What's jam? What's the difference between jam and preserves? Does it matter when it tastes so good?
Well, yes it does matter—to me anyway, if only because I'm a fan of specialized vocabulary, technical lingo and jargon of all stripes. And I spent the weekend in the kitchen making three very different kinds of strawberry sweet preserves to demonstate the differences.
But we're not not gonna get into all that right now, because the evening has drained to its dregs and someone, somewhere needs a really good strawberry jam recipe right now. This BASIC STRAWBERRY JAM will leave the whole house smelling like a childhood memory, even though it uses 1/2 the sugar of a traditional farmhouse jam. It's new-and-improved old-fashioned.
Please note that because of its reduced sugar content, it may be less shelf stable over the long haul—I'll let you know in a year—and it will certainly mold more quickly once the jar has been opened. Plan to use an opened jar within ten days to two weeks. The payoff is that your jam will taste clear and direct. The old commercial said, "Tastes great, less filling." I say "Great fruit, less sugar."
These are Albion variety strawberries from Finley Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The relevant detail, however, is that they were the smallest berries I could find. Avoid those giant, shiny Pamela Anderson berries that are the size of a baby's fist and as crisp as an apple. Those are made for the eyes, not the palate.
BASIC STRAWBERRY JAM
2 1/2 pounds strawberries, about 3 punts (little baskets) from the market
2 cups granulated sugar (about 14 oz)
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
zest from 1/4 meyer lemon
1 Quickly rinse berries. Do not soak or waterlog!
2 Strawberries require minimal prep: remove cap and quarter each berry.
3 Put trimmed berries in a bowl with lemon juice, zest and sugar, then stir.
4 Macerate for an hour, allowing the sugar to draw water from the berries.
5 Turn fruit-sugar mixture into a preserving pan and bring to a boil over high flame, stirring constantly. Once it reaches a full, rolling boil—which is to say, a boil that can't be stirred down—moderate heat just enough to prevent a boil-over. Without ceasing to stir for a moment, continue boiling until the mixture is reduced to the gell point. It should take less than 10 minutes. Once sufficiently reduced, skim and ladle into prepared half-pint jars. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
3 x 8 oz