Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

May 10, 2011

Yo! This Is My Jam!

Tis the season for berries, & stone fruits, & fresh herbs - oh my!

This is the start of my favorite time of year for fruit, and I'm chomping at the bit to make all sorts of fresh & easy desserts with them. My hands-down winner for best fruit is the apricot, but they're not quite ready yet, so today we talk strawberries. (The photos are from a later batch made with apricots. The process is the same with most fruits.)

For Easter my Mom went a little nuts and bought enough strawberries to fill a field. They were ripe & beautiful, and two days later they were on life support. Knowing that freezing them was just a cryogenic delay from composting, I suggested we make jam.

This pectin-free recipe works with just about any fruit, and can be elevated with complimentary herbs such as basil, lemon verbena, and mint. The process allows the fruit to set naturally, and best of all, you can skip the tedious "canning" process, and just keep the finished product in the refrigerator.

Equal weights of (cleaned - no pits, etc.) fruit & sugar results in a very thick, sweet jam. If you prefer, you can use any ratio between that and 65% fruit to 35% sugar, yielding a much more fluid jam. So far I've only made this with refined sugar, but will be trying a more natural option next, and will report back.

Slightly underripe fruit has more natural pectin, and ripe, or overripe fruit has more sugar, so choose your sugar percentage accordingly.

To make things a little easier for you, here's a recipe including ratios of fruit to sugar (45% being ideal).

2 1/4C sugar (50% ratio); 2C sugar (45% ratio); 1 3/4C sugar (40% ratio); 1 1/2C sugar (35% ratio)
1 pound of cleaned fruit

To this you can add 1T of lemon juice, and 1-2t chopped fresh herbs. I happen to think that basil works well with strawberries, and lays a foundation of complexity for other recipes such as my Strawberry Jam Buttermilk Ice Cream. You can also double this recipe if you wish. 1 pound of fruit should yield about 1 1/2 pints of jam.

In a large, heavy-bottom pot, stir together your fruit & sugar until combined. Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fluid. Bring to a boil, stirring to avoid sticky spots. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, and set aside for at least 8 hours to macerate. If you need to, after 8 hours you can refrigerate it before the next step.

After the 8-hour resting period, it's time to cook down small amounts of the jam. This will further thicken the sugar & pectin, creating the jam-like consistency you want.

In an ~8" nonstick skillet, add 2C of the fruit & liquid, & cook on medium-high heat until it thickens slightly & slides off the spoon/spatula in sheets (about 5 minutes). Ladle the jam into containers, & refrigerate once cool.

Even if I'm not sealing the jars, I like to use glass jars, as they protect the flavor better than plastic, and look nice when given as gifts. Just store the jam in the fridge and eat it within a few months. If you prefer, you can jar the jam according to manufacturer instructions & store at room temperature.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line, and I'll do my best to help you out.

Adapted from recipes by Sylvia Thompson.

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