Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Quick and Easy Strawberry Jam

Quick and easy strawberry jam
Make something special with those ripe berries

I hadn’t exactly planned on making strawberry jam. But I had so many very ripe strawberries on my kitchen counter last week that I had to do something with them. Can’t let those sweet things go to waste!

I’ve made refrigerator strawberry jam before. It was always good, but not great, and not as good as the jams and jellies my parents used to can each season.

But I decided to try one more time with a refrigerator version. So glad I did!

I googled refrigerator strawberry jam, and one of the first ones to pop up was a recipe by Food Network star Ina Garten. I love watching her Barefoot Contessa shows and know anything she makes must be good.

This recipe uses not only strawberries but also a few blueberries and half of a Granny Smith apple for the pectin. She also uses orange-flavored liqueur, but I just added a little zest from a clementine (didn’t have an orange.)

In order to make this recipe, I decided to break one of my rules of cooking. I usually don’t make recipes that require the use of a candy thermometer, but I did in this case!

This recipe is simple. Very simple. You basically wash and cut your berries, mix the ingredients and then just watch the gorgeous mixture boil for about 30 minutes.

I stood over the stove for most of the cooking time because I enjoyed watching the mixture change colors, and eventually thicken as the temperature approached 220 degrees. It also smelled so good.

Occasionally I would take a little bit of the jam from the pot and drop it on a saucer to see if it would thicken (and so I could taste it.) Mama used to do the same thing. It took my jam about 30 to 35 minute to get close to the 220 degree mark. I ended up pulling it off the burner before it reached that temperature because the jam had started to thicken, and I figured my thermometer probably wasn’t completely accurate!

I couldn’t wait to try this jam on toast. My husband and I had the most scrumptious breakfast the next morning with this jam as the main attraction. We’ve enjoyed it several times since and will make it at least once more before strawberry season ends. I will also be experimenting with a peach version this summer!

Go out and pick some local berries and make this recipe! You will be so glad you did.

Easy Strawberry Jam 

3 pints fresh strawberries
3 cups superfine sugar*
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
1⁄2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and small-diced
1⁄2 cup fresh blueberries

Place the strawberries in a colander and rinse them under cold running water. Drain and hull the strawberries. Cut the larger berries in half or quarters and leave the small berries whole. Place the strawberries in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot such as heavy Dutch oven and toss them with the sugar and orange-flavored liqueur.

Bring the berry mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add the apple and blueberries and continue to keep the mixture at a rolling boil, stirring occasionally, until the jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. This should take 25 to 35 minutes. Skim and discard any foam that rises to the top. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then store covered in the refrigerator. It will keep refrigerated for at least 2 weeks. To keep the jam longer, pack and seal in canning jars according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Ina Garten

*I used granulated sugar and substituted orange (or clementine) zest for the liqueur. My jam never quite reached 220 degrees, but I could tell it was ready when it changed colors and thickened after 30 to 35 minutes. After the jam had cooled some, I used my immersion blender in the jam to smooth it out and avoid having so many large pieces of fruit.

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