Sunday, May 8, 2011

We be Jamming

Nothing says spring has arrived better than fresh strawberries! Yesterday Andy and I, and our friend Allie ventured north to pick strawberries at Bottom View Farm. It was super fun plucking my own berries and seeing my basket fill up. The last time I picked berries I think I was about the same size as the blueberry bush and ate more berries than I collected. This time around all the berries made it to the basket. With our fresh berries Andy wanted to make 2 batches of strawberry jam. Our poor judge of quantities and fuzzy memory of the amount needed led us to pick and purchase roughly 2 gallons of strawberries. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, and we weren’t daunted by our gigantic leaking bag of berries.

When I was looking up strawberry canning options the “old fashioned” strawberry jam caught my eye (this is Antique Modernism after all). Old fashioned just means that the jam is made without pectin and utilizes the fruit’s natural pectin. This sounded appealing to me so we attempted this as our first batch. After about an hour we realized that “old fashioned” actually meant boil the crap out of it until you can’t stand it any more, then fill jars and process as usual. From the way things look in the jar it has set nicely and our patience lasted just long enough. The book claimed that this jam caramelizes more and has a different taste than pectin-made jams. It certainly turned out a beautiful deep burgundy color.

Just keep boiling, and boiling, and boiling...

It ends up turning this scrumptious color!

Next up, Strawberry Sauce. I was doubtful about the utility of this one since we don’t put a lot of flavored sauces on things. However, Andy said it sounded delicious and we brainstormed other uses for strawberry sauce. It could be made into to frosting, muffins, tarts, perhaps even a layer in a cake. So strawberry sauce could be versatile. The recipe called for using corn syrup and our corn syrup has high fructose corn syrup, which isn’t something I want to use in my cooking, so I swapped it for honey. I wasn’t sure how it was done, but it turns our you can swap honey for corn syrup one for one. In addition to honey there was apple juice, orange juice and zest. This one was very fragrant with the honey and orange scents. I’m excited to try some leftovers over some pie later this evening.

Strawberry sauce is a brighter red.

Last we made strawberry jam with pectin. Andy concluded that powdered pectin was a worthwhile invention as this jam took only about 20 minutes to make. I’m glad we made both kinds, so that we could learn what it spoon tests were all about and learn to fully appreciate powdered pectin. This was the batch where we finally remembered to let the jars sit in the canner for 5 minutes after processing. So, hopefully the lack of sitting doesn’t affect the jam and sauce too much. I’m feeling confident though that it’ll turn out okay.

Right to left: Jam with pectin, jam without pectin (old fashioned), and sauce.

If you didn’t think that 3 batches of jam/sauce was enough to use up 2 gallons of strawberries you’d be wrong! We had enough berries left over to fill a cookie sheet for freezing. These little guys will be used for smoothies and... well, probably nothing else since smoothies are awesome.

I’m jazzed about the success of our first canning adventure of the season. We came out with 20 jars of jam/sauce and only 1 serious jam burn. On our list for other canning adventures include tomatoes, tomato sauce, pickles, peaches, blackberries, and applesauce. This is a good start; however, 3 batches in one day is a lot of canning activity and we were both dog tired after the kitchen got cleaned up.

Our new dog Cotton! He's tired from jamming too much.

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