April 20, 2010
While my head knows that we are within a few weeks, a month at most, of the beginning of strawberry season and therefore, real, homemade, bright red, strawberry jam, my heart hit a wall this weekend and couldn't stand the wait any longer.
I would have been fine except that we ran out of milk mid week and so I went to the grocery for a change (my obsession with Retail Relay may run deep, but even I can't justify a delivery just for milk) and there they were. Strawberries. They still weren't cheap, but at least they weren't cry-when-you-buy-them, hide-them-from-your-children-because-they-can't-possibly-appreciate-them expensive. So I bought a 3 pound box and - ok, still hid them from the kids, but only until I had enough chopped for jam, then I let them have the rest.
Since I was making a small batch I decided to get a little crazy and try to go the pectin free route. If you've never made strawberry jam, the berries don't have the natural pectin to make the jam set up (as opposed to apples which are full of it) so you have to add it. Over the years I've come to find that the sugar free (which still requires sugar, but not as much) is my favorite, giving a more true "strawberry" flavor, at least in my opinion. Will thinks I'm crackers and prefers the high sugar variety. This time around I pulled out my old natural canning book and used grapefruit juice instead of pectin, (It was supposed to be lemons but I was out and figured, what the heck, if nothing else we'd have strawberry syrup for pancakes). The nice thing about going the pectin free route is that you can use whatever amount of fruit you have. With boxed pectins you are supposed to follow the proportions exactly and, although I have many times, you aren't supposed to double or triple the recipe in most cases.
The resulting jam was a little runnier than I'm used to and maybe a tad sweeter than I like (Will and the kids say it's perfect though) but, with a little adjustment, I think I'm sold on the juice over pectin method and I can't wait to get going with a huge batch to get us through the year. Especially because, umm, it's already gone. Oops. (but it was so good by the spoonful! We couldn't help ourselves!)
Hurry up May!!
2 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups sugar
Proportions can be doubled, tripled or halved.
Core and chop the strawberries, crushing them gently until you have an even consistency. Add the sugar and the juice from the grapefruit and the squeezed out fruit and allow it to mellow for a few hours (or overnight). Pour into a heavy bottomed pan, remove the leftover grapefruit and bring to a roaring boil for 2 minutes, stirring all the while. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off the foam as it forms. Allow the jam to cool for about five minutes before pouring it into sterilized jars and processing. (Or just stick them in the fridge for up to two weeks)