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Strawberry Jam Two Ways



Have you ever heard of Weck? They originated in Germany, and make the proshest canning jars. The sealing mechanism is a little different from the Ball jars that you usually see; The lid and jar are made of glass, and there is a non-reusable rubber ring that fits between the two. You fill the jar up as usual, and use a pair of clamps to hold the lid onto the jar while the cans are processed. The jars must cool completely, and then you can remove the clamps. If a vacuum formed, you should be able to pick up the jar by the lid alone. The tongue of the rubber gasket should point down a little, too. To remove the lid, you just pull on the tongue. You should hear a little psssst sound as the vacuum is broken. More detailed instructions are available on their website, along with order information.

We took advantage of the break in the heat wave last weekend and went strawberry picking. It was a perfect day for picking - overcast and the temperature was just right!



This year, we held back and only picked 10 lbs! It made about 12 8oz jars of jam. I decided to tweak last year's recipe; this time, I made two batches. I substituted a combination of 1 tbsp lemon juice/2 tbsp balsalmic vinegar for the straight lemon juice of the original.

I added 6 mint leaves and 10 grinds of black pepper to the second batch near the end of the cooking time, removing the mint leaves before I ladled the jam into the jars (inspired by Chocolate & Zucchini's recipe).

The balsalmic strawberry jam added a deeper flavor to the jam. The mint and pepper can only just be tasted, and lend a fresh and midly spicy taste to the jam. It's really very good - don't let the mint scare you away!

Strawberry Jam

3 lb. ripe strawberries (4 1/2 pints), rinsed and hulled
3 cups sugar (you can use a little less if the fruit is very ripe)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Special equipment: eight or nine 8-oz canning jars with lids, funnel, clamp or tongs

To wash the berries, gently scoop them into a sink filled with water. Swish them around a little, and let them sit for a while. The dirt should fall to the bottom of the sink.

Hull and quarter the berries. Put them in a deep pot made of non-reactive material (stainless steel works well). Make sure that there is enough room in your pot! If there is less than 5" between your berries and the top of your pot, you might have a rather anxious time of it. When the jam boils, lots of air bubbles are trapped in the dense liquid, which will begin to rise very quickly.Pour on the sugar and lemon juice, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover the pot and let the berries macerate for about two hours. If you like your jam smoother, you can mash them with a potato masher instead.

While the berries macerate, wash your jars and set them in the oven. They should be in there for at least half an hour. Wash the lids and rings, and set the rings aside. Put the lids in a pot of boiling water to sterilize them, and to make the rubber around the edges a little more pliable.

Bring the pot of strawberries to a full boil (you need to boil off the liquid to achieve a jammy consistency). Make sure to stir often (with your wooden spoon) and skim off any foam from the surface. The foam will make your jam cloudy if it's left in the pot, although you can eat it separately.

After half an hour of boiling, your jam should be just about ready. Don't boil the jam for more than 40 minutes, however, otherwise the pectin in the fruit will break down and the jam will turn dark.You can test the consistency of the jam by chilling a plate in your freezer. Spoon a little bit of jam onto the plate, and check the thickness of the jam once it has cooled.

Take a jar out of the oven and ladle the jam in until within 1/4" of the rim. Wipe any jam off the rim with a damp towel, and use tongs to take a lid out of your pot of boiling water and put it on the jar. Quickly screw a ring over the lid (it has to be tight enough to hold the lid onto the jar). Repeat this process until you fill up all of your jars.

Put the jars into a deep pot filled with boiling water; make sure the water reaches above the rim of the jar lids. Cover, and let the jars boil for ten minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. The lids should begin to pop within minutes. If you have any lids that didn't seal, throw them out or eat immediately.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie




Rhubarb season is drawing to a close, and strawberry season is beginning to warm up in Ohio. There is only one thing to do in such a situation -- and that is to make a kick-ass pie. I toyed with the idea of buying a ready made crust, but decided to tackle home-made pie crust once more (my previous attempts were all dismal failures). This recipe from Bon Appetit came highly recommended (4 forks, 129 reviews) on epicurious.

Well, I think I finally cracked the pie crust. The key was to make sure all the fats were COLD, and to add water until a workable dough formed. My pie dish flares out at the top, and the base of my pie crust wasnt quite large enough to wrap over the latticing, so I had to improvise.

All in all, it was a good recipe -- very easy to do (for a pie!), although my filling was a little tart. Many of the reviewers noted that the baking time (a total of 1 hr 45 min) was far too long, and a little over an hour was just fine for the pie. If you're going to bake for the whole time, you might need to protect the crust by covering it with foil for part of the baking time.




Lattice-Topped Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Bon Appetit, April 1997

For Crust:

3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsps sugar
2/3 tsp salt
2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsps chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
10 tbsps ice water

For Filling:

3 1/2 cups 1/2" thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 lbs untrimmed)
1 16 oz container strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 tsp water for glaze

Make crust:

Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in shortening and butter until coarse meal forms. Blend in enough ice water 2 tbsp at a time to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)

Make filling:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13" round. Transfer to 9" diameter glass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4" overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13" round. Cut into 14 1/2" wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evely. Form lattic by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhand of bottom crust. Fold strip end and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush glaze over crust. Transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 mintues. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.


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Strawberry Jam



When working with fresh produce, a less-is-more approach usually produces better results than trying to follow a complicated recipe. And what could be simpler than making jam with berries, sugar, and lemon juice?

[I have to put in a warning here. This was my first time making jam, and having 16 pounds of strawberries to use up, I decided it would be better to make all the jam at once. It didn't hit me until my jam was merrily boiling away at the half-hour mark that the smaller surface-area-to-volume ratio of my giant batch would make my jam much, much runnier than it should have been. Luckily, my jam came out okay (a little on the runny side), but making larger batches than a recipe recommends is a big no-no when it comes to jam making.]

Strawberry Jam

3 lb. ripe strawberries (4 1/2 pints), rinsed and hulled
3 cups sugar (you can use a little less if the fruit is very ripe)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Special equipment: eight or nine 8-oz canning jars with lids

To wash the berries, gently scoop them into a sink filled with water. Swish them around a little, and let them sit for a while. The dirt should fall to the bottom of the sink.



Hull and quarter the berries. Put them in a deep pot made of non-reactive material (stainless steel works well). Make sure that there is enough room in your pot! If there is less than 5" between your berries and the top of your pot, you might have a rather anxious time of it. When the jam boils, lots of air bubbles are trapped in the dense liquid, which will begin to rise very quickly.

Pour on the sugar and lemon juice, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover the pot and let the berries macerate for about two hours. If you like your jam smoother, you can mash them with a potato masher instead.



While the berries macerate, wash your jars and set them in the oven. They should be in there for at least half an hour. Wash the lids and rings, and set the rings aside. Put the lids in a pot of boiling water to sterilize them, and to make the rubber around the edges a little more pliable.

Bring the pot of strawberries to a full boil (you need to boil off the liquid to achieve a jammy consistency). Make sure to stir often (with your wooden spoon) and skim off any foam from the surface. The foam will make your jam cloudy if it's left in the pot, although you can eat it separately (a la Marcel from Top Chef). After half an hour of boiling, your jam should be just about ready. Don't boil the jam for more than 40 minutes, however, otherwise the pectin in the fruit will break down and the jam will turn dark.

You can test the consistency of the jam by chilling a plate in your freezer. Spoon a little bit of jam onto the plate, and check the thickness of the jam once it has cooled. I've found that the jam tends to thicken up a little more than this test might indicate once you've sealed and refrigerated the jars though, so don't think it's the end of the world if your jam is a little runny.

Take a jar out of the oven and ladle the jam in until within 1/4" of the rim. Wipe any jam off the rim with a damp towel, and use tongs to take a lid out of your pot of boiling water and put it on the jar. Quickly screw a ring over the lid (it has to be tight enough to hold the lid onto the jar). Repeat this process until you fill up all of your jars.

Put the jars into a deep pot filled with boiling water; make sure the water reaches above the rim of the jar lids. Cover, and let the jars boil for ten minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. The lids should begin to pop within minutes. If you have any lids that didn't seal (the lid makes popping sounds when you press down on the middle), throw them out or eat immediately.



This jam will keep in a cool, dark place for one to two years. If you haven't already eaten it by then. We can go through a jar of this stuff in a day!

Inspired by this recipe from Gourmet, 1999.

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Strawberry Season

I've been pining for homemade strawberry jam for months. But now, strawberry season is upon us, and I'm determined to make the most out of it!

A good strawberry is a little hard to find. The ones at the grocery store don't really cut it, taste-wise. The strawberries at the farmer's market are delicious, but at $5/quart, they aren't a terribly economical choice for jam-making. There is another choice -- pick your own strawberries. Who doesn't have childhood memories of heading out with the family, baskets in hand, to pick and sample the vine-ripened fruit?



There are a few things you should know about strawberry picking before you go. First, arrive as early as you can. You'll find the best strawberries this way, and there won't be a chance of the farm being picked out before you arrive. It'll also be cooler, and this is better for both you and your berries (if it is extremely hot and you are picking a lot, try to keep the berries under shade). Call ahead of time to make sure that the farm is open, and check to see if they provide the containers. You can find local pick-your-own farms at pickyourown.org.

We went to Patterson Farms. They have PYO strawberries on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (due to the cold snap we had around Easter), provide the containers, and charge $1.40/lb. If you're feeling lazy, they also have pre-picked berries and other fruits at their market.



I'm going to have to admit that I've never made jam before. So, when I estimated the amount of strawberries we would need, I might have gone a little... overboard. We ended up picking almost 16 lbs of strawberries. We turned most of this into jam (see the following post - we ended up with fifteen 8-oz jars!), and froze the other basket.



Strawberries will keep in your refrigerator for three to four days at best, so if you aren't planning on eating them immediately, you should freeze your berries. Wash and hull them first, and dry them on kitchen towels. Then lay them out on a baking sheet (don't let the berries touch). The berries should freeze within one to two hours. Just dump the frozen berries in a ziploc bag, and get as much air out of the bag as you can before sealing it. You can easily make jam with frozen berries, too.

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Grilled Pork or Portabella with Strawberry Fennel Salsa



The fennel and strawberries go ridiculously well together and taste good on top of almost anything savory. We like to serve it on grilled pork but it also works well with grilled portabellas and, however it is served, the salsa looks good on a plate.

Grilled Pork or Portabella with Strawberry and Fennel Salsa Recipe

Makes 4 servings

1 lb fennel (sometimes called anise), stalks cut off and discarded
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
salt to taste

4 (3/4 to 1-inch-thick) pork chops or 4 large portabella mushroom caps
5 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salsa:
Halve fennel bulb lengthwise and core it, then cut into 1/4-inch dice. Toss the fennel in a bowl with strawberries, scallions, cilantro, vinegar, honey, and salt.

Grilling Chops:
Prepare grill for cooking. If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Charcoal fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill rack for 3 to 4 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderate.

Pat pork chops dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Grill pork chops on lightly oiled grill rack, covered only if using a gas grill, turning over once, until cooked through. Transfer chops to a plate and serve topped with the salsa. Garnish with parsley

Grilling Portabellas:
Still prepare grill with medium-high heat. Brush oil evenly over both sides of mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill mushrooms until they're tender, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Place mushrooms, gill side up, on plates and spoon salsa into mushrooms. Garnish with parsley.

This is the summer version of a favorite pomegranate recipe. We substituted fresh strawberries from one of our favorite local farmers. (Not only does Woolf Farms sell delicious strawberries, they also wear lots of Ohio State apparel! They're mentioned in this post about the Shaker Square Farmers' Market.)

The fennel we used came from Salash Farm, which also sells produce at the Shaker Square Farmers' Market.

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