Strawberry jam winner + a bonus recipe

CSA rhubarb and strawberries

We have a winner in the strawberry jam giveaway! I really do wish I could send jam to all of you, but with 55 entries, that would more than clean me out, jam-wise (I need to save a few jars to get me through the dark, frigid days of January and February). Hopefully though, the strawberry jam post has compelled some of you to make your own (you do need to act fast though, as strawberry season is short and here in Philly, it’s drawing to a close) and I firmly believe that it tastes better when you’ve made it with your own two hands. But enough with that, it’s time to announce that the lucky recipient of this truly delectable strawberry jam is comment #51, left by Rebekah Denn of Eat All About It.

In other news, as many of you know, I teach some canning classes here in Philly. Last weekend, I did a class in which we made a huge batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam. Someone asking the comments whether I’d be willing to share that recipe on the blog. Well, of course! It’s a good recipe and can be easily halved (it makes just over seven pints as written, which is a whole heck of a lot of jam) if you don’t have that much fruit. The recipe is after the jump.

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Strawberry Jam

rows of jars

Several weeks ago, I got up early on Saturday morning, collected my friend Shay(she’s my regular fruit-picking buddy) and drove half an hour out into the New Jersey countryside. We spent the rest of the morning in the field of Gaventa’s strawberry farm, crouching over the rows of plants, plucking handfuls of berries into our containers. I stopped picked only when the back of my neck had turned a bright pink (I somehow only got sunscreen on my front, it made for an entertaining burn) and the knees of my jeans were stained red from kneeling on errant berries between the rows.

foam-filled measuring cup

I brought home nearly 15 pounds of hard-earned berries (they were $1.35 a pound, I love how inexpensive things can be when you just invest a bit of your own labor). I washed and chopped nearly all of them (I kept about two quarts unchopped for plain old eating) within a couple of hours of getting them home.

I tossed approximately 10 overflowing cups of the processed berries with two cups of sugar and a broken-up vanilla bean and then tucked them into the fridge for a rest, so that they could get nice and vanilla-y. The rest I frozen in quart-sized yogurt containers, using the sugar syrup method recommended by Doris and Jilly (if you haven’t checked out that site yet, do it. There’s lots of good preserving info there).

filled jars

I actually left the strawberries in the fridge for nearly two days before I got around to making jam. When it came time to cook the berries down, I fished the vanilla pieces out (squeezing out the vanilla seeds so that the jam was beautifully flecked) and then poured the berries and all the juice they had produced into my 10 quart stainless steel pot (this stuff foams, so give yourself plenty of room). I added the rest of the sugar and then proceeded to cook the crap out of those berries (that’s the official term) in order to assure a good, jammy set.

saucer test

Of all the jams I’ve made so far this year, this one is my very favorite. There’s something special about strawberry jam and when it’s scented with vanilla and so rich in color, it’s just that much more amazing. Get yourself some strawberries and make this jam. Or, if you don’t feel like making your own batch, I do have one half pint jar to give away. Leave a comment by Friday afternoon for a chance to win.

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Using Your Preserves: Glazed Chicken

chicken prep

For the last few months, I’ve been making jam at a dizzying speed. While I hot water process most of what I make for long term storage and gifting, my fridge is still full of jars of jam (mostly half empty ones that hold the overflow from each batch). I can only eat so much jam on toast or stirred into yogurt/oatmeal and so have been taking serious measures to get a handle on my multiplying jam supply.

One tactic I employ when faced with an abundance of jam, is to encorporate it into recipes. I make thumbprint cookies, glaze fruit tarts and fill baked goods. But what to do when you can’t stand another sweet treat? Use jam to spice up your main meal!

glazed chicken

My mother has always been a devotee of the humble chicken leg and they appeared by the half dozen on our dinner table during my childhood at least once a week. She liked to bake them and would rotate through a handful of flavor enhancers, including teriyaki sauce, homemade honey mustard, good seasons italian dressing and thinned out jam.

jam-glazed chicken

Last night, I channeled her by warming up a few spoonfuls of yellow plum and ginger jam in the microwave and slathering it over two bone-in chicken breasts. Sprinkled with salt and roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes, the main course took two minutes to prep and was delicious (there was enough leftover to top our lunch salads today as well!).

jam-glazed chicken dinner

You can use just about any jam (although I find that strawberry is best reserved for toast and yogurt) as a glaze/marinade on savory items. I like plum, apricot and cherry best for chicken. A sweet/tart marmalade is nice on salmon. You could even fancy up a marinated and baked tofu with a sweet slick of fruit spread.

What’s your favorite way to use jams, jellies and preserves beyond breakfast?

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Strawberry/Raspberry Jam Winner

straw_rasp jam winner As is my norm, I’m a couple days late in announcing the winner of my latest giveway. What can I say, the weekend seems to always get away from me. The lucky winner of this jar of jam (although I must admit, this one is more sauce-like than jammy) is Lydia of The Perfect Pantry.

For those of you who did not win, take heart. There will be a fresh and tasty giveaway coming later this week, so you’ll have another chance at a jar of homemade jam.

Did anyone can anything wonderful this weekend? I made a batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam for the class at Foster’s on Saturday morning and bought plums for a batch of jam that I didn’t quite get to. Let’s here about your projects!

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Breakfast in a Jar

Yogurt, jam, oats and pecans

My co-workers are so accustomed to me pulling jars of food out of my bag, that they don’t even blink when they hear the click of glass tapping down on my desktop. I use jars to bring cereal, soup, cut veggies, sliced fruit and iced coffee to work with me (admittedly, I eat at my desk more often than I should). One of my favorite workday breakfasts is the homemade “parfait” you see above.

One of the great things about this little meal is that it takes about 30 seconds to prepare. I make it with a half cup scoop of rolled oats, 3-4 spoonfuls of plain yogurt, a pour of runny jam and a palmful of pecans. I wait to stir it until I get to work, so that the oats don’t get too soft before I’m ready to eat.

What’s your favorite workday breakfast? Extra points if you bring it with you in a jar!

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Canning Jar Safety

DSC_0066

On Monday, I wrote a post about canning in vintage jars. Tara left a comment, asking about the safety of these jars. I briefly responded to her question there, but it’s an important enough question that I wanted to make sure that the query and my answer to it got its moment in the sun.

So here it goes. These jars are not recommended by the USDA. The only home canning method endorsed by the USDA is the one that involves Ball/Kerr/Mason jars and the two-part lids. Thing is, Weck jars aren’t endorsed either and they are widely sold today and are an extremely popular style of canning jar in Europe. These vintage bailing wire jars are the functional equivalent of the Weck jars. That fact leads me to extrapolate that if you treat the vintage jars with the same safety precautions that are recommended for the Weck jars (those safety precautions come from the Weck company, not from the USDA) and check the seal after canning by lifting the jar by the lid, your canned item will be just fine. As an added precaution, I only plan on using these vintage jars to can high sugar items like jams and jellies.

The thing to remember is that the government safety precautions are written for the absolute canning novice. They want to make the canning process as safe and idiot-proof as possible. And they’re right to do so, because people have gotten sick from eating poorly canned/preserved foods. While I wouldn’t recommend that you can in vintage jars during your very first canning session, I do think that it’s a viable option as you explore and want to try other styles of jars.

However, just because I’ve offered instructions on how to do this style of canning, I do not intend to endorse other antiquated styles of food preservation. I’m not going to start sealing jars with paraffin wax (despite my father’s happy memories of licking his grandmother’s jam off of wax discs). But I will continue to can in these bailing wire glass jars, using fresh rubber seals and following safe canning procedures (making sure my jars are clean and undamaged, doing the hot water process and then testing the strength/quality of the seal once the jars are cool by lifting the jar by the lid). I like the way they look, I like how sturdy they are and I like that the only waste produced is the rubber seal. All that said, don’t do it if it makes you uncomfortable.

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