These luscious strawberries are the first of the season on the East End of Long Island, and if they are an indication of what's to come, we are in for a yummy crop. When I arrived at Billy Zaluski's farm stand, Billy was taking berries from the rear of his truck and placing them on the farm stand table. It was a good thing that I was having a lengthy chat with Holly, the manager of the stand, or I would have missed the berries. I bought enough for a big potful of jam and off I went feeling very happy with my purchase. They were so ripe and juicy that even my gentle handling of them didn't prevent the berries from coloring my finger tips. It's a good thing our cottage is only a short distance from the stand because I devoured an entire pint on the ride home.
When making strawberry preserves, I make it a point not to overcooking the fruits. The goal is to capture the flavor of the fruit and avoid the risk of losing the vibrant color. Strawberries have a lot of water, are low in pectin and do not thicken as well as other fruits (blueberries, apples, cranberries, etc). Pectin is a natural substance found in varying quantities in different fruits. I never add commercial pectin or thickeners. The right combination of fruit, sugar and acid are what allows the fruits to thicken. When it comes to strawberries, I add lots of lemon juice and go light with the sugar. I don't care how thick it is, runny and flavorful is my motto. You can combine other fruits which have a richer source of pectin with the strawberries to a get better gel, however, I am a purest when it comes to strawberry jam and if the berries are as stellar as these, I go with just the berries.
Makes 10 half-pints
COOKS NOTE: Refer to the "three pointers" in the recipe for Lemony- Pear Pineapple Preserves. They will tell you what equipment is needed to prepare and jar the preserves, as well as how to hot pack the jars for long term storage. I always reserve one or two jars for the refrigerator to eat right away—heat sealing the rest so they can be safely stored without refrigeration.
8 pints strawberries, hulled, rinsed, drained and cut into smaller pieces (you will have about 12 cups after cutting)
5 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
1. Combine the the strawberries and lemon juice in a nonreactive large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often, cooked for about 10 minutes.
2. Reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a low boil. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook stirring often, until the juices begin to thicken into a light bodied syrup, about 25 minutes. During the last few minutes, skim the foam from the surface of the jam.
3. Fill the clean jars and attach the lids. Process the jars for 10 minutes.
Just a reminder, click on the orange link in the COOKS NOTE above, (Lemony-Pear-Pineapple Preserves) for complete instructions on processing the jam.
SERVING SUGGESTION: Think outside the box. This Strawberry Jam is not just for breakfast, spoon it on a Buttemilk Biscuit with fresh Whipped Cream for an afternoon tea, or enjoy as a light summer dessert. You will find the recipe for the Buttermilk Biscuits and the Whipped Cream in my baking book, Sarabeth's Bakery:From My Hands to Yours, Rizzoli, 2010