Made it back home, happily against storm traffic making its way eastward across the country. By the time I landed in Eugene, 13 hours later, having survived the cattle cars and two layovers of 3 hours each, I was ready to never travel again. And you know what? I’m not travelling for many, many months and I couldn’t be happier. My time in Buffalo was fantastic; it’s a fascinating city and I felt welcomed by a warm community and enriched by its history and generosity. I spent a month and a half working on my next two academic projects, researching rare books and periodicals. Now it’s time to sort through the material, head back to the library, and figure it all out. Home sweet home.
Needless to say, I haven’t been doing too much cooking. I did have access to a kitchen in Buffalo, and managed some creative grocery-buying, so I haven’t stopped *thinking* about food, but it’s going to be a while before get back in the swing of things. There’s so much to catch up on…I think I’m going to start posting shorter blog entries for a while.
Thought I’d start by making a batch of elderflower strawberry jam to exercise my jammin’ fingers. I used a new varietal, Puget Summer, and a flat that was looking a little beat up. Wanted to get a batch done before Saturday night’s going away party for a friend.
Well, I came down with a case of floating fruit syndrome, as you can see above. This happens quite a bit to novice jammers (and, obviously, not so novice jammers) with light fruit, such as strawberries and raspberries. Some of the causes: not cooking the fruit enough, not mashing it enough, or the fruit wasn’t completely ripe. In my case, the strawberries were perfectly ripe, perhaps overripe. I like bigger chunks of fruit, so I’m guilty of not mashing it enough, and with Pomona pectin, one only cooks the fruit a few minutes after the boil, so yes, probably not cooked “enough.”
Solutions? First, one needs to let the cooked jam sit for a few minutes before ladling it in to the prepared jars. Some suggest tipping over the jars once processed, to redistribute the fruit as it cools. I’m not a big fan of this procedure, since it smears jam over the top of the lid. You could also use low, squat, wide-mouth half-pint jars for jam to disguise the fruit floating issue that becomes much more apparent with a long, skinny jam jar (I usually do this, ha!). Other people add a smidge of butter, but I dunno. I wonder about safety here, plus it sounds kind of gross.
The best way I’ve found to address the problem is to make no-pectin jam, which usually involves macerating the raw fruit in sugar overnight. The fruit becomes heavier as it soaks in the sugar. Plus, you cook no-pectin jam much longer than the pectin-added stuff I’ve never had problems with no-pectin jam fruit floating. Of course, no-pectin jam contains about 3x the sugar as my Pomona jam, so there’s the trade-off.
But the best solution?
Open a jar, mix contents with spoon, serve. Life is too short to worry about floating fruit.