Music City Jam Session..Strawberries

Music City Jam Session

I realize that “strawberry season” is over here in Nashville.  So why am I having a        “Music City” Jam Session? Whipping up jars of Strawberry Jam? It is September… What has gotten into me? Let me tell you.

 Circumstances dictated my non-musical (except for Pandora) strawberry jam session. I ended up with lots of berries from a photo shoot – bags of IQF strawberries to be exact. You may ask what is IQF? or not? IQF stands for “individually quick frozen”. This means the berries were frozen on trays as individual berries, then bagged. The result is wonderfully whole, intact berries, not smashed & clumped together. The flavor & color of berries frozen this way is also still present.

Three bags of beautiful IQF strawberries I could not toss out. They came home with me. I made a quick freezer jam. Here are my jars awaiting the freezer, to be eaten way past summer, when the days get longer & dark and we need something colorful & comforting to cheer us up.

jars filled with strawberry jam

You can make this with any “IQF”/frozen fruit…blackberries, blueberries…even peaches. If you missed the local harvest but crave a jam session then just go to the grocery, bring home your frozen fruit & get busy. This is so simple & easy.

Here is how you do it:

1. Start with 2 lbs of frozen whole berries, thawed. Place berries in a deep non-reactive pan. Grate the peel of one lemon into the pan. Stir to blend. Place pan over medium heat.

2. Sprinkle 1 cup sugar over mixture and stir until sugar has melted. Allow berry mixture to come to a low boil.

                       Lemon zestingStrawberries in Saucepan

3. Meanwhile add Ball Pectin, or any other brand, by following the instructions on the packaging right under the label. I mixed 2 tbsp. of pectin with 1/2 cup water, whisking until it was dissolved. Quickly stir into the pan of berries.

Ball PectinPectin dissolved in water

4. Bring mixture to a slow simmer  for 30 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat.

Cooked strawberry jam

5. Spoon hot strawberry jam into 1 or 1/2 pint clean glass canning jars leaving a “1/2 inch unfilled” at the top of each jar which is important. The jam will expand as it freezes so you need this extra headroom to allow for this. Trust me…I failed to pay attention to this rule when I made my very first batch of freezer jam and just let me say that the results were interestingly “volcanic-like” in my freezer!

Doesn’t my jam making area always looks a bit like a CSI crime scene? But sweeter.

filling jars with jam

6. When all your jars are filled wipe edges clean, top with lid and rings, tightened. Let jars of jam sit until mixture has cooled down. Pop into the freezer (I keep one out in the fridge to eat immediately). I always give most of my jars away to my daughters who love this particular jam. Allow frozen jam to thaw in the fridge overnight before using.

Freezer Jam

Yes, anyone can, “can”.

DSC_2120

“Strawberry Freezer Jam’ on hot buttered toast for now and later.

“My Three Peaches – Refrigerator Jam”

“My Three Peaches”

“My Three Peaches Refrigerator Jam”

 I started out with more than three peaches mind you. I started out with a whole bowl full of perfectly tree-ripened peaches as a matter of fact. Some of the peaches were for various photo shoots I have been styling….but in the end there were three peaches left over….for me.  They sat a round for a few days on my kitchen counter. I was much to busy so I just ignored them almost until the point-of-no-return.

Wanting to save these beautiful golden orbs tinged with reddish-pink for a bit later , I quickly made a (sorry reader!) no-real-recipe “Three Peach Refrigerator Jam”. But I will share what I did to prep the peaches & the ingredients I used, as well as the steps to cook and jar. Anyone can do it…you really can’t go wrong. Try it, you will see.

What I discovered is that it is lots of fun to make one jar of refrigerator jam that will keep for weeks chilled. There is no pressure to get out all the canning accoutrements, no fear of death from eating a badly processed jar of fruit, no lengthy time spent, just the simple pleasure of taking a few pieces of fruit to savor later in a new form.

Here is what you will need for approximately 1 pint of peach jam:

3 very ripe, sweet peaches

about 2/3  cup sugar

a long strip of lemon peel

1/4 cup water or juice

2 Cardamom pods

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

First things first:

1. Let me show you how I very easily peel peaches.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cut an “X” in non-stem end of peach. Add to boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon.
Plunge peaches into ice water & leave for a few minutes.
Use your fingers to peel back peach skin. Skin slips right off.

2. Cut peaches into slices or chunks. Place in a heavy saucepan. Add  sugar, lemon peel, water or juice &  cardamom pods.

3. Bring to a low boil over medium heat. Stir often. Simmer until fruit is softened & mixture starts to thickened. About 20 minutes.

4. Stir in a pinch of red pepper flakes & balsamic vinegar.

4. Simmer peach mixture for another 8-10 minutes, stirring often. Mixture will darken to a deep amber color & thicken. Remove from heat.

5.  Spoon hot peach mixture into a glass jar & cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow to cool at room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.

That is all there is to it. Now, as luck would have it,  within a couple of days of making this jam I had a photo shoot where I needed to make some biscuits. Quick, fluffy, light, airy homemade biscuits! Ahhh, my freshly made peach jam & hot buttery biscuits were a match made in culinary heaven!

“Living Life One-Bite-At-A-Time”