Saturday, July 28, 2012

July Conservation Tip

Preserving Summer's Bounty
Maybe due to the mild winter and late rain, everything seems to be in abundance this year. I haven't eaten that much cherries in years and strawberries are everywhere. To bad that the season will be over before we know it, and only the  far away, bland tasting fruit will be available.
But there are plenty of possibilities to preserve the bounty: freezing, drying, canning or making jams and jellies...
I'm learning more and more about canning and drying, but I have been making jam since years and would like to share my favorite strawberry jam recipe with you:

You will need:
fresh (organic) strawberries
a vanilla bean
gelling agent

The exact measurements depend on which kind of gelling agent you use. But regardless which one you use, just follow the recommended amounts of fruit and sugar provided by the manufacturer.
I use a low sugar pectin gellant.
If you don't use your own grown strawberries, try organic or local strawberries, they are usually better in taste. 

Give them a good wash

Then, instead of cooking them to puree, try pulsing them in a blender... get a nice blend but not a total mush.

Give the "puree" in a big stock pot and add the mark of one vanilla bean, or a tablespoon of vanilla extract, if you prefer.
Then cook the jam as recommended by your gelling agent.
If you want to compete with your jam or plan to sell it, you probably will have to preserve your done jam with the boiling water-bath canning method. For friends and family I usually use dishwasher clean jars, swish them out with water and then put them in the microwave for 6 min at full power. I leave the jars in the microwave until I'm ready to fill them. Meanwhile I dunk the lids of my regular mouth half pint jars in some strong alcohol (Schnaps, Gin, Whisky or whatever is around).
Once the jam is ready, fill it into the hot jars leaving a good half of an inch at the top. Once all jars are filled, put the lids on, careful not to touch the inside and secure with the ring.
Turn the filled jars upside down for a few minutes. Although not the ultimate way of preserving your preserve, I never had a spoiled jar.

Enjoy your homemade jam, best with fresh baked bread, if you need the recipe for that one check out the May Conservation Tip.

And, if you feel like it, try entering it to your local county fair, who knows, maybe you might end up with a winner...;-)

Here some great books on making jams and jellies and other ways of preserving fresh produce:

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