Make Your Own Strawberry Jam - Plus Uruburu's Tasting Notes!
Make your own fruit-full preserves to serve with cheese
Preserves are a natural match for most any cheese, especially when their first ingredient is just-picked ripe fruit. Most commercial jams, however, rely on excessive amounts of sugar to mask the fact that they’re made from a less-than-stellar harvest. Enter Rachel Saunders. The owner of Blue Chair Fruit in Oakland, California, Saunders has been making her small-batch preserves since 2000, when she started experimenting at home. “I was working from a cookbook,” she explains, “but the flavor wasn’t exactly what I wanted.” A perfectionist, Saunders kept at it, and in 2008 she made it her vocation, starting Blue Chair. Today, her preserves are sold at Bay Area farmers’ markets, specialty shops, and restaurants, and by mail order (http://bluechairfruit.com). Saunders makes over 100 different seasonal jams, jellies, and marmalades ranging from the esoteric (Early Girl Tomato and Damson Jam; Orange-Kumquat Marmalade with Cardamom) to the comfortingly familiar. Her inspiration often comes from the handpicked fruit supplied by her fellow vendors at farmers’ markets. With the summer harvest at hand, here’s one of her recipes for preserving the bounty.
6 eight-ounce jars
4 pounds ripe strawberries, hulled
2 pounds, 10 ounces cane sugar
5½ ounces strained, freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground pink peppercorns
1½ tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the jam texture later.
In a 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide, nonreactive stockpot, combine the berries with the sugar and half the lemon juice. Place the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula. After a few minutes, as the juice starts to run and the mixture begins foaming a little around the edges, gradually raise the heat to high, stirring often. Add a few pinches of ground pink peppercorns.
Boil the mixture hard for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, gently scraping the bottom of the pan every few minutes with your spatula to prevent sticking. If the mixture begins to stick, reduce the heat slightly, but make sure the jam continues to cook at a rapid boil. After 15 minutes, carefully taste the jam and add more pepper if necessary. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping the bottom frequently, until the foam subsides, the jam acquires a darker, shinier look, and the berries appear softened and saturated with liquid—about 10 minutes longer.
Turn off the heat. Let the mixture rest a moment, then stir in the remaining lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar. Return the jam to medium heat and continue to cook, stirring frequently. If necessary, lower the heat slightly to prevent scorching.
After 3 to 5 minutes, your jam should look glassy and dark. At this point, turn off the heat and do not stir. Using a metal spoon, carefully scrape all the white foam off the top of the mixture. To test, take half a spoonful of jam and transfer it to one of the frozen spoons. Place the spoon with the jam in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and feel the underside of the spoon. It should be neither warm nor cold but around room temperature. Tilt the spoon vertically to see how quickly the jam runs; if it runs slowly and has thickened to a gloppy consistency, it is done. If it runs very quickly or appears watery, cook the jam for another couple of minutes, stirring, and then test again. Repeat as often as is necessary with the remaining spoons. This jam, while spreadable, does have a relatively loose texture. Process according to the instructions in the sidebar “Baking It Clean,” or as directed on the packaging of your canning jars.
Written by Laurel Miller
Laurel Miller is a contributing editor at culture and a food and travel writer based in Seattle, Washington.