Sunday, July 10, 2011

Icebox Strawberry Jam

Although strawberry season is drawing to a close for most of Wisconsin, a bumper crop of strawberries is just starting to appear from Door County at the farmer's market. Door County is consistently a few weeks behind in their growing season compared to most of the state, extending the bounty of summer fruit, much to my delight. I've been scarfing down strawberries by the quart for the past month or so, but have neglected to turn them into jam until now. I don't have a pressure canner, so I make icebox jams/preserves instead. It's true that they don't last as long as pressure-canned preserves, but fresh fruit jam is so delicious that we don't have to worry about its longevity in my house. I love this recipe not only for how simple it is to make, but the how the limited ingredients optimally showcase the fruit instead of burying it.

The sweetness here comes from honey instead of sugar, which gives a subtle bit of flavor in addition to sweetness and blends beautifully with the strawberries. I recommend a mild honey like clover or wildflower honey, so as not to overwhelm the strawberries. As always, taste your fruit to evaluate its sweetness, add only half of the sweetener to start, taste again and then add more sweetener to taste. By the same token, tastes also vary widely in how sweet preserves should be-I tend to like mine a bit more tart than a lot of people, so I may add a bit more lemon juice and hold back on the honey or sugar. The sweetness of fruit varies widely, from the white-centered tasteless, but highly transportable, supermarket strawberries, to the pure red, juicy, wonderfully sweet farmer's market strawberries, so tasting as you go is extremely important.

For tips on how to test the consistency of your jam, see my post on Concord Grape Jam from last summer. It's hard to know exactly how thick the jam should be when hot to translate to the appropriate cooled consistency and this post details a great method for testing the hot jam. This jam is great on toast, bagels, English muffins, waffles, pancakes, PB&Js, and makes a fantastic ice cream topping. Although there are plenty of good commercially-available jams and preserves, nothing quite compares to fresh jam from local fruit, prepared with your own two hands.

Icebox Strawberry Jam
adapted from Food and Wine
makes about 2 cups

1 quart strawberries, thickly sliced (4 cups) 
1/2 cup honey 
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch kosher salt

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries with the honey, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 40 to 60 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

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