Saturday, August 3, 2013

We Be Jammin'

This is the last post about my fresh-picked, sun-kissed, delicious strawberries. I think that it is fitting, since this is a recipe for preserving! What better way to preserve memories of summer than with a delicious jar (or multiple-but certainly nothing hardcore like my Grandma, like 20 pints of peaches....) of strawberry jam? I am transported back to summer when I crack open a jar later in the year, and schmear the fruity goodness on toast, Grandma buns, pancakes, French toast, cookies, cheeses…you get the idea. Strawberry jam is good for your mood, mind and soul, kind of like Bob Marley…hence my blog title for this one. Funny? I thought so.
Once again, strawberry jam reminds me of home and my grandma. My grandma is known for her strawberry jam, and is also known to crank out a pretty mean tomato jam, elderberry jam, raspberry jam, grape jam (on occasion!). She is also proficient in the world of mincemeat, which I know is not jam, but let me toot my Grandma’s horn: her mincemeat will be featured in a pie made by a family friend at Wisconsin's State Fair this week! Kudos to my Grandma and Mom who prepared and canned the mincemeat. I should really go and nab a jar...and to clarify, this mincemeat is NOT the midieval kind full of, well, meat. It is rather a combination of green tomatoes, raisins, love, and...well, I don't know the rest. Yet. But I DO know that it is delicious.
Back on track: we're talking jam here. For me, jam should be of the perfect sweetness, be slightly firm to the touch, be of homogenous texture (not separate into a clear jelly portion and fruit chunk portion), and be full of soft fruit pieces that break apart slightly when spread. This was my goal when creating this jam, which is different from my Grandma's (which I still adore more than any jam under the sun).
As we all know, pectin is the hydrocolloid of choice when making preserves. Being a complete food geek, I knew what I needed in order to make a jam that didn't require a year's worth of sugar in order to "set-up", and luckily, it was available at my local grovery cooperative. I was pleasantly surprised, and happy to see that consumers and home-preserve-ers are exploring beyond the conventional boundaries of preserving. The renewed focus on eating whole foods with minimal preservatives (like sugar!) has brought many new products to local markets for foodies around, with this low methoxyl pectin being one.
Without getting too food science-y, low methoxly pectin* utilizes a cation with a double charge to interact primarily by electrostatic interactions with methoxy groups on pectin molecules (which carry a negative charge). This cation is typically calcium (Ca++). These "connections" between two chains of pectin molecules form structures similar to an egg-carton. The copartments formed that would hold an egg now hold water, which thickens whatever medium it is used in (hence the name: hydro=water, colloid=suspension). 
*Pectins are classified by how many carboxyl groups are present as methyl esters within a pectin molecule. The quantitiy of methyl esters, or methoxyl groups, determines how the pectin will behave and what sugar/acid concentration is required to form a structure that captures water, and forms a gel. High methoxyl pectins have greater than 50% of carboxyl groups present as methyl esters, while low methoxly pectins have less than 50%.
Get it? Good. Now the recipe.

Strawberry Jam (Adapted from Pomona Pectin Recipes)
Makes about 5 cups (ten ½ pint jars)
4 cups mashed strawberries (about 8 cups whole strawberries)
2 teaspoons calcium water (see below)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup up to 1 cup honey or ¾ cup up to 2 cups sugar (I used ½ cup honey and ¾ cup organic cane sugar)
2 ½ teaspoons Pomona’s pectin powder
Calcium Water: combine ½ cup water with ½ teaspoon calcium powder in a jar with a lid. Shake until dissolved. Reserve extra in fridge for future jam and jelly adventures.

Notable Tools: large pot or canner, jar holder or tongs, clean towels, pint or desired size jars, potato masher or pastry cutter

Wash jars, lids, and bands by hand or in dishwasher. Place jars in large pot and fill 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover, and keep jars here until ready to fill with jam. Likewise, place lids in a small pan and cover with water. Heat to a slow boil, turn off heat, and keep in hot water until ready to top filled jars.
Boiling jars. Hooray!
Wash and remove hulls, and measure into a large sauce pan. To this, add calcium water and lemon juice. Using a potato masher, pastry cutter or a fork, lightly smash the strawberries.
In a separate bowl, measure sugar and/or honey into a bowl. Thoroughly mix pectin powder into sugar/honey. Set this aside.
 I thought my use of a pastry cutter was like, genius.

Pectin-sugar mixture; jar with calcium water.
Bring strawberries to a full boil. Add pectin-sweetener mixture, and stir vigorously for 2 minutes to dissolve the pectin. Bring this mixture to a full boil, and then remove from heat. Add in grated ginger and cinnamon. Now, taste your jam at this point for sweetness. If not sweet enough, you can add additional sweetener at this point, and bring back to a full boil for 1 minute longer.

Bring berry mixture up to a rolling boil. It should look like the slime in Ghostbusters.

Lemon + Ginger = Love
Take hot jars from water, and place on a towel. Fill the jars to ¼” to the top, wipe rims clean with a damp, clean towel. Place lids on and screw down to secure. Place the jars back in your large pot or canner, and boil for 10 minutes. Using tongs or jar holder, remove jars from the hot water, let the jam cool at room temperature.

Wiping off the rims with a damp towel. Fun and delightful.

Once cooled to room temp, check the seals by gently pressing down with your forefinger on the lid. If it doesn’t move up and down when pressure is applied, then you have created a successful seal (the lid is “sucked in”). If not, you can re-process, or be sure to store jam in the fridge and eaten within 3 months. Sealed jars will have a 1 year shelf life, which could be extended if stored in a fridge.
It is estimated that the opened jam lasts up to 3 months, but practically speaking, a jar of this will not stick around if used properly…enjoy on fresh bread, pastries, pancakes, with cheese plates, as a filling for cookies, bars, cakes, cupcakes. Also makes a lovely gift, especially for sisters who live in California!

No comments:

Post a Comment