I almost didn’t make jam this month, which is a little crazy. Jam is my thing, and I’ve been doing something for every month of the Food In Jars monthly challenge so far. Maybe I was testing the limits of obligation, maybe it was just the business of summer and summer being busy.
At any rate, I couldn’t walk past these strawberries, lined up like juicy rubies in their clamshells, outside the metro, where the fruit is cheap but not usually this memorable. Yesterday. Yes, this jam is just 1 day old. I’m screeching into the finish line with this one, and in the midst of packing to go celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in Ottawa this weekend no less. Oh look! It’s red and white! Like I PLANNED it or something (I did not, but maybe the strawberries did O_O). Much better than a poutine donut (those fries are all wrong), this quasi-intentional celebration of Canada’s being a thing is made with the flesh and souls of hundreds of perfect tiny redolent blushing local Quebec strawberries, with a little splash of orange blossom water to make it something special.
Both strawberries and orange blossom contain the chemical methyl anthranilate, which has a fruity flavour/aroma, is used in perfume & candies & other edibles, makes for a harmonious culinary bonding, and works insanely well as a bird repellant. In case you needed any of those properties. I like (nah, love) food pairings that have chemical origins, it makes me feel slightly science-y, and dammit it just tastes good. The orange blossom definitely enhances the aroma, as well – when you stick your nose near the jam it’s like walking in a crushed and slightly sticky garden.
So, I realize this is the millionth strawberry thing so far this season, but to that I say:
- Strawberries in Quebec/Ontario/this part of town are just pretty good if you can find good ones.
- I do tend to go on berry binges. Last year was blueberry but you guys didn’t know about it because I wasn’t posting.
- THESE PARTICULAR STRAWBERRIES. were miraculous. Ridiculously twee. At the temporal height of their Proustian superpowers. I had to.
Strawberry Orange Blossom Jam
Go forth and try this jam if you’d like. You don’t have to add the extract – you could sub lime for lemon, add some herbs, once I used fresh chile, whatever you fancy, it’s a solid basic strawberry jam and creativity is fun. From my favourite (my only) jam master, Marguerite Patten.
- 2 lbs. (900 grams) strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into pieces
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- ¼ cup (60 grams) fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
Optional step: Heat oven to 200℉. Spread the sugar on a baking sheet and keep warm until ready to use.
In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the strawberries over medium heat until hot. Turn off the heat and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir with a wooden spoon, and when it’s dissolved, increase the heat to an active but not over-active boil.
(The faster the jam cooks, the better it will taste, but you definitely do not want any scorching. So a boil where you occasionally stir every few minutes across the bottom is fine.)
Put a small plate in the freezer.
Continue cooking until the consistency because syrupy and the fruit begins to break down. At this point it’s a good idea to skim off the foam – it’s better to wait until near the end of cooking so it’s thick and easy to remove. You can also add a teaspoon of butter if you’d like, for extra clarity.
When the bubbles start to stack on top of each-other and slow down slightly, it’s time to test for doneness. Turn off the heat, put a small blob of jam on your chilled plate, and when it’s cooled, push it will your finger. If it wrinkles, the jam is done. I prefer mine soft set, and I stop cooking when the wrinkles are just barely there.
Turn off the heat, and stir in the orange blossom water.
Store your finished jam in clean jars in the fridge for 6 months, or pour into hot sterilized jars and seal in a hot water bath to store indefinitely on a shelf.