“God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties”*
|At home, our fresh strawberry preserves on a sesame bagel from Spread Bagelry**|
There was an article in a the food section of the Los Angeles Times written by the great Russ Parsons about making small batch seasonal preserves. The idea was to use whatever fruit was currently available at local farmer’s markets. By small batch, it meant one or two jars and it used no added pectin as you might normally use when making jam. You don’t have to can them. Just store them in the refrigerator.
The instructions are dead simple: Take a quantity of fresh fruit and an equal weight of sugar. Put the fruit and sugar into a saucepan. Stir it together and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let it sit for at least 6 hours. Then ladle small batches of the cooked fruit into a non-stick sauté pan and cook it for until it thickens. Pour the finished preserves into a clean jar. Repeat until all of the fruit has been cooked and your jars are full. Cover the jars and refrigerate.
And it does work that easily.
The jam making process became a game with Parsons and his friends: Just exactly how much could they reduce the sugar and still get a nicely thickened jam?
My first batch was made with a quart of strawberries. The cleaned berries weighed 1¼ pounds. I decided to use a little less sugar, 1 pound (or 2 cups). Since I couldn’t leave the jam out for 6 hours, I refrigerated it and began the next step the following day. I cooked it again in small amounts. Within 3 to 4 minutes, it began thickening. I spooned the finished preserves into a plastic container until it was full and stored it in the refrigerator. They did set up quite well, perhaps not as thick as when you use pectin, but the results were delicious. I liked having the flexibility to use less sugar, making a preserve that wasn’t overwhelmed by a lot of added sugar.
I went through the season making raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, and peach preserves, joining in the game by slightly reducing the sugar to weight ratio with each fruit. Even though we used the finished preserves almost every day, they lasted into the winter.
Now with the return of local strawberries, it’s time to begin again.
One quart of strawberries yielded 17 ounces of fruit. The usual ratio is equal weights fruit and sugar, but having made preserves this way before, I reduced the sugar to 1½ cups (12 ounces). This amount will fill a three cup container. You can increase the recipe to make additional jars of preserves.
1 quart strawberries
1 ½ ounces sugar
1. Wash the strawberries and drain them. Remove the stems and trim away any unripe bits. Slice the berries in half or quarters, depending on their size. If you like a smoother jam, puree the berries in a blender or food processor. Put the strawberries into a saucepan; add the sugar and stir. Place the pan over low heat and bring it to a full boil, stirring the mixture as it heats. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and wait at least 6 hours. Alternately, let the fruit mixture cool and refrigerate it until the next day.
2. Ladle about one-quarter of the preserves into small non-stick sauté pan. Place the pan over high heat and cook the preserves until they thicken, stirring throughout with a wooden spoon. (This takes about 2 to 3 minutes. A good test if the preserves have thickened is to drag the bottom of the wooden spoon through the jam. If a clean line appears momentarily through the bubbling mixture, it’s done.
3. Carefully pour the preserves into the jar. Repeat until all of the jam mixture has been cooked. Let the preserves cool, then cover and refrigerate. Yield: 3 cups preserves.
As the season progresses, I’ll give my recipes for the other different varieties I make.
* from “ The Village Green Preservation Society,” by Ray Davies
**What do you get when two friends, fed up with the quality of bagels, travel to Montreal to learn how they make bagels up there? You get Spread Bagelry - Montreal-style wood oven bagels located just west of Rittenhouse Square at 262 S. 20th Street, Philadelphia.