July 02, 2011

Summer Canning: Strawberry Jam with a Thai Twist

Of all the summer fruits, strawberries always struck me as being a bit prosaic, and slightly disappointing.  Maybe I've been jaded by years of eating out of season flavourless berries, pristinely perfect under their cello wrappers, but without a smidge of sweetness. Or maybe it's the memory of those big jars of Kraft jam, brimming with sugar and big blobs of fruit that tasted like nothing resembling the real deal.

So when I started canning for the first time last year, making strawberry jam wasn't on my radar.  But the appearance two weeks ago of the season's first strawberries was pretty hard to resist, especially a flat of organcic berries from Belanger Organic Farms.  Armed with a lot of berries and eager to get the season's canning underway, I finally made my own strawberry jam, adding a bit of a Asian twist.  The results reminded me why strawberry jam is the most popular flavour by far.  And if you're not inclined to make your own, click here to read which producers are still making strawberry jam and preserves the good old-fashioned way.

Strawberry Jam with a Thai Twist
yield: 8-10 ½ pint jars

This jam calls for lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, ingredients traditionally used in Thai cuisine.  The additon of these ingredients while cooking the strawberries impacts a brightness to the jam's flavour and cuts through the sweetness.  If these ingredients aren't readily available, the jam can be made without them.

Note: If you haven't canned or made jam before, see my post on Plum Jam for a  step-by-step tutorial.

5 quarts organic strawberries
10 c sugar
1¼ c lemon juice, plus ¼ c as needed (reserve rinds and seeds)
5 fresh kaffir leaves
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and cut into four pieces

1.  Wash, hull and slice the strawberries.  Combine the berries with the sugar and lemon juice in a non-reactive pot or large bowl, and macerate for at least 4 hours at room temperature to let the flavours and juices develop.  Tie the reserved rinds and seeds in cheesecloth and set aside.
2.  Put the berries and all the juices and sugar in a large stockpot, along with the reserved lemon rind and seeds, the kaffir leaves and the lemongrass.  Bring to a boil and then to a rolling simmer, skimming off the foam as it forms.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes, until the jam reaches the jell point.  If the jam is not setting, add a little more lemon juice.
3.  Once the jam is ready, discard the kaffir, lemongrass and lemon rinds, ladle the jam into prepared jars and process for 10 minutes.  Remove from water, cool and store.

Summer's seasonal sweetness, captured to enjoy year round