Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer Berry Jam

Summer berry jam, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

I bought a variety of summer berries at the farmers' market for a dessert I planned to make on Sunday. But, it was reeeeeally hot in St. Louis this weekend and we ended up going for ice cream instead. So, what to do with 2 qts. of beautiful berries?? Make like a rock band and jam!

Jams, jellies, and preserves are the country way of, well, preserving sweet, ripe fruit at their peak. Macerating and cooking fruit releases pectin, a naturally occurring thickener found in fruits' cell walls, which magically "sets up" the sweet fruit syrup and turns it into a spreadable mixture. You'll find recipes that include a commercial pectin like SURE-JELL, but I prefer to make this without. There's enough pectin in the fruits to make a semi-solid spread, which is the consistency you're going for - the gloppier the better.

I put a 'politan twist on this country staple by adding balsamic vinegar and fresh ground pepper, two oddballs that partner exceptionally well with strawberries. They add a tart and tangy kick that keeps the jam from becoming overly sweet, and makes for an interesting flavor combination. Enjoy!

1 qt strawberries, sliced in half
2 pints of other berries
--At this writing I used 1 pint blackberries and 1 pint blueberries because they were the freshest and ripest.
Juice of 2 lemons
4 T balsamic vinegar
2 t fresh ground black pepper
4 cups sugar

Prepare six 8oz. canning jars and put a small plate in the freezer (go with me on this).

In a large, non-reactive pot, add the berries and cook over medium-high heat 7-10 minutes, lightly mashing the berries to release their juices. Stir frequently to ensure the fruit on the bottom doesn't burn. Stir in the lemon juice, vinegar & pepper, then the sugar. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently and skimming the foam from the top of the cooking mixture.

To test how well your jam is jelling, take the plate out of the freezer (see, there was a reason) and drizzle out a bit of the liquid. Wait 30 seconds or so and see if it's starting to set up by tilting the plate. If it runs it needs to cook a bit longer, if it holds its basic shape then it's ready! You want it to be a little runny but firm around the edges.

Spoon the hot jam into the prepared jars. Really, spooning is best - the thick chunks of fruit will make the jam splatter everywhere if you try to pour (again, trust me on this). Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean damp cloth, then seal and process for 10 minutes in boiling water.

No comments: