Jam on it.

Nooooow, this is a story all about how
my life got switched, turned upside down,
now I’d like to take a minute,
just sit right there,
I’ll tell you how I became the Jam Queen of Tel Aviv.

I should be honest here, I’m not actually a Jam Queen.  In fact, I don’t make jam nearly as often as I would like to. But when I do get around to it, I jam so hard that I legitimately think myself a royal member of the Jam Master Court (if there were such a place/thing).  Last week I lugged home 5 kilos of strawberries, with tons of other produce on my shoulders mind you, and the only thing that got me through the arduous walk home from the shuk was the vision of sweet sticky strawberry jam dancing in my head.

The guys in the market always look at me crazy when I ask to buy their beaten and bruised fruit at a cheaper cost so I can jam – but they don’t get it, and frankly most of them are selling pretty shitty produce to begin with so they don’t see a point in letting me get such a deal out of them when the next  customer will gladly buy their mediocre bushels at full price.  I could whine for days – but these are not real problems of course.  So, 5 kilos of strawberries later I was happily schlepping home my precious goods and cared not of the price that I had paid but of the magic I would soon be creating in my kitchen.

Jam is magical in its ability to encapsulate the taste of the sunshine that grew the fruit.  It uses magical powers to suck sugar and lemon into it’s pours, and in return offering up it’s sweet syrupy juices.  Does this sound a bit over the top? Vulgur even? Maybe it is. But I learned how to make jam from one of the greats and he instilled this kind of jamlove in me, through every batch we stirred together.

When Daniel Perry started making jam in college it was for fun, for the challenge of it, for the joy it brought to those who got to taste it.  Little did he know that this hobby would later evolve into his life’s passion. Today he is based on Charlottesville, VA running his own jam business, Jam According to Daniel, and selling and delivering jam to the drooling masses. People (including myself ) have often remarked, that his jam is so special because it tastes like an even better version of the fruits themselves. Blueberries are more blueberryish,peaches are so peachy you feel you have crawled inside one just like James, plums are richer and more luxurious than you had previously given credit. This is due to his careful and loving process, which starts with local fruit and farmers, followed by handmade, hand-stirred batches, and eventually sold by Dan himself (with a big grin on his face)at the  local farmer’s market or other venue of choice.  If I was going to learn jam from someone, I was going
to learn it from this guy.

he recipe I will give below is an abbreviated version – seeing as how I learned my jam skillz from Dan, I can’t go and give away all the goods.  But it is proven fact that:

strawberries + sugar + lemon = delicious

So I think we have nothing to worry about.

Strawberry Jam 
*This method is adapted from Daniel Perry of Jam According to Daniel 

To make this recipe worth your while, go ahead and start with a pretty decent amount of strawberries, they will break down immensely and what will remain will be a smaller amount, but jam packed with strawberry flavor (get it?!…jam-packed…oy)

11 -12 cups of strawberries, rinsed and roughly chopped
3 1/2 cups of white sugar
2 lemons juiced

Once your strawberries are chopped, place them in a large bowl, cover them with all the sugar and all the lemon juice. Let them sit and macerate for at least 2 hours, more time if you got it.  You will notice the fruit breaking down and more and more liquid forming.  Put your largest pot on the stove and add all the contents of your bowl. Bring this strawberry mess to a boil – then immediatly remove from the fire and strain using a colander but obviously doing so over your large bowl so that you can catch all the liquid that separates from the berry flesh.

You can let this sit draining for a couple hours if you need to, but once the majority of the liquid has collected in the bowl below you might as well get cooking. Fire up your biggest pot again and add your LIQUID ONLY, leave the fruit to the side for now.  Crank the heat up to high and get yourself a long wooden spoon. Stir. Stir. Stir. The goal is to stir almost constantly until the syrup has thickened properly. If you are working at high heat and stirring enough this should take place in about 15 minutes.

But how do you know how thick it should be, you ask?  Well, there are many techniques online about how to do this properly.  I was taught the drip test – take a metal spoon, dip it into the syrup, shake off some/most of the syrup from the spoon, now hold the spoon an inch or so over a clean counter top and watch the remaining drips fall off the spoon. You want the drips to hit the counter top, hold their shape like a bubble for a beat or two and then collapse.  The test of making sure the syrup can hold itself is pretty crucial, so if the drips simple drip then you must keep stirring you are not there quite yet. If your some reason you have reduced the syrup too much then the drops will be too hard, almost candied. Add a couple splashes of water to your jam and try the test again.

Once you have determined that your drips are appropriately gelled, go ahead and add your fruit into the pot – this is already broken down so you only need to cook the jam another few minutes before it will all be perfectly ready.   Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars.  Keep in the fridge for as long as it takes to gobble this stuff up.

If you intend to keep it for longer be sure to sterilize according to canning code and to boil the jars once they are filled in order to pull all the air out (google it!).

If you are like me you will eat this jam on a spoon as a sweet snack, with peanut butter and jelly, with creamcheese, on ice cream, you will use it in a marinade for beef, you will top your cheddar cheese sandwiches with a healthy shmear, and the list goes on.  jam on it.

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