When I’m cooking in the kitchen, whether it be a simple dinner or an elaborate dessert, I tend to imagine myself a culinary artist. As I spin the spatula around the hot pan, questions dance through my mind as to the best way to paint an edible picture. What color would go best on this canvas? Green you say? Ok then, let’s toss in some spinach. You’re feeling the need for texture to add a little more interest? Would cooked brown rice suffice? I completely understand. the subject’s not spicy enough for you; a pinch of crushed red pepper it is. With a little give and take, the perfect work of taste-tempting art is almost always achieved.
I especially feel this way when making strawberry jam. One simple ingredient change can make a subtle taste difference in your spread that can alter the entire mood of the mouth feel completely. I make large vats of this fruit flavored treasure every spring and each time I make it, I like to experiment a bit with different flavors. Last year I used pomegranate juice. This year I took a bit of a different turn and tried champagne, oranges and a hint of mint. And then for fun, I made another batch and substituted red wine for the champagne. It was amazing how similar and yet, how unique the two jams were. It just goes to show how a simple artistic alteration of one key ingredient can make all the difference.
If you’re as heavy into strawberry season as we are here, then I’m guessing you’re ready to can some jam. Let’s do this.
Start out with a large pile of freshly picked strawberries. Here’s a bucket of ours from a recent visit to the pick your own farm.
Roughly chop them up and dump the lot into a dutch oven along with a little champagne, some fresh orange juice and, if desired, a few sprigs of mint. It’s not in the picture below, but I also added the zest into that fruity mess for added citrus punch.
Heat up the lot of it, covered, until the strawberries just begin to bubble. It’s at this point that you’ll remove the cover, drop the heat down a click and add in some sugar and lemon juice. You should also plan to fish those mint stems back out and dispose of them in a way that works best for you.
Let the jam cook down for a good 45 minutes to an hour uncovered, until you can feel it beginning to thicken when you slide your spoon across the bottom of the pan. I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring this out just by sound and sight, but if you need an extra aid, simply freeze a plate for a minute or two, drop a little of the hot jam on it and place back in the freezer for a subsequent minute. If, when you pull it out, it’s the consistency you like, then you’re done. If not, cook a bit more until it is.
At this point you’re ready to fridge, can and eat your fruit filled masterpiece. Spread on toast, add to desserts or create a new and delicious way to enjoy it. Whatever you do, just be sure you save a knife’s worth for me. What’s your favorite way to make and eat strawberry jam?
Champagne Strawberry Jam
Yield: 4 small ball jars worth of jam
Total Time: 2 hours
8 Cups Strawberries, Cut into Chunks
1 Naval Orange, Juiced and Zested
1 Cup Champagne*
5-6 Mint Springs (Optional)
2 1/2 Cups White Sugar
1 Lemon, Juiced
1/2 tsp Salt
* For red wine jam simply substitute 1 cup of red wine in place of the champagne.
Drop the strawberries, orange juice/zest and the champagne into a large dutch oven. Heat up, covered, on medium high until the strawberries just begin bubble.
Uncover, turn the heat down to medium and roughly smash the berries with a potato masher. Add in the sugar, lemon juice and salt.
Let cook uncovered for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the mixture begins to thicken. You can test it by placing a plate in the freezer for a couple minutes, bringing it out and dropping a spoonful of jam on it and then placing the plate back in the freezer for another minute or two. If the consistency looks right when you pull it back out, you're good to go.
Place in a closed jar in the fridge for a maximum of one month or hot water can to preserve for later use.
Based on 60 Servings
Calories 42.5, Total Fat 0.1 g, Saturated Fat 0.0 g, Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g, Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g, Cholesterol 0.0 mg, Sodium 19.7 mg, Potassium 38.7 mg, Total Carbohydrate 10.2 g, Dietary Fiber 0.5 g, Sugars 9.4 g, Protein 0.1 g