Although I sacrificed my entire crop of strawberries to make the new plants stronger for next year, you most likely didn’t. (One pinches off all the first year flowers to strengthen the plant. Yes, ALL. Off with their heads, shouted I. Carnage ensued.)
But for those of you who are not the Queen of Hearts, and those finished making tarts, consider some terrific resources for making strawberry preserves. Strawberries, of all the berries, do well as freezer jam. Freezer jam tends to use less sugar and less cooking than the other versions (the pectin-free/sugar-heavy method, the pectin/sugar-heavy method,and the low-sugar/low-methoxyl-pectin (Pomona) preparations). Less cooking means a brighter color and more fruit flavor.
If you’re making a regular batch of jam, you’ll need a half-flat for the standard recipe, which usually requires four cups of crushed berries.
Consider how you’ll be using jam before you decide which method you’d like to use — low sugar or regular. I’m not hung up on eschewing pectin like others seem to be lately, especially since I use the low-methoxyl stuff which doesn’t have dextrose in it.
But I do keep in mind that if you don’t use pectin, your jam will need more sugar to set. And that can be a good idea.
Sometimes — and I’d argue always with strawberries — a higher amount of sugar actually helps bring out the fruit when you’re pairing your jam with something like buttered toast or a thumbprint cookie sprinkled with powdered sugar. Don’t trust me — taste the difference yourself. Most people take a spoonful straight and wax melodic about the fruit taste in low-sugar jam. Yes, but…
When you have both to compare, you’ll find that the fruit flavor is actually lost in the low-sugar preparation, where in the sugary jam, it can hold its own against other ingredients. Plus, the color fades rather dramatically and relatively quickly with low-sugar strawberry jam.
To make a small batch of pectin-free/full-sugar strawberry jam, watch this excellent new video from the folks at Cooking Up a Story, a video blog that features great interviews with local food movers and shakers.
And to doctor up your strawberries with surprising nuances, check out Punk Domestics’ punkberry roundup for strawberry preservation. On this aggregate blog, preservationists (including me, from time to time) post unusual recipes. For strawberries this year, I see he’s got everything from strawberry-campari to smokin’ hot chipotle-strawberry to strawberry-orange.
For the record, my own strawberry jam usually fits a floral profile (elderflower, rose geranium, mint, lavender) or a spicy profile (black pepper, allspice, balsamic, Sichuan peppercorn). I often use flavored syrups or bitters. My favorite was Sweet Cheeks pinot gris simple syrup, made by boiling down a bottle of wine with sugar until syrupy.
This year? I made Retrogrouch, he of the low-sugar diet, some low-sugar Strawberry Fleur, which had elderflowers and various scented geraniums, from the Hoods I bought in PDX a couple of weeks ago.
Which varieties of strawberries are best for jam? Check out my post here. You can mitigate the dark color issue if you choose a light berry like Bentons.
But that’s not what I’m most excited about this year. It’s green strawberries!
Green strawberries have become the darling of the chic restaurant this long, long spring in Oregon. Who knew they’d be so good with seafood?
Above, you can see two lovely savory salads with greenies. The first photo is one of the dishes at the “Hunt, Gather, Feast with Hank Shaw” dinner at Castagna I attended this weekend. (Post about the meal here!) We ate cod three ways: smoked and cured as a base, and frozen and powdered in savory creams above. Above the scoop of frozen cod cream is locally foraged pine tips. The green strawberries were just slightly sweet, so it was perfect.
But even better, I’d argue, are the pickled green strawberry – squid – turnip batons – “an obscure Italian herb” salad from Park Kitchen. Picture isn’t great because of the lighting, but you get the picture. The strawberries are slightly pickled, and the salad is dressed with a lemony buttermilk. Delicious.
I may reprise my role as the Queen of Hearts next year, too. Forget this jam stuff. Off with their immature fruits!