Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summertime Strawberry Jam

One often thinks of orchards only in the fall, when apples are being picked and pressed into apple cider, and hay rides and pumpkin patches need to be explored with cold hands and hearts warmed by the festivities. However, the springtime is also a great time to visit an orchard because many times they have berries and tender spring vegetables, ripe for the picking. I visited early last week and walked away with a most peculiar but ultimately pleasing purchase - organic strawberries. Usually not my M/O, but I simply couldn't resist.

Strawberries, fresh from my favorite orchard in Lexington, still warm from the sun.
It is a wonder any of these beauties made it home; I swear I couldn't keep my hands out of them, they were that deliciously tender and explosively sweet. Their little seeds never lodged themselves in my teeth like their more annoying commercial cousins tend to do, and they had the most delicate and fanciful outer skins that almost melted on your tongue, making it difficult to just eat one. I had never had strawberries as wonderfully provocative as these, I simply couldn't get enough.  

Besides eating all of them as quickly as possible, what was I going to do with these little bundles of sunshine? They were altogether too tender to hold over for the next week and savor a few a day, so why not preserve them? Strawberry jam it is!

It really did hurt to have to dismember these - more than a few were spared their fate in the pot and made a B-line for my mouth instead.

To really drive home the summertime flavor, I added lemon zest and stirred in a splash of really good vanilla extract right at the end, just to round out the flavor. The zest was refreshing and indicative of strawberry lemonade, and the vanilla added a subtly sweet, holistic flavor, which is completely devoid in a standard store-bought jam.

Big jars of this jam was a necessity, for sharing, gifting, and one partial one for me to savor.

Lemon, Vanilla, and Strawberry Jam

2 2/3 cups fresh strawberries, washed and cut in half
3 TB Real Fruit Pectin
2 cups sugar
3 TB fresh lemon zest
2 TB good vanilla extract

Place strawberries in a large saucepan and crush with your hands (you can also use a potato masher, but really, use your hands.) Add fruit pectin, stirring to completely combine, and bring to a full roiling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir the entire time. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve, boil for one minute, stirring, then remove from heat. Cool slightly, stir in lemon zest. Cool almost completely, then add the vanilla (that way the vanilla won't cook off from the residual heat in the jam.) You can now either can in prepared jars and seal, or, if you are like me, just place in sterilized jars and place in the refrigerator to consume within a week. (Trust me, it won't last that long.)

Side note: I have adopted a family of geese (and by adopt I mean gawk at every time I work in the downstairs kitchen...) Aren't they precious! They live at Woodford Reserve, back behind the aging houses, in the creek that runs behind the distillery, and I feel like they are mine because I have watched the four babies grow up from eggs just a month ago. So cute!!! I have yet to name them, not for lack of trying, but because I need the perfect names for such cute babies (while the goose parents just stare at me daringly.)

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