Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Jam

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Strawberries are here! I’m not talking store-bought, either. I’m talking the hand-picked kind. After three years of being in a Asia, I have missed the juicy unbeatable taste of a handpicked strawberry. There is NOTHING like it. NOTHING. Just try and prove me wrong.

So, if you live in an area where strawberries are in season right now, and you are not bound to your house for whatever reason, you have no excuse to not be out at a u-pick patch right now. Just consider the sweat that drips down your back and between your boobs (oh, yea) a small price to pay for what’s to come when you’re out there picking. What is it that is so worth having swoobs for, you say?

Jam.

I think, or at least I hope, that those of you that have made your own jam before know what I’m talking about. There is nothing more satisfying than sustaining yourself with hand harvested produce that magically turns into preserves of any kind, frozen or canned. You just can’t beat it, folks. There is infinite beauty in having a true connection with your food, and there is no closer connection you can have beyond understanding what it means to nurture, harvest and make it yourself.

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If there is anything you need to know before making jam, just know this: it is a process, but it is a simple process once you’ve done it a couple times. If you respect the process, you will be eating jam for months to come with a smug look on your face because you’ll know that you made that jam, damn it. Yes, you did!

Also. You’re going to get burned at one point or another. It may be from water, spitting strawberry goo or hot metal/glass. Exciting, right? It’s a dangerous sport for those brave enough to get involved. Once you’ve finished the process and you hear the little pings from the lids sealing themselves after you’ve canned the jam, you will then have a real appreciation for what you just did. That is the true glory of canning food to me.  In fact, it is one of life’s greatest yet simplest pleasures, and it will never get old.

Okay, if that didn’t pump you up for the sport that is canning, channel the warrior within and begin!

This recipe won’t be as straight-forward as others so, stick with me. It was passed down to me via my grandmother, and to avoid confusion, I’ll do my best to break it down.

**** If you’re not into canning, you could easily just skip the hot water bath and send your jam straight to the freezer. ****

 

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This is the foam that I skimmed off the top and put in a little jar in the fridge.

 

What you’ll need:

10 c. washed and halved fresh strawberries

6 T. no sugar added pectin (the pink box if you’re using Sure-Jell)

2 T. normal pectin (the yellow box if you’re using Sure-Jell)

4 c. caster sugar

1/4 c. lemon juice (from the bottle)

1 T. vanilla paste (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)

Equipment (you can buy most of this as a kit in the store.)

Canning forceps

canning funnel

9   8 oz. jars with new lids and rings (rings don’t have to be new)

1 large sturdy pot (16 – 20 quart)

1 medium size stew pot (about half the size of your large pot)

A round cooking rack that fits inside pot (or your pot may come with something that you can use to help elevate the jars from direct heat)


 

Got that? Good.

Step 1: wash, hull and halve your strawberries until you reach 10 c. worth. Then, blitz them in a food processor in batches until they are mashed, but chunky. I tend to just pulse it lightly until they’re just right. You’re not looking for them to be liquidy per say. When you’re done, you should end up with 6 c. mashed berries. Now add the berries to your medium pot.

Step 2: Sterilize your jars. It doesn’t matter if your jars are old or new, wash them with soap and water very well. Place them on a baking sheet with a lid so they don’t slide off, and keep them in the over at 200 F until you’re ready to use them.

Step 3: Fill your big pot with risen rack at the bottom about 3/4 of the way and bring water to boil. This can be done while you work. It does not have to be boiling before you begin.

Step 4: Measure out your sugar and set aside. Take 1/8 c. of the measured sugar and set aside.

Step 5: Combine the 1/8 c. of sugar with the pectin in a small bowl and then add to the berries in the medium pot. Stir and bring to a strong boil (can’t be stirred away). This should take about 10 minutes.

Step 6: Add the lids to a small pan and heat the water to very hot, but don’t boil. Let them sit until you’re ready to use them.

Step 7: Once your initial berry mixture comes to a boil, add the remaining sugar. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. When your mixture reaches a full rolling boil, boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat.

Step 8: Skim any foam that formed during the boil and put it in the fridge. This can be your test to ensure the jam will set or you can eat it right away. Once you’ve skimmed the top, stir in the vanilla.

Step 9: Transfer the hot liquid to a large measuring cup. You can do it in two batches if you want. Remove the jars from the oven and place your canning funnel in the first jar. Fill until you reach the bottom of the funnel. Go to the next jar. Once you’ve filled your jars, wipe the edges if you’ve dripped any, take your lids out of the hot water and place them on top of the jars. With an oven mitt or balls of steel, grab the now smoldering jars and place the rings over the lids and seal them tight enough that you cannot twist them anymore.

Step 10: By this time, your water should be really boiling. Take your canning tongs and place half the jars in the pot, cover and boil for 10 minutes (If you live at an average medium altitude. If you are lower, it will take less time, about 5 minutes. If you are higher, it will take more time, about 15 minutes.). When they’re done, remove them and place them on a baking sheet in a flat place and wait for the ping! You’ll hear it, most likely, within a couple hours or less.

Step 11: High-five yourself for being awesome and motivated.


 

Okay, there are a few questions that you may have, and hopefully, this might help!

Can you reuse lids you already have?

Yes and no. It’s always best to get new lids because once they’ve been sealed they tend not to lose the impression for the next batch. That said, you can boil them to help loosen the impression and make the rim ‘gummy’ again. If you do, ensure that your jars are truly sealed once you’ve finished.

Can I use regular pectin instead of a combination?

I don’t mess with a good thing, but if you use all regular, you will have to up your sugar amount to about 6 or 7 c.

Do I have to sanitize my jars?

Uh, yes!!!! The rule of thumb is to add hot into hot. So, that’s why it’s important to heat your jars before you add hot jam. If you don’t sterilize, you risk bacteria and mold. Need I say more?

What if I don’t hear a ping from my jars or my jam turns out runny?

There are ways of fixing this, and a quick google will solve it for you. Don’t worry. If your jam is still runny, it could be because a number of things, but most likely because you’ve overcooked your pectin. It’s a moody ingredient and doesn’t like to surpass that 1 minutes boil point.

Why bottled lemon juice?

My grandmother always told me that the ph level is more reliable than fresh. Again, I’m not messing with a good thing.

 

 

 

 

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Raspberry & Lemon Bakewell Tart

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In honor of the Great British Bakeoff’s alternative ingredient episode I watched last night, I made frangipane. Just hearing the word you might think I’ve whipped up something with mushrooms in it, but no. In fact, it’s a tart with almond creme and jam. Oh la la.

I originally tested a pear and ginger version of this recipe and didn’t end up posting it because of how ugly it was in pictures. It tasted great, but it looked like a door mat. In an attempt to save my ego, I made a comeback with this little beauty. It’s a slice of summer in the midst of winter. You could even consider it a low carb-ish dessert with the main ingredient being almond flour.

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I’ll give you a little trivia I recently learned before you make this, too. You can even consider it a health advisory. The most common allergy that people develop as adults is a nut allergy. Maybe worth a check before you go suffocate yourself with this tart.

If you’re not keen on lemon and raspberry just try another combination. Pear and ginger or rhubarb and vanilla. Make what you like and go nuts (get it?).

**Recipe adapted from original at Williams & Sonoma**

PASTRY:

1 egg yolk

2 T. ice cold water or more

1 t. vanilla extract

1⁄3 c. sugar

1 1/4 c. AP flour

1⁄4 t. salt

8 Tbs. cubed cold unsalted butter

375° F / 190° C

  1. In a food processor combine the dry ingredients and egg. Add cubed butter and pulse the blade until mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  2. Add cold water until dough combines and begins to form a ball.
  3. Chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll the dough out into a large round and place inside tart tin.
  5. Use a rolling pin to trim the edges and then push the dough to the sides to help raise the remaining edges slightly above the tin.
  6. Place a piece of foil or parchment paper over the dough and then pour baking beans over the top.
  7. Blind bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

FRANGIPANE FILLING:

2 T. unsalted butter

1 1⁄2 c. almond flour

2⁄3 c. sugar

2 eggs

1⁄2 t. lemon extract

1⁄4 t. salt

1 t.  grated lemon zest

1/4 c. raspberry jam

handful of ripe raspberries

1/2 c. apricot jam

375° F / 190° C

  1. Melt butter in small pan on the stove until slightly brown in color. Set aside for step 2.
  2. In mixer combine all ingredients except the raspberries.
  3. On the bottom of the blind-baked crust spread the jam evenly. In spoonfuls add the frangipane mixture careful not to combine the jam and almond mixture together.
  4. Top with raspberries and bake 40-45 minutes until golden.
  5. Gently warm the apricot jam until smooth and brush over the tart for a glossy shine.

Baked Camembert & Sweet Onion Chutney

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Happy New Year!

Let’s celebrate with cheese. I can almost hear the nods of approval. You can thank me later. With all this jetlag after flying back from Thailand and jelly arms from a tough workout yesterday, I’m keeping it simple again. Simple and delicious.

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Baked camembert is a regular thing for me. It’s one of those lazy day snacks that you pop into the oven because it takes no effort all. Throw some cubes of bread on a plate for dipping and voilà. For those moments when ambition strikes, however rare they may be, it’s nice to liven up the party with this little number. Cue the chutney.

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When I traveled to India and Nepal last year I ate my fair share of chutneys. So, I’d like to think I know a good chutney when I taste one. Plus, sweet and savory anything is the ultimate combo. There are about a million ways to use chutney, especially one as versatile as this. You can spice it up (or not) to your liking. Best of all, it will improve your sandwiches, tarts, eggs, toast, crackers, pies, basically everything. Make it. Make it now.

The recipes for both the cheese and chutney are below.

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SWEET ONION CHUTNEY: (makes about 1 1/2 c.)

6 red onions

2 T. olive oil

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

1/4 c. red wine vinegar

1 bay leaf

  1. Put olive oil in a large pan on medium-low heat.
  2. Slice the onions into thin half-moon slices and put into the pan. Cook for 20 minutes or until soft.
  3. Once they’re soft, add the sugar, vinegar and bay leaf. Stir until completely mixed.
  4. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the mixture becomes sticky and thick, much like a jam.
  5. Sterilize a jar (clean and then heat in oven at 350F for 10 minutes), seal it, and store in a cool place. It should keep for about 4-5 months in the fridge in an air-tight container.

 

BAKED CAMEMBERT

1 wheel of good quality camembert cheese

2 T. olive oil

1/4 t. Thyme (fresh or dried)

2 cloves of garlic

400° F / 205° C

  1. Chop garlic roughly.
  2. Slice a grid into the top of the cheese and wedge the garlic pieces into the cuts.
  3. Sprinkle thyme on top of the cheese and then drizzle oil.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes on a cookie sheet prepared with parchment paper or in the cheese’s original wooden box if possible. When finished the inside should ooze out as soon as you cut into it.