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When life gives you strawberries

May 17, 2010

If you’ve been grocery shopping in the last three or four weeks, you’ve probably noticed that strawberries are insanely cheap right now, less than $2 a pound if you know where to look. Apparently this is because abnormally cold weather made Florida’s strawberry crop arrive later than usual, at the same time as California’s, flooding the market with berries from both coasts.  Bad news for strawberry farmers, but awesome news for strawberry eaters.

I recently read through the archives of Orangette after finding Molly Wizenberg’s last couple of columns in Bon Appetit, mentioning people I was pretty sure I knew from college — I mean, it’s not like the country is bursting with percussionists named Bonnie and flutists named Gratia. So I looked up Orangette strictly as a fact-finding mission, but by the time I had learned enough to confirm my suspicions (i.e., that the author’s husband went to Oberlin the same years I did, and while I don’t believe we ever met, we clearly had some friends in common), I was also pretty much hooked on Molly’s friendly, personable writing style and the plethora of tempting recipes she offered.

So I’ve been reading Orangette pretty comprehensively, and I came across this astonishingly simple-looking jam recipe. I’d always assumed that jam-making was a) a prohibitively arduous, time-consuming process, and b) something you only attempted if you had gallons of produce about to spoil if you didn’t take drastic action. But this recipe deals in manageable quantities and calls for a measly three ingredients (fruit, sugar, lemon juice), making it something that even my mother’s kitchen-phobic cousin Joyce could, theoretically, handle.

Since I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter (well, OK, I only used 3/4 of the sugar), I see no need to retype it here, but I will offer a couple of tips about strawberry jam in particular. First, you’re going to need to hull those berries — that is, remove the leaves and any tough white flesh around them. Alton Brown recommends the star tip from a pastry bag as the ultimate hulling appliance, so if I ever make jam in the kitchen of my mother, a champion cake decorator*, I’ll know just what to use. But for those of us who lack that particular tool, I think a teaspoon works fine. Maybe a half-teaspoon if your berries are small. Second, unless you are the sort of person who likes giant globs of strawberry in your jam, you will probably want to slice the berries, perhaps with an egg slicer. I found this produced much smaller solid bits, enough to remind you that you’re eating something that came from an actual piece of fruit, but still spreadable and easy to swallow.

bubble, bubble

I ended up with two and a half 8-oz. jars of jam rather than the four to six jars advertised, so this was not as hugely economical an undertaking as I’d imagined, but maybe that’s just because strawberries aren’t as dense as some other fruits. Jacob and I polished off the half-jar alongside a batch of French toast — it was, of course, necessary to test the product before delivering a jar and some of these scones as a belated Mother’s Day gift. I am happy to report that it tastes exactly like strawberry jam.

I can’t wait for peach season so I can work on a ginger-peach version. Meanwhile, I’ve also been thinking about a strawberry salsa, essentially your normal salsa fresca or pico de gallo-type ingredients, just with strawberries instead of tomatoes. I’ll probably try that out this week, as long as the prices hold.

* I’m not kidding. When I turned 7 I had an Australia-themed birthday party, and she produced a sheet cake adorned with two kangaroos. Last year I said “Surprise me,” and she came up with a giant three-dimensional teapot, complete with blue fondant handle and spout.

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2 comments

  1. This jam is delicious.


  2. You’re welcome. And peaches are on sale now too, so you may get to try that version soon.



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