Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Strawberry-Vanilla Jam

For strawberry lovers (like me), during the months of June and July you can never get enough strawberries. If you're in Quebec, luckily, you're in the right place at the right time! There's an enchanting island right next to Quebec City called Île d'Orléans. The island has a reputation for its local produce and is known as the "Garden of Quebec" ("Jardin de Québec"). At this time of the year, one of their most well-known products is strawberries. I have never seen as many strawberries anywhere else as I have here!  

Inheriting the traditional French culture, people here are big into canning. Plus, during the winter, which is so long and cold, there really isn't much local produce grown. If you want to eat seasonally and locally, summer is the best time to take advantage of all the varieties of fruits and vegetables and to preserve them.

I've always loved making my own jams. First of all, I know the ingredients I use are fresh, which is often not the case when you buy from the supermarket counter. Secondly, not only do I get to enjoy it myself, but one of my biggest pleasures is to share it with others.

I know when you see the word jam, you might be hesitant to read more, especially if you're frightened by the overly sweet store-bought jams, but I beg you to give it a chance. This is not your typical jam. I have friends who have tried it and told me that they found it definitely less sweet than usual and more straberry-ish. The only danger is since it's less sweet, you might end up eating a lot more than you should!

For this jam recipe, I add fresh vanilla bean, which gives it a unique flavor, and the flavor is what makes it a special gift. I guarantee you that when your friends and family taste this jam, they will ask you for a 2nd (and 3rd) jar!

Strawberry-Vanilla Jam (makes about 4 eight-ounce jars)

about 6 rounded C strawberries (approximately 2 lbs)

A:  1/2 C sugar, 1/2 C brown sugar
      1/4 C maple syrup
      juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 vanilla bean

B:   1 t kuzu + 1 t water (mix well)
       *If you don't have kuzu, you can easily replace it with cornstarch OR you can just leave it out

4 sterilized eight-ounce jars (see below)

1. Clean and trim the strawberries. Cut into halves and put them in a large pot with ingredients A. Let sit for 10 minutes.

2. In the meanwhile, use a pairing knife to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. As you split the bean open, thousands of tiny little seeds are exposed, then scrape out all the seeds with the tip of the paring knife. Throw both the bean and the seeds in the pot with strawberries and A.

3. Cook the strawberries over medium high heat and use a potato masher to gently press the strawberry mixture a couple of times to break them into smaller pieces. After about 30-40 minutes, turn down the heat to medium low and cook for another 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and slightly thickened. Add ingredients B and stir well. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until thick OR you can leave ingredients B to continue cooking until thick.

4. Transfer the hot cooked jam into the sterilized jars. Close the lids and place the jars upside down until the jar is completely cooled. When you check the lid, it should have no indentation and that means the jar is vacuum sealed. Store them in a cool dry place.

*The reason I'm using kuzu is because this recipe has much lower sugar content than other jam recipes, and in order to get the right texture, it would take extra long, so I use it just a little bit to help thicken it.

Sterilizing jars

1. Heat a large pot of water. Wash both lids and jars in hot soapy water, and rinse well.

2. When the pot of water comes to boil, use stainless-steel tongs to place the jars and lids in the water. Boil for 10 minutes, then take them out with the tongs and set them on a clean towel to dry.


2sisterset1cat said...

Chih, to answer your question: yes, you can certainly use blueberries instead. I've done blueberry jam, but I did not do the measurements. Try using the same amount of blueberries, but since blueberries have less water content than strawberries, you won't have to cook them as long. Good luck!

Lovely birds said...

I'm one of the friends who had her strawberry jam! Actually, I also got some tomato ketchup and pineapple jam from her!
She has a wonderful sense of cooking and always makes amazing stuff which is healthy and tasty at the same time!!
Since I know how she made it, I appreciate her sweetness (so much sweeter than the jams!) even more!
I'm looking forward to reading more her blog and wonderful recipes!
ごちそうさまでした!(Thank you for the jam and I really enjoyed it!)

2sisterset1cat said...

You're very, very welcome and it's really sweet of you to say so many wonderful things about my cooking! I'm glad you enjoyed them and now that you know how to make the strawberry jam, you'll never have to worry about running out of it! Enjoy ;)