heat into the strawberries, but not turn them into puree.

Simmering strawberries

Once simmered, you return it to the bowl and put it back in the fridge overnight with the parchment on top.

Boiling the juice

The next day, you carefully pour the mixture into a sieve and collect the juice. Set the strawberries aside because they are coming back. You boil the juice until it gets to 105C (which is 221F or so; a metric/imperial candy thermometer is a very valuable kitchen tool). When the juice gets there you add back the berries:

Berries in the juice

And bring it to a boil. You want to boil the jam for about five minutes: long enough to turn the berries translucent and candy-like, but not so long that they start falling apart.

Boiling the jam

When the five minutes are up, you're supposed to skim the jam. I skipped that step because as I tried it, I kept snagging the berries. Finally I decided I would accept less perfect jam in return for not skimming off half the fruit.

And here we are. I got seven one-cup jars of jam, one a little shy of the 1/4" headspace you are supposed to have. The drippings left behind are wonderful: tart and sweet and full of strawberry flavour.

Finished jam

I've made some other preserves from Mes Confitures, and I must say that this book is a great argument for buying a kitchen scale that measures in grams and a candy thermometer that measures in celsius. While the American translation includes imperial measurements, they are just enough imprecise that you're skirting on the edges of danger in the precise world of fruit preservation.

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