My first project has been a recipe straight from Christine Ferber’s “Mes Confitures,” Strawberry with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper. And while Strawberry and Black Pepper is likely on its way toward cliche-dom, I thought I’d give it a go. Strawberries are ripe and in season and I have ready access to fresh mint in my kitchen. Also, it’s a pretty straight forward recipe that I have all the equipment for.
The jam, while being easy, is not quick. In fact, it’s taken me a week to get the jams right. I picked up three pints of strawberries from the farmer’s market last Tuesday night, hulled and cleaned them when I got home and started them macerating with sugar and lemon juice overnight. Ferber is insistant on using a ceramic bowl and a parchment paper lid (she’s insistant about a lot of things) and I followed her orders like a good little cook.
The next day, I poured the mixture into a large pot, brought it to a boil, simmered for five minutes (skimming all the while) and returned it to the ceramic bowl to chill overnight. This step half-cooks the berries and dissolves all the sugar crystals into the strawberry juice drawn out during maceration. It makes a gorgeous, crystal clear, ruby red syrup and the berries are just tender.
On the third, and what should have been final, day, I strained the mixture through a chinois into another pot. I chose a smaller pot this time, reasoning that it wasn’t necessary to use the large one, as I was straining out the berries. Bad idea. Because the pot was taller than it was wide, it was very difficult to keep the syrup from boiling over while reducing it to the proper consistency. The end result was that it ended up not getting reduced enough, but more on that in a minute. One I had finished reducing it, I added back the berries and added the fresh mint and black pepper, returned it all to a boil for five minutes and canned it, thinking I was done.
Well, the problem was that it didn’t set up. Watch this video to see what I mean.
Who wants strawberry soup on their bread? Not me.
So, back to the drawing board. I thought about what to do and decided to just open the jars again, strain out the berries and keep reducing the syrup. I called my personal pastry consultant, Anna, and she thought it was a good idea too.
So, I strained the berries again:
Reduced the syrup and recanned. I’m confident it’s going to work this time because there’s a lot less water in the syrup. Look at the jars cooling from the first attempt (top) versus the second (bottom) and how much water has condensed in the first picture and how there’s none in the second. Water = not setting up. You can also see that the fourth jar is gone. That’s how much water cooked off.
So, that’s the first attempt. I just need to distribute them now and see how people like them!
Up next, Ground Cherry Chamomile Jam.
Strawberries – Emerald Meadows Family Farm
Mint – My kitchen
Pepper – Matt Brown’s trip to India
Sugar – Shur Fine Cane Sugar
Lemon – Harmony Valley Fruit CSA