Saturday, July 4, 2009

Strawberry Jam!

Harmony Valley’s homegrown strawberries are ringing a bell for me. They are small, deep red, and dense. They’re reminding me of the wild strawberries my family used to pick when I was growing up on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range.

Every evening in midsummer, my mother would take a battered 1-quart Tupperware measuring cup out to the field a quarter mile down the road from our house. She would come back an hour or two later with varying amounts of wild strawberries—sometimes just a cup or two, sometimes the berries heaped up to make well over a quart. Someone who only knows supermarket strawberries would call them dry, seedy, and tiny; but each pea-sized berry packs an intense flavor.

We’d pick the caps off the berries, wash them, measure them, add sugar, and cook them into jam. We’d put it up in any old jar—peanut butter jars, mustard jars, sometimes proper canning jars—and top them off with melted paraffin to seal them. Eating that jam on a frigid winter morning was like seeing the past and the future at the same time. “It was summertime once,” I’d remember, “and someday it will be summer again.”


2-3 cups prepared berries (wash, hull, quarter)

1 1/4 to 2 cups sugar

A tablespoon of lemon juice

Measure the berries into a heavy pot. Add ¾ to 1 cup sugar per cup of berries. Add the lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly, over high heat until the mix comes to a full rolling boil. Cook 4 minutes.

Test: drop some liquid on a cold plate. If you can swipe your finger through the jam and leave a clean streak on the plate, your jam is thick enough. Keep testing every minute; the jelling happens quickly. I wouldn’t cook more than seven minutes, regardless of what’s going on with the plate.

Take off the heat and stir down the foam. Pour the jam into sterilized jars, put on two-piece caps, and process in a boiling water bath. If you are not a canner, you can put the jam in any glass or ceramic container you like. Store it in the refrigerator.

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