02 August, 2014

Strawberry Jam

Strawberries were on a huge sale this week at my local grocery store, so I bought a lot and froze most of them. I recommend doing this with your summer berries and stone fruit if you want to be able to enjoy them outside of the summer season. Frozen fruit will keep for several months if properly frozen and stored, so you can enjoy it deep into the winter. Strawberries just need to be washed, hulled, and frozen in a single layer on a cookie sheet before being dumped into a freezer bag (no sugar or syrup required). Anyway, on to the recipe.

Strawberry jam is mentioned numerous times in the Redwall series, often accompanied by something or topping something. This week, I'm just going to explain the jam itself. I'll get to the accompaniments later.

My big sticking point when deciding on this recipe was that it could not contain synthetic pectin. Added pectin is not something Redwallers would have had to cook with; they just would have used natural ingredients. After scouring many recipes, I finally coalesced several ideas into a single recipe I liked. The downside of making jam without adding pectin is that it tends to be slightly runnier than other jams. The upside is that you barely have to add any sugar, since the pectin isn't there to dull the flavors of the berries.

Another quick point: I don't have canning supplies, so I made a small batch. I'm sure this could be scaled up to more usual jam proportions, but PLEASE don't try that unless you have all the proper canning equipment and knowledge. Just pouring jam into a can, closing it, and expecting it to last in the pantry for years can lead to serious diseases. This small batch will last for approximately three weeks in the fridge.

Basic Strawberry Jam

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: Between 1 and 2 cups of jam (I got just about a cup and a half, but it depends on how much your strawberries cook down)

  • 1 pound of strawberries
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  1. Wash the strawberries, pulling out any stems, loose leaves, or rotting fruit.
  2. Cut the leaves off the strawberries and discard, then cut the fruit into chunks, such as quarters.
  3. Place the fruit and honey into a saucepan and use a potato masher or something similar to mash the fruit slightly and mix in the honey.
  4. Cut off about a third of the lemon and squeeze the juice into the mashed berries, then drop in the rind as well.
  5. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring. The berries will begin to soften, then break down completely.

  6. Keep the strawberries at that boil (still stirring) for about fifteen minutes. They are done when you can swipe your finger along your stirring spoon and leave a clear trail. 
  7. Fish out the lemon rind and pour your jam into a container. Cool and store in the fridge for up to three weeks.
While "Redwall Strawberry Jam" would just be the fruit and honey, strawberry jam lends itself very nicely to other flavors. Feel free to experiment by adding at the beginning things like vanilla paste (or extract, or a bean that you fish out with the lemon rind), balsamic vinegar, red wine, black pepper, basil, mint, or rosemary. 

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