Midnight Jam: Holding berries ’til tomorrow

31 08 2009
fresh strawberries
Image by alisharusher via Flickr
Last week I found myself with both fresh apricots and fresh strawberries, two jams to make and not enough hours in the day (or night.) The apricots became Apricot Chipotle Jam (see my post on August 28.) The strawberries weren’t quite ripe, so I held them a day. But yesterday as I was turning off kitchen lights for the night, the unmistakable perfume of ripe strawberries reminded me that two quarts of berries were about to go ’round the bend from appetizing to moldy. I had to move quickly (even if it was nearly midnight.)
I’d set aside jars for strawberry balsamic jam, but I wanted to do the work Sunday afternoon, not Saturday night. Enter one of my favorite kitchen tools — the zip-top plastic bag – and a great technique called maceration. Maceration extracts the juices from ripening fruit while ‘holding’ it until you actually have time to use it. For this maceration, a bit of sugar is all I used, but alcohol or flavored liqueur certainly wouldn’t hurt! 😉
I washed, hulled and quartered my berries, and loaded them into a gallon-size zip-top bag. When about half the berries were in the bag, I sprinkled them with two tablespoons of granulated sugar. After hulling and bagging the last of them, I sprinkled another 2 tablespoons of sugar on top (4 tablespoons or a quarter-cup of sugar all together.) Then I zipped the top, shook the bag gently to cover the berries with the sugar and popped the package into the refrigerator.
On Sunday afternoon, I prepared my containers and spent a half-hour making juicy Strawberry Balsamic jam. White balsamic vinegar adds a bright, slight tartness to the jam which intensifies the berries’ natural sweetness.
This jam works equally well as freezer jam, or jam processed in a boiling water bath. Since I was already trying to save time, I made freezer jam: cooking time = less than half an hour.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

(makes 7 – 8 cups, or 7 – 8 eight-oz. jam jars)
4 cups mashed strawberries and juice (from 2lbs. of cleaned, hulled and quartered whole strawberries)
6 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 box Sure-Jell Pectin for Less or No-Sugar-Needed Recipes *
3 cups sugar, divided into 2 3/4 c. and 1/4 c. portions
1 cup water
  • Wash, hull and quarter the berries. Layer them in a gallon zip-top bag with 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of granulated sugar. Refrigerate to allow the berries to macerate in the sugar for up to 24** hours.
  • Crush the strawberries and juice, one layer at a time, in a large mixing bowl. (I like to use my Pyrex(R) 2-qt. measuring cup/bowl for this job.) You can also press the berries through a food mill to remove some of the seeds, and create a finer pulp for the jam.
  • Mix the balsamic vinegar into the berries, and add water if needed to measure at least 4 cups of berries and juice.
  • Prepare your containers and lids by washing them in warm, soapy water; rinse and hold them in boiling water until ready to fill. If you have a dishwasher, you can prepare containers and hold them on the ‘dry’ cycle while you cook the sugar and pectin.
  • Mix together the sugar, granulated pectin and water in a 2qt. saucepain. Using medium-heat and stirring constantly to prevent scorching, bring the mixture to a boil that can’t be stirred down.
  • Boil 1 minutes; remove the sugar-pectin mixture from heat and stir immediately into the strawberries and juice. Stir for 1 minute, or until the sugar-pectin mixture is dissolved into the berries and juice.
  • Ladle the jam into clean, prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace if you intend to freeze the jam.

* If you use a different type of pectin, follow the general directions for strawberry freezer jam on the brand that you use.

** The 24-hour ‘resting’ period is flexible. If you are processing your jam, you can skip it. If it’s very humid on jam-making day, refrigerate as soon as the jam cools.

To freeze: Cap the containers and allow them to set for 24 hours at room temperature to jell. Confirm the set and freeze, or refrigerate and use within 3 weeks.

To process: Cap the containers and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath, according to the directions from the USDA Canning and Preserving Guide.

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