Monday, June 08, 2009

Strawberry Ginger Jam

For me, June = Jam. Early summer brings beautiful berries and the weather is usually mild enough that I don't mind spending a few hours standing over a hot stove, stirring and testing. It is a small price to pay to have jams and other canned goods to stock away and give as gifts (and eat!) throughout the rest of the year.

My favorite is always strawberry. I know, this is like admitting your favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate. But it is true. I absolutely adore a good, sweet and tart strawberry jam. For the past several years I have loved making my jam from small, deep red Oregon strawberries. I would buy them from the Sweet Oregon Berry Produce stand on the side of Highway 99 in wine country. It isn't a fancy, dolled up market, it is a real working farm's fruit stand. The prices were great and the fruit was beautiful.

I wasn't sure about the California strawberry. Last week at the Castro Farmer's Market the strawberries were huge -- the Arnold Swarchenegger of strawberries. But then I got some advice, "go to the market and follow your nose."

So on Saturday morning, this is what I did. I headed down Market to the Ferry Plaza and searched around a bit, finally finding smaller, deeper, sweeter, red organic strawberries.

My jam is close to perfect. I love staring at the little jars all lined up in a row on the kitchen counter, waiting...

Make jam this June. It's easy! Here's how:

Small Batch Strawberry Jam
3 cups fresh strawberries (about 1 and 1/2 pint baskets, or four cups whole berries)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Optional -- 1 to 2 tablespoons diced candied ginger

Wash fruit and slice in quarters. Put in bowl and cover with sugar. Macerate for at least a couple of hours -- up to a day. I learned in a jam making class that the sugar essentially begins the "cooking" process. The fruit starts to preserve and buys you some time if you need it.

In a medium sized pot bring fruit/ sugar mix, lemon juice, and ginger to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, and skimming foam as needed. Cook about 10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and looks syrupy.

Continue to cook and test for doneness by dipping a spoon into the jam. If the jam coats the back of the spoon and doesn't drip you are getting close. Use your senses here. You are making jam, so once it starts to look "jammy" you are getting close!

Wash jars with hot water, dry with clean cloth and place in 200 degree oven until ready to use -- you want them hot and sterile. Wash and carefully dry rims and set aside on clean cloth. Wash lids in hot water and place in a small pot of simmering water on the stove (don't boil!) Again, you want them hot and sterile. I usually do most of this in the early stages of jam making so when the jam is ready, I am too.

When jam is done, remove jars from oven (careful, hot!) and ladle jam into jars. Moving quickly, place one dry lid on top of jar and finish with a rim, sealing tightly. Then invert jar for 5 minutes before turning upright. After a few hours, check lids for seals. The lid should not flex up and down when the center is pressed. If the jar has not sealed, reprocess or put in fridge for immediate consumption.

You can also process your jam using the water bath method!

I doubled this recipe and got 4 jars of jam plus some extra that is hanging out in the fridge, just waiting for me. It is really really good.

On the docket for this jam making season: apricot, strawberry-ginger, and maybe blueberry or raspberry. If you have a jam that makes your heart sing, let me know and maybe, just maybe, you'll find it in your stocking come December!

PS This recipe is based on one from PRESERVE by Marjorie Braker

1 comment:

once bitten, twice crushed said...

I just got back to Oregon from LA for the summmer!! Sweet Oregon Berry is loaded with those lovely Oregon strawberries you write about. I will follow your instructions and make jam for the first time ever, and maybe you'll find a jar of it in your stocking come December (if I succeed). Wish me luck!

PS: I'll go to the Farmer's Market in Mac on Thursday, and I know it won't be the same if I don't bump in to you...