I got drafted last June. Then spent a little time in the Grapefruit Leagues over the winter. (Although there was a lot more orange and meyer lemon than grapefruit for me). Now, the 2011 canning season is officially on, and I’m batting somewhere around .840 (clearly still riding around in a bus league, but not bad, all the same). As I hinted at the end of the last post, Panda and I went out and picked a metric butt-ton of strawberries over Memorial Day weekend. This is all about what happened to those strawberries.
So, despite my urge to can everything in sight, I did concede that as long as we’re picking all that fruit, it makes sense to eat some of it fresh. So we kept about a quart and a half and had strawberries with every meal that week, which is honestly just kind of remarkably indulgent. There was strawberry and spinach salad, strawberry and arugula salad, strawberries in Panda’s morning oatmeal, and strawberries as dessert with every lunch I took to work that week.
In addition to the fresh strawberries, we also put away about a gallon of frozen strawberries, which I imagine we’ll use (sparingly) over the next year in pies, desserts, and maybe even a smoothie or two. I’m actually dreaming right now of how wonderful a strawberry pie would taste – jarring in its non-seasonality, but still delicious – at our annual New Year’s Eve Smorgasbord party.
But I imagine if you’re reading this, it’s because you want to know how I got from that last picture over here to this:
So those, dear friends, are three jars of liquid rubies. From left to right, there’s a Strawberry-Vanilla, Strawberry-Balsamic-Black-Pepper, and a Strawberry-Mint Jam. On the Strawberry with Balsamic and Black Pepper, I more or less followed exactly (adjusting only to reflect 3lbs 11 oz of fruit) the recipe from Rachel Saunders in the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. On the other two, I went a little more free-form. Here’s how it all went down:
Strawberry Vanilla Jam
- 4 lbs of fresh-picked strawberries, hulled (weighed them pre-hulling)
- 1/4 cup vanilla extract (say what you will, but the America’s Test Kitchen guys say it’s fine)
- 6 oz. of lemon juice (I use bottled for consistency)
- 3 lbs 10 oz. sugar (I’ve got to figure out how to substitute honey or something…)
Put your plate with your testing spoons in the freezer for testing the set later, then mix the sugar with the strawberries in a large, non-reactive saucepan (I use an enamel-coated cast-iron dutch oven for this). Raise the heat to medium until the juices start to run. Slowly raise the heat to high-ish and add the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, and then more frequently as it starts to thicken to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. This took me about 45 minutes, but I was using a pretty medium-ish heat to prevent it from foaming over. I water bath processed these in half-pint jars for ten minutes each. Just in case someone reading this tries it and gets sick though, I should probably include a little CYA. So, you know. I haven’t run this by the University of Georgia home food preservation folks. That said, I intend to eat it. So, you know. Caveat emptor.
Strawberry Mint Jam
- 3 lbs 11 oz of freshly picked strawberries
- 0.5 ounce fresh mint (I used peppermint), finely chopped
- 2 lbs 5 oz sugar
- 6 oz lemon juice
Instructions are basically the same as above, but substitute the mint for the vanilla extract.
Nothing radical, and because I came down with a pretty nasty head cold the morning that I cooked all these jams, I haven’t actually had a chance to get a really good feel for what they taste like yet. That said, Panda was happy to step into the kitchen and taste test for me whenever I asked. If anyone out there is reading this and really wants to know, I’ll let you know how it is once I pop open a jar, which will likely be soon, since I’m currently about halfway through the Marula Jelly that Panda brough back from a recent trip to Mozambique.
While I’m on the subject of canning, I also ran out to the farmer’s market back when Panda was still in Africa and canned up a whole bunch of asparagus while it was available. Some I just straight pressure-canned, mostly because I’ve been itching to use the pressure-cooker that Panda’s folks bought me for Christmas last year. It turned out ok, but a bit mushy, so I reckon I’ll just freeze any future asparagus, but I can also imagine just waiting until I have a yard of my own (instead of a rental), where I don’t mind investing in perennial plants before I’m gonna end up with too much extra asparagus on my hands. That said, I also made two pint jars of asparagus pickles (using the Put ‘Em Up recipe). I also added a tablespoon of red pepper flakes to one of those. We opened the pepper-less jar about a week or so ago, and they’re great. Here’s what the pepper-y ones look like though:
So, that’s about it. I do have a couple of lessons-learned/thoughts for the future though:
- Gotta be more vigilant about the foaming. Hate the electric range, but still – it is possible to modulate heat well enough that I don’t necessarily have to have the horrible foam-over that happened on the second jam (and very nearly again on the third jam).
- I made the strawberry jams without commercial pectin. I might try that differently in the future for a brighter (both in terms of color and flavor) jam.
- Another possibility is first an overnight (or even two-day) strawberry maceration, and only cooking the resulting sauce into a gel before returning the whole-ish fruit to the mixture. Something like this, that is.
- Finally, when canning all of those asparagus, I had a lot of floaters. I think it’s definitely worthwhile to use the narrow-mouth jars for stuff that might do this in the future (I kind of prefer them anyway), and I’ll definitely try the “seat-belting method” from Well-Preserved also.