Monday, April 16, 2007
i failed at jam
So, um. I’m a Star Wars geek. not crazy geeky in the way that i go to Star Wars conferences dressed up like boba fett, but i know all first three movies by heart. Well, actually, episodes 4, 5, and 6, if we want to be technically correct here. One of my top 5 favorite movies of all times is The Empire Strikes Back. But i digress. What the heck does Yoda have to do with cooking, you ask?
As yoda once said, “Do – or do not. There is no Try”.
This applies to all walks of life, not just trying to haul your spaceship out of Yoda’s front yard swamp and giving up because you think he's asked you to do the impossible.
So here i am, sometimes Doing, sometimes Not Doing. Don't tell yoda this, but sometimes i just Try; and when this happens, sometimes i just fail miserably. Like the strawberry jam i attempted to make last weekend.
I’ve made jam before, but that was years ago; and now that i live in The South where we have a pretty good abundance of fresh fruit early on in the Spring, i decided to try my hand again (see, there i go again with the trying).
I sort of half-assed modified a strawberry jam recipe from Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures book. The recipe was meant for a smaller variety of strawberry which isn't indigenous to the US. The recipe called for 2 ¾ lbs of strawberries and (if i remember correctly) 3 cups of sugar (it might have been a bit more – i made this last weekend and man i would really love to remember numbers) and the juice from one lemon (for pectin). The process takes 3 days, and i know it seems like a long time but honestly, if you think about it, it makes total sense.
Day one: macerate whole berries with sugar and lemon juice (after cutting tops off of berries). Let sit in fridge overnight.
Day two: strain liquid from berries, bring liquid to a simmer on stove, add berries, put back in container and let sit in fridge overnight.
Day three: strain liquid from berries, bring to a boil on stove until it reaches 212 degrees F (can’t remember exact temperature), add berries, bring back to temp, check for set, then put into preserving jars and seal immediately.
So what did i do wrong? What to do differently next time?
1. Well, i checked the set several times, and it seemed ready; but turns out it wasn’t. because i adapted the recipe for a smaller berry to accommodate the Large American We are Bigger and Better Berry, perhaps i ought to have added more lemon juice.
2. I ought to have cut the larger fruit into pieces.
3. I’m not quite sure what else to do differently, so i’ll have to borrow one of Mrs. B’s preserving books and read more on the subject.
But i’m not going to throw out the contents of these jars. They may not have set into a jam properly, but they preserved beautifully. I’m going to pour it over ice cream. or throw into the blender and add to a cake batter, or a smoothie, or my yogurt. Or strain the liquid out and let reduce on the stove until i get a really thick syrup and add that to milk. STRAWBERRY MILK! Oh wow i just had a childhood memory get resurrected. Of course i was a big fan of chocolate milk (and still am), but i remember adding either grenadine or that Strawberry Quik stuff to my milk as a child. I havent had that in years. Mmm.
So hey, Yoda? I tried. I failed. But i’m reincarnating the spirit of the jam into things that could be much better. The Force, and its wisdom, is all around us, and for me it’s in the form of three glass jars full of strawberry goodness.