Saturday, July 3, 2010
CRAFTERNOON: Taste of Summer Strawberry Jam
Strawberry season is here. I get downright giddy when I begin to see the signs donning a huge hand painted strawberry pop up along the roadsides here in rural Washington. To me, there's something so romantic about buying your food straight from the field - where you know it was picked fresh and fully ripe this morning by hard working hands and you have the opportunity to look into the eyes of the farmers as you haul off that flat of sweet succulent fruit that took so much heart to produce.
This year, I've decided to jar up some of that summer goodness to enjoy throughout the year. I made my own strawberry jam. And a learned a few things along the way. I made my first batch the traditional way, with pectin and sugar. It came out good, but really, REALLY sweet! For some who may not know, pectin is the ingredient that makes the jam gel up. But unfortunately, the ingredient that activates this effect is sugar... and a LOT of it! (7 CUPS for one batch to be exact!!!) That's almost 50% sugar for the recipe. If you start to cut the sugar, you end up with a runny product. I was in a quandary because I didn't want to mask the natural flavor of the strawberries with an overbearing flavor of sugar. I wanted my jam to be pure fruit.
In my searches, I ran into an alternative called Pomona Pectin. This pectin uses calcium water derived from citrus peel to activate the jelling process in lieu of sugar. It requires low amounts of sweetener to make the jam which frees you up to use a touch of whatever you choose to use, preserving the natural sweetness of the fruit. You can find it at specialty stores such as Whole Foods. I like the packaging. ;) For a great easy to follow page that teaches you how to make jam start to finish, click here.
To sweeten this second batch, I used a touch of local wildflower honey from Brush Prairie, the town next to mine, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. The result was a sweet and tangy jam. It tastes like a handful of strawberries straight from the fields, instead of "sugar with a hint of strawberries"....
There is nothing like good jam on a seedy whole grain bread....
The numerous blueberry farms around my town will be open for U-Pick after the 4th. Blueberry jammin' - here I come. I can hardly wait. My kids are going to love the pickin' process as well. I am already thinking homemade Christmas gifts.....
Battle Ground WA