Last year I pansied out on canning jam because I was intimidated by the idea of food poisoning. This year, I’m just flipping it off entirely. Canning for shelf-stability is a pretty precise science where well-tested recipes that doesn’t invite a great deal of playing around. It’s limiting, and boring, and many recipes taste pretty blah.
Maybe it’s just me, but botulism doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time. Then too, I don’t like rules. This is also why pectin isn’t one of my favourite things, but I’m learning to get along. Still… hard sets are overrated, in my humble opinion.
I’ve joined the many people singing the praises of freezer jam over canned. Because of the lesser degree of processing, the fruit flavour can be more intense and authentic. It’s not as stiff; it’s more spreadable. And best of all, because you’re not trying to create a shelf-stable product you can get a little crazy with the recipe and make a product that has a taste uniquely yours–like a strawberry jam where the sweet and tart is tempered by a rich bite of chocolate and a fruity white VQA wine.
This recipe is so good, I’ve had demands that I make it again this year. My husband’s family prefers to use strawberry jam instead of cranberry sauce with Christmas turkey, and this paired with turkey shockingly well. I have to tip my hat to Erica of Northwest Edible Life, who inspired me with this crazy concept of “wet” and “dry” zing. She’s a real pro jam maker, and much more savvy on canning than yours truly.
- 2 Lbs Strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
- 3.5 Cups of granulated sugar, plus more to taste
- 1/4 Cup lemon juice
- 3/4 Tsp dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp Riesling wine
- In a large bowl, mix the strawberries and about a half a cup of sugar. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight (or up to two days *whistles innocently*) to allow strawberries to macerate.
- Purée the strawberries for a smooth texture, or mash them manually if you prefer a slightly chunkier texture. In a large pan like a high-sided skillet or wide saucepan, mix the strawberries, lemon juice, and remaining sugar gradually. Heat over medium-low, stirring as sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium/medium high, stirring frequently, to bring the mixture to a simmer without the berry mixture scorching. Skim foam from the top periodically.
- The target is a temperature is about 220-230F... a candy thermometer is helpful, but not required. Test your jam for doneness by looking for sheeting from the spoon, and then spoon a small amount onto a chilled plate. You want to see a glossy sheen to the jam, and when you run your finger through it, the jam will remain furrowed.
- Have your clean, sterilized, heated jars and lids standing by! Once the jam is done, remove it from heat. Mix the cocoa and the Riesling together to eliminate clumps, and stir into the jam. Ladle the jam into your jars and refrigerate until cool before freezing.
A word about pectin-free – I’m not anti-pectin; I like the looser sets and the purer taste of fruit. Pectin doesn’t have to be an evil GMO product… it’s a naturally occurring polysaccharide and you can make pectin yourself. Many fruits have an abundance of naturally-occurring pectin, but strawberries do not. The set will be fairly loose unless you add a lot more sugar and/or boil the fruit down more (the recipe isn’t broken).
If a firmer set is a must for you, you can try making a little pouch of a tablespoon of lemon seeds in cheesecloth. Soak them in water overnight, and add the water and the pouch to the beginning of the boil with the sugar and lemon. It still won’t be as firm as commercial pectin, but it will not affect the taste quite as much.