They turn your head. Maybe it’s the flash of lurid red in the corner of your eye as you walk by the booth at the farmer’s market. More likely it’s the intense, candy-like perfume that fills your sinuses. Maybe you weren’t conscious of the triggers, but you suddenly find yourself salivating. Strawberries have a siren song.
So irresistible are they that, I confess, I have found myself mystified upon return home on how, exactly, I managed to purchase two groaningly heavy flats of the beauties. Mmm hmm, like you haven’t.
The problem is that the glorious music that is a perfectly ripe strawberry is fleeting. From the minute you pick them, the berries begin to wither and decay. If you want to capture it, you’d better work fast.
A basic jam is one of the easiest ways to go.
Sugar and lemon are supporting cast, providing preservative powers without interfering with the diva’s flavorful aria. But even the best melody benefits from an artful harmony. Sometimes just one added element — the piquancy of pepper, the bitter kiss of Campari — is all that’s needed to take strawberry jam from workaday to wonderful.
Start simple, then gild the lily as the inspiration strikes. And don’t be surprised if you catch yourself humming over the pot.
Makes roughly four half-pint jars
1000 g. (about 7 cups) washed, hulled and cubed strawberries
1000 g. (about 5 cups) granulated white sugar
1 lemon, sliced
1 packet dry pectin
1 Tbsp butter (optional, to reduce foaming)
- Reserve 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl; add the pectin and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Combine the strawberries and remaining sugar in a large, nonreactive pot; enamel or stainless steel are best (do not use copper or aluminum pots with this method). Let stand for at least 20 minutes, up to two hours.
- Stir the contents of the pot well, and put over medium-high heat. Add the lemons. Stir frequently, taking care not to burn the sugar. Bring to a boil, add the pectin-sugar mixture, and maintain a rolling boil. Skim away any foam that forms; if there is too much foam, add the butter.
- Once a boil has been reached, take the temperature with a quick-read thermometer. Continue boiling and stirring until the mixture consistently reads 220ºF on a candy thermometer for one full minute. Turn off the heat. Remove the lemon slices. If canning, process immediately using standard water bath method. Otherwise, allow to cool, then pack in jars and refrigerate, or freezer-safe containers or bags if freezing.
Just before processing, try giving yours a twist by adding one (or more!) of the following:
- 1 Tbsp real balsamic
- A few fresh cracks of black pepper
- 2 Tbsp Campari
- A handful of mint or basil, finely chopped
- Seeds from a vanilla bean
- The zest of a lime or lemon
Sean Timberlake is a professional writer, amateur foodie, avid traveler and all-around bon vivant. He is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts, and has penned the blog Hedonia since 2006. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, DPaul Brown, and their hyperactive terrier, Reese.
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