Category Archives: Making Jams

Strawberries are back with a Vengeance!

Spring Strawberries! Yum!
Last Friday, I ran over to the Old Oakland Farmer’s market during my lunch hour. I work near Jack London Square, so it’s a quick trip. I was shocked by the amount of farmers selling beautiful, ripe strawberries! Somehow, I had though of strawberries as more of a summer fruit, but I took one bite and bought a whole flat. These were juicy, sweet-tart, and huge! They are the type of strawberries that are red to the core, and really taste perfect on their own.

So what to do with all these Strawberries? Make jam, of course! I’m getting ready to sell at the Underground Market on Saturday in San Francisco, so I’ve been working like mad to make sure I have enough of the old favorites (Dilly Beans, Jardiniere Pickles, Pear, Honey and Lemon Verbena Jam), as well as bring some new flavors to the table. I decided to experiment with two types of Strawberry Jam. I’ve always loved rhubarb, so that was a no brainer.

Fresh Rhubarb stalks for jam
I picked up some rhubarb, did some online research to confirm methodology (this was my first attempt at preserving rhubarb), and then got started. First, I cut the rhubarb stalks into a dice and cooked them with a little bit of water until they softened. They are very firm, and take a lot longer to break down than the strawberries.

Rhubarb ready to cook down
Then I added the chopped strawberries and cooked until they softened. All I added was organic sugar to taste, lemon zest, and some Pomona’s pectin to ensure it gelled. Because I use no-sugar pectin, my jams have much less sugar than usual. If you use fresh, ripe, organic, local produce, there isn’t much else you need to do. The rhubarb adds a lovely tartness to the strawberries. Come taste at the market on Saturday!

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

The other half of the strawberries went into making another first attempt, Strawberry-Basil jam. I missed documenting the process, but it’s really easy–I just made a standard Strawberry jam, but added a chiffonade (that’s rolled basil leaves chopped, to make long strings) of basil at the end. It add a lovely note of basil to the jam…again, you’ll have to come by and taste at the Underground Market on Saturday…see you there!



Pluot Balsamic Rosemary

(I’ll try to make more, as this was quite a hit!!)   I know, this is not a combination that you’d think of for a jam…but I assure you, it’s worth suspending disbelief. I was a bit skeptical, so tried this recipe in a very small batch, and was convinced that I had to make more by the responses I got! This is destined for a cheese plate, not a PB&J. I’ve tried it with goat cheese, triple cream brie, and on bread by itself, and it is really a fantastic flavor. Tangy and tart, it only has the natural sweetness from the plums and a bit of honey. The strongest flavor comes from the balsamic vinegar and the rosemary.

I cooked down the pluots (plums would have been fine, too, but my favorite vendor at the market had some great, super-ripe pluots, so I went with them) until they were juicy and had broken down. I then added the balsamic vinegar and honey, and kept cooking it until it had thickened.

I waited until the end to add the rosemary, wanting the keep the flavor fresh. The texture is thinner, as it is not thickened with pectin–a great spoonable texture that works well with bread and cheese!

Cranberry Sauce

I just made some fantastic orange-cranberry sauce, and wanted to give you the chance to pick some up for thanksgiving, post-thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, and Christmas, too! Also, check out my prototype label! I’m still working on a final design, but figured I’d test out a label for the Cranberry Sauce.

I started with the fresh cranberries, then cooked them down with fresh orange juice until they popped and started to thicken. I then added the sugar, and cooked until it reached the right consistency. I added the orange zest right at the end, then canned it up!

Mint Jelly

Mission Accomplished! I’ve completed my first jelly attempt, and I think it was a success. The Mint Jelly turned out great–subtle flavor, little bit of a lemony tang, and just the right balance of thickness to spread-ability.

To start, I chopped up two large bunches of mint, stem and all (the stem is as flavorful as the leaves). I heated the water just to a boil, then let the mint steep overnight. The next day, I strained it, added the remaining ingredients, and voila–my first jelly.

The color is definitely not the bright green you see in commercial jellies, but I prefer the natural color, with no added dye. Though traditionally used as a topping for lamb, I’d encourage you to use this in other ways, too–the original person who requested it swears by its use in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

Zinfandel – Champagne Grape Jam

I finally had time to make jam from the zinfandel grapes we picked at Chase vineyards a couple of weeks ago. First, I cooked down the frozen grapes so that I could juice them. Since they had seeds, I wanted to strain the juice. I decided to add some seedless champagne grapes, so that I could include some skins, to give more texture and to balance the strong flavor of the zinfandel grapes. I de-stemmed the champagne grapes, and waited to finish juicing the zinfandel grapes after they cooled. To make the jam, I cooked the champagne grapes with the juice, and made a grape jam. I think it turned out great–deep, rich flavor and a little bit of texture from the skins.

Caramel Apple Butter

After trying my hand at apple butter a couple of months ago, I felt it was time to try another variation. Finally having finished with Michelle’s pears, I tackled her slightly-tart and lovely little apples. As with the pears, the peeling, coring and chopping was the hardest part–the flavor was so bright and lovely once the apples were cooked down that they didn’t need much tinkering.

As I was cooking on Halloween, it seemed appropriate to incorporate caramel into my apple butter. After cooking the apples for about 30 minutes and pureeing them in the food processor, I heated 2 cups of organic sugar in a saucepan and cooked until it was a deep caramel. I incorporated it into the apple butter, then let the mixture simmer with whole star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cloves for another 30 minutes. It is really delicious–tastes like spiced apple cider with caramel drizzled in…it’s definitely November!

Pear-Honey-Lemon Verbena Jam

For my final recipe with the fantastic pears, I tried to be a bit more daring, using solely my own inspiration and a spoon for guidance. I’ve loved the flavor of lemon as an undertone in my jams, so I decided to make it a starring flavor, with the addition of lemon zest and more juice. I also picked several sprigs of lemon verbena and cooked it down with the jam for a more herbal take on lemon. Finally, I added honey, to give it a bit more depth of sweetness. It’s really unique, and I’m thrilled with how it turned out!