Monday, July 7, 2014

week of jam, day one: strawberry

Yeah, I think I may have enough jam made (and to make) to do an entire week of jam posts. I might also be getting a little sick of jam, as a concept, already - ha! This was the first batch, the batch that kicked it off: our little strawberry patch is really taking off this year. It's nice to see our little garden investments start to pay off, and the back yard start to function like an old-fashioned homesteading garden, with gooseberries, currants, elderberries, strawberries, raspberries, and huckleberries - in addition to veggie beds, kitchen herbs, and the [floral] cutting garden! I already made another batch since this one, and have another bowl of strawberries in the fridge just waiting to be made into a couple more tiny jars.

I don't really have a recipe for this: I wash and halve the strawberries (if they're large), put 'em in the pot with some lemon zest, lemon juice, and the seeds of one half of a vanilla bean. I add a little bit of sugar (for this batch, which only comprised about 2 cups of fruit, less than 1/4 cup of sugar) and cook the fruit gently until it all breaks down. Once that happens, I add a bit more sugar with some pectin stirred into it, cook and check for gel set, and then process in my water bath. The proportions are pretty loose: I use less sugar than recipes call for, and a bit more pectin, and it all works out somehow. I think jam is kind of like pie crusts and biscuits and other things - eventually, you just kind of have a feel for them and you kind of lose track of precise measurements.

I like using lemon zest, lemon juice, and a bit of vanilla bean with fresh strawberry jam; there's something about this combination that really screams, "fair food" (as in, "state fair food" - slap it on a warm, fresh scone and my husband swears it is just like getting a scone from the Fisher Scones stand at the Evergreen State Fair). I'll tuck some of these jars away and they will be forgotten, just you wait and see. He never keeps track of what I put up, and doesn't bother pawing through the cupboard. Then, one morning in early autumn, on a week when we're tired and he's frustrated with something at work and wishing he could just stay home and sleep in, I'll get up early and make a batch of scones and pop them in the oven before I hop in the shower. I'll jump out and catch them just as they finish baking. He'll wonder what the timer is for and what smells so good - and I'll bring him a piping hot scone, slathered with sweet summery strawberry jam, and it'll make everything better.

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