We went strawberry picking last weekend. (Yes, it’s already that time of year in our neck of the woods!)
Apparently, this is risky business. . .
We did, in fact, proceed with caution. We cautiously tiptoed through ankle-deep rain water. We cautiously picked strawberries. We cautiously picked tomatoes. We cautiously ate said strawberries and tomatoes. We cautiously ate famous farm-made cinnamon buns. We cautiously ate a fresh strawberry milkshake. The kids cautiously climbed trees. I cautiously snapped photos. We cautiously toted home roughly 9 pints of strawberries, a dozen giant tomatoes, and a handful of baby tomatoes.
It was a cautious morning.
Having 9 pints of fresh strawberries at home may or may not seem daunting to an individual.
I didn’t consider myself daunted until we had eaten 4 pints of fresh strawberries just as they were – and I had already baked a pound cake to accompany them (because that’s what you do when you have too many strawberries, right?). Then I started wondering how I was going to make use of all these fresh little fruits before they turned bad on us.
Then I remembered a recipe I had seen in the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook for Easy Strawberry Jam.
So I made it.
And this is when truly dangerous things started to take place.
First, my toddler licked the tablespoon with leftover droplets of orange liqueur on it and exclaimed, “I like it!”. . . . OK. That’s way dangerous.
Then this jam turned out obnoxiously amazing and I started doing things like baking butter-dense vanilla bean scones and eating two of them slathered in strawberry jam for lunch.
And for a snack, I started spooning jam into things – like my mouth. By itself.
That’s saying something – because I have squishy cooked fruit issues and it didn’t even bother me!!
I have two especially lovely accolades for this particular recipe:
1. You don’t have to “can” it. It keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks. No problem. It won’t last that long anyway, but if you want, you can preserve it the old-fashioned way to give it a longer shelf life.
2. The recipe is rich and deep, and according to Ina Garten, and I whole-heartedly believe her, you can make the jam when strawberries are out of season as well, and it still holds that bright, fresh, complex flavor because of the addition of blueberries and orange liqueur. Ding, ding! Christmas gift idea!
I daydream about all the possibilities for this jam: the standard things like toast and English muffins with cream cheese and jam, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, jam mixed into yogurt or cottage cheese. Yes, all of these make sense.
But they are almost too tame.
This jam is a rock star, not a folk singer. It needs to be showcased. And it probably needs a theme song.
Mark my words. I WILL come up with a rock star feature recipe for this stuff.
Until then, I’m going to continue spooning my beloved jam into my face hole.
I suggest you bust a move and find a strawberry field – or at least the produce aisle – immediately.
Easy Strawberry Jam (makes three cups)
3 pints fresh strawberries
3 cups superfine sugar (If you can’t find superfine sugar you can use caster sugar or pour granulated sugar into a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until finely ground. This is what I did. What the heck is caster sugar anyway?)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur (I used Triple-sec because we already had it on hand)
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and small-diced
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Place the strawberries in a colander and rinse them under cold running water. Drain and hull the strawberries. Cut the larger berries in half or quarters and leave the small berries whole. Place the strawberries in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot such as Le Creuset (I used my every day heavy 5 quart Calphalon pot and everything went a-o-k.) and toss them with sugar and Grand Marnier.
Bring the berry mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add the apple and blueberries and continue to keep the mixture at a rolling boil, stirring occasionally, until the jam reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer. This should take 25-35 minutes. (I am convinced you don’t really need the candy thermometer if you don’t have one. Yes, use it if you do, but if you don’t, just boil it for the 25 to 35 minutes. You will see it begin to thicken. It will be slightly runnier than standard jam when it is hot, so keep that in mind when you are judging its thickness.So just watch the time, and judge the thickness. Then, when it cools – voila! Magic jam.) Skim and discard any foam that rises to the top. (If you are wondering why, it’s because it leaves weird little flaky looking things in the jam if you don’t skim it off. Not that I was too lazy to skim or anything. . . .) Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then store covered in the refrigerator. It will keep refrigerated for at least two weeks. To keep the jam longer, pack and seal in canning jars according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
On a side note, because I do have the squishy fruit issues, initially I ran a portion of the room temperature jam through the food processor to see how it would work out. It worked well, but I discovered that I didn’t even find it necessary, and I preferred the chunkier version.