Jun 1, 2009
We Be Jammin'... with Balsamic Strawberry Jam!
Strawberries. Yum! Anywhichaway, shape, or form, ya gotta luv 'em. But before I get to the jammin' part, I want to share a story with you. My mom (God rest her soul) loved them a bit too much, unfortunately, she was allergic to strawberries for as long as I can remember. So growing up, we never really had very much strawberry anything. Because you see, she apparently had NO self control and would "sneak" one here and there whenever they were around. That translated into hives, coupled with a nasty rash, and her dousing herself with calamine lotion. Then one day at work, she had a couple and nothing happened. So for a couple of days in a row at work she'd sneak one here and there. She took it a bit too far and ate one too many. Later that evening, frantically, she called my brother and had him take her to the emergency room. That evening, I called and asked him, "was it really that bad?" (mom had a tendency to overreact or exaggerate at times) To which his reply was, "Well, she looked like a cross between Frankenstein (swollen brows), Linda Blair (bulging welts moving in and out on cheeks and neck), and Rocky Balboa (lips like a bad collagen ejection and eyes swollen shut)". Yeah, it was THAT bad. To make matters worse, she was allergic to the antibiotic they had given her and that meant another trip back to the hospital later that evening.
Moral of the story: if you or someone you know has (or has had) an allergy to strawberries (and/or kiwi, which is common btw) or anything else, take it very seriously. Never assume because you hadn't had an allergic reaction recently that you've "outgrown" the allergy completely. As for mom, not sure, but I think it's safe to say that for the next 20 or so years, she hadn't so much as LOOKED at a strawberry, let alone "sneak" one.
Because of my deprived childhood, my hubby and I put in a strawberry patch. Although we planted an everbearing variety, it's going to be late summer before we enjoy the fruits of our labor. Not to fear, hubby recently picked up 8 lbs of strawberries at a local fruit stand. Of course, thanks to my bakespace buddies and all of our talk about strawberry jam lately, I knew exactly what to do with them! I didn't want to do freezer jam because I need the room in both of my freezers for cakes and baked goodies, so I decided I'd make canned jam. If you want to do an easy peasy tasty freezer jam, check out my friend, Danielle's Blog "Cooking for My Piece of Mind"
Now, I have canned before (all of my life really) but I have never EVER made jam. Recently I did make a (refrigerated) strawberry concord wine fruit topping that was to die for that was very similar to jam. So I thought, ok, this can't be that hard. right? Besides, if I screw it up, margarita season is right around the corner (wink wink)
I ended up making two different kinds. The first one, on the left, is the straight up strawberry jam recipe from the insert out of the pectin box. (our grandma's secret recipe LOL) I won't bother writing it all out 'cuz, well, it's right there. You use strawberries, sugar, pectin, lemon juice...that's it. Also, I won't go into the canning process 'cuz that's there as well. (I always use the water bath method) I found it pretty simple to do actually, but again, I'm used to canning. Or maybe I was lucky the first time out, I dunno. This morning, I popped a jar open and it had set, just a wee bit on the soft side, but from what all I read this is to be expected. Supposedly they will continue to set for sometimes up to two weeks. (if not, it's margaritaville baby! Oh, that's gonna happen, regardless)
Balsamic Strawberry Jam
Makes 4 pint jars
5 (full) cups of crushed strawberries
1- 1.75oz box of fruit pectin
1/2 C aged balsamic vinegar
6 (leveled) C white sugar
With the rest of the berries (I had about 5 cups crushed leftover to use), I decide to "kick it up a notch" and I made some "Balsamic Strawberry Jam". I didn't really bother researching a recipe (yeah, 'cuz I'm an expert now, pfffft) The original recipe called for 1/4 C lemon juice so instead, I used 1/2 C balsamic. I put it on to simmer, and reduced it down to about half while I got the strawberries ready, then set it aside.
Next, I mashed the berries, with my pastry blender LOL (can u believe that I don't have a potato masher?) Apparently, you're not supposed to use a food processor or blender because it inhibits the fruits natural pectin. Yup, says so on the box. As for that, I followed the directions to the tee. I did leave some chunks because my worst fear was that it would cook down too much.
I put the strawberries on medium heat then I added the pectin and stirred constantly until the mixture started to boil and "couldn't be stirred down", like the box says. Then I poured in the sugar and brought it back to a full rolling boil. Then I added in the balsamic syrup. I boiled it hard for one minute while stirring constantly. At this point and time, the jam started to thicken up, coat the back of a spoon. (when left in my spoon rest, it was jelling up) Wooohooooo! it's gonna be jam! We be jammin'!
So I ladled it into the hot sterilized jars, processed for 10 min, then let rest overnight. They tasted really similar, but the balsamic was a bit more tart, which is exactly what I was hoping for. It also brought out a "brightness" in the strawberries, defining their "berryness" flavor.(yeah, I just make it up as I go along) Out of the two, I preferred the balsamic, hands down. Now, that being said, I can't tell you how good both of them were on this Honey Lemon Muffin!
"In the mornin', I'm havin' WAFFLES". LOL
ETA: Since I've had so many questions about home canning/preserving, I thought I'd post a couple of links for you. Although there are TONS of info on the net about canning, I only use reliable sources. It's also important to consider updated sources. Things that used to be considered standard or "safe" back in the day may not be now with new research.
The Ball site: freshpreserving.com
The USDA safe canning guide: http://foodsafety.psu.edu/canningguide.html
Oh, and one more thing.... I'll be sure to post complete water bath procedures for my "beeps" in a future blog post, perhaps I'll do that around salsa canning time. ;)