Strawberry Jam-Off, Contestant One

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When I was growing up on the Enumclaw plateau in Washington state, we used to head down the hill to the Green River Valley for “U-Pick” strawberries. My mother, brother, sister, and I would pick away, filling flats, and then head back up the hill to wash, hull, and jam the beautiful jewels. My mom made a great freezer jam…more on that later. This summer burst of energy was rewarded in the dark, blustery winter when we would thaw a container of jam and spread it on homemade scones, or open our lunch box to find a PB&J oozing with summer.

Listen: Return to the mid-60’s with The Lovin’ Spoonful, particularly dig into the tracks titled “Daydream,” “Jug Band Music,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” “Do You Believe in Magic,” and “Nashville Cats.”

Sip: I recommend staying with ye olde standards here…a hot cup of English Breakfast tea with scones and jam or a big glass of milk with PBJ. Both stay in the wings and allow the sweetness of those summer berries to take the stage.

I haven’t made jam in years, but the strawberries from our new neighborhood produce store, Stehly Farms Market, smelled like those summer picking sessions along the Green River, so the next thing I know I’m calling my mom asking for the recipe, buying jam jars, and hulling berries. Mom said her recipe used pectin, and I thought I would try a small batch without first, so I found this recipe from Ina Garten and gave it a whirl.

Please note, I did not preserve the jam. I poured it into clean jars and refrigerated it to be used within two weeks. I gave a jar to my dad and some nieghborhood friends and invited them to vote in the Strawberry Jam-Off.

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2 cups sugar
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
(I used Meyer lemon because our neighbor’s tree was drooping under the weight, and I love the flavor.)

1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

(my adaptation of Ina’s because I found her direction not specific enough, especially for a beginner)
Prepare jars or containers on a paper towel on the counter near your work space. This small-batch recipe yields two pints. Have a ladle handy. Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy-bottom sauce-pan and heat on low to dissolve the sugar. Bring ingredients to a rolling boil and boil for approximately 10 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 220 degrees F (105 C for the rest of the world). Carefully pour the hot sweetness into jars or containers. Cool, label the jars with today’s date, and then refrigerate. Use within two weeks.

If you want to truly preserve the jam, it’s not that difficult. I’ll include directions on the next Jam-Off post. I recommend finding your favorite recipe first, which is the point of this Jam-Off.

Feedback from the jam gallery on this recipe: too lemony, loved the big berry pieces

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