Wednesday, May 16, 2012

strawberry jam and rhubarb jam.

In my opinion, summer arrived this past weekend.  I realize it is not yet Memorial Day but that has not deterred me from wearing neon shorts and metallic boat shoes, eating alfresco, and making the switch to ice coffee.  Summer makes me happy, I spend my days outside catching up on books in the park, taking walks to new destinations, and eating foods purchased from the farmers market. 

Last week marked the arrival of strawberries and rhubarb at the farmers market – to say I was excited to see them would be a bit of an understatement (I may have let out a squeal when I saw them).  I bought as many containers and stalks as I could carry on the subway and set about using them in as many dishes as possible.  As I traveled home, I kept thinking only one thought; Jam.

Once home, I allowed that idea to come to fruition.  I thought of making strawberry rhubarb jam, but instead I decided to make one rhubarb jam and one strawberry jam (more dishes for Tyler is so much fun!).  The strawberry jam turned out impossibly rich and utterly sweet – it tastes like the essence of strawberries.  I slathered it on fresh bread with butter and sea salt as a side to scrambled eggs – perfection.  The rhubarb jam I am envisioning in savory applications; as a condiment for pork (as suggested by Leite’s Culinaria) or on a fancy grilled cheese made with sharp cheddar.  I have a whole summer to think of possibilities.

I usually make small amounts of jam at a time and store it in the fridge – it will last a couple of weeks and it doesn’t involve canning – later this summer I may tackle the canning process..

Homemade Strawberry Jam
Recipe from Leite’s Culinaria

3 ½ cups strawberries (seek out farmers market strawberries, they are far superior to what you get in the supermarket)
1 cup superfine sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Quarter the strawberries or, if they are large, cut them up into smaller chunks. Place them in a non-aluminum bowl, add the sugar and lemon juice, and toss them around to distribute everything evenly. Cover and let them rest overnight in the fridge to draw out the berries’ juices.

The next day, drain off all the liquid from the strawberries into a large heavy-bottomed jam pan or wide saucepan. Add half of the strawberries and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently until the juices are thickened somewhat, about 15 minutes. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.

Transfer the strawberry mixture in the pan to the blender and purée until smooth or pulse if you prefer your jam quite chunky. Return the mixture to the pan, add the rest of the strawberries, and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes more. To test if the jam is ready, drop a heaping teaspoonful onto a plate and slightly tilt the plate. The jam should not run off, but cling and slowly glide down. If the jam isn’t ready, put it back on the heat for a while. It should be a lovely red hue and look quite sticky.

Spoon the jam into small jars and refrigerate or spoon into resealable plastic containers and freeze. You need to keep it in the fridge and use it up fairly quickly.

Easy Rhubarb Jam
Recipe from Leite’s Culinaria

1 pound of rhubarb, trimmed, rinsed, and cut into small chunks
1 cup less 2 tablespoons sugar (the original recipe suggested 1 cup, I thought this to be 2 much and took out 2 tablespoons, I think I can dial it down more but haven’t tried yet, will report back!).
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
½ a lemon juiced

Place the fruit, sugar, water, and lemon juice in a large bowl and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

Pour the contents of the bowl into a large pit and bring to a bowl over medium-high heat.  Continue to cook, stirring the jam constantly for about 15 min.  Skim the foam from the surface as the jam cooks. 

Drop the heat to medium.  Hold the jam at a constant simmer, checking frequently to make sure the jam isn’t scorched.  After 15 minutes, check to see if your jam has set by placing a small spoonful of jam on a plate from the freezer.  The  jam is set when it holds its shape on the cool plate.  If loose, continue cooking over medium-low heat. 

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