Thursday, July 28, 2011
Summer in a jam jar
Is there anything more satisfying and decadent than making your own homemade jam with summer produce?! I seriously doubt it. I have such fond memories of my mom making jam and especially of eating it when I was a kid growing up in Toronto. How wonderful to make it now in my own kitchen.
Last year I made many different jams for the first time on my own. I wrote a general tutorial, made wild Nova Scotia blueberry freezer jam, breadmaker strawberry rhubarb jam and shared a drama-filled stovetop strawberry rhubarb jam story. This year I wanted to make a drama-free stovetop strawberry rhubarb-inspired jam and I did it! Please note, recipe is from Risa Alyson Strauss.
I turned to the cookbook We Sure Can! How Jams and Pickles Are Reviving the Lure and Lore of Local Food written by Sarah B. Hood, published by Arsenal Pulp Press for inspiration.
Now you will find slightly unusual jams like Herb or Flower-Petal Jelly with Citrus Pectin that sound fabulous but I was looking for more traditional recipes and thankfully there is a recipe for rhubarb strawberry jam. Emphasis on rhubarb!
Normally there will be one week in the summer where you can find a small harvest of rhubarb in my grocery store and then just as quickly, they disappear. But not this year! This year it seemed like a month where stacks of pink stalks could be found.
The only issue? This bunch cost me almost $6! Even the cashier whistled when she saw the price. This had better be damn good jam I thought when I paid at the cash.
The unusual thing about this jam is that it also requires pineapple which probably accounts for why there is less sugar than usual in this particular jam. The problem? One pineapple is usually $5 at my store. I could have used canned but I found this fruit tray on sale for $5 that gave me not only enough pineapple but enough strawberries too. And yes, I snacked on the honeydew and cantaloupe as I made the jam!
It started to dawn on me though that making homemade jam may not end up saving me very much money.
You need one cup of hulled and sliced strawberries. Mash with a potato masher or fork.
In a wide and deep non-reactive pot with a thick bottom combine strawberries with 4 cups of chopped rhubarb and 1 cup of chopped pineapple.
Heat to a boiling point, turn down heat and simmer until mixtures breaks down into a thick paste. I was not happy to read this part, "some of the pineapple may remain chunky."
No!!! I don't want pieces of chunky pineapple in my jam!!! The recipe did not specific how big to chop the fruit. I would have finely chopped the pineapple had I know this, damn it.
Add 1 1/3 cup of raw or light brown sugar. I just added regular sugar because that is what I had. Stir well until completely dissolved.
Bring to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down. Continue to boil, stirring frequently and skim off the foam "until it reaches the setting point." Hmmm... OK, well as least there is no candy thermometer involved.
"It may be tricky to recognize the gel stage with this thick and pasty jam, but don't stop cooking until it has reduced by about half." Now that I can do!
The book said you can help the fruit break down by using a potato masher which honestly did not seem to be doing the trick for me. But I tried. Oh how I tried!
Thankfully after all that cooking (about 25 minutes), mashing and cooling the pineapple did break down. I thought I was going to have to get out the food processor but no, it was fine. Now the book goes through how to can the jam but...
... It was not going to last very long in our house on our staycation. All that fruit made just over 3 cups of jam. No, financially speaking it probably did not save me a dime but the flavour was fantastic! I like that it had less sugar in it that other jams and did not mind that as a result it had an earthy ruby colour to it and would not last long.
I gave one small jar to my friend Jen for her birthday and we enjoyed the other one wholeheartedly. Now it does not have that old fashion strawberry rhubarb jam flavour like my mom's version because of the pineapple but if you have to update a classic like this and make it healthier, this jam is a winner. Simple to make and with no pectin or preservatives, I am pretty thrilled with the first recipe test from this cookbook.
I give this recipe four and a half out of five wooden spoons.