Preserving was one of many enjoyable rituals I shared with my mother. That made me an inveterate sweet tooth. Good jams and jellies remind me of her. She happily passed on her canning experience and encouraged me to try new recipes. There is no better time than summer fruit season to evoke happy memories and pass along the experience to someone else. Who else but you, friendly reader?
Recently with our friend, Lori, we brought home a trunk load of fruit from St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. My first objective was to make freezer jam. Mom always put away lots of no-cook freezer strawberry jam, the basic recipe that came with original Certo. I could not justify using all that sugar, so cut back considerably using a newer pectin product for freezer jams. It tastes just fine, and Mom would surely approve. We know better now.
Our favourite sandwich was cheese and jam. The kids at school made fun of it; they did not know what they were missing. This was invariably freezer strawberry jam with Kraft cheese slices. Yum! These were the real cheese slices, not the rubbery, plastic-wrapped singles that contain no actual cheese.
Since then I have realized cheese and fruit were meant for each other. The cheese and jam sandwich becomes a formula with infinite possibilities: brie and apricot, cheddar and apple jelly, ginger-peach and havarti.
Enter experimental jams. In particular I have in mind using some herbs from the garden this summer. With the berries left over from freezer jam I decided to cook a concoction with two of my favourites: lemon balm and lemon verbena. This turned out a delightful thick, ruby-red jam with citrus highlights. It looks and tastes so good on Sandra’s corn cakes from Fourfold Farm, I forgot to add cheese.
The recipe follows. Have you found any great fruit and herb combinations for preserves?
- 4 pints raspberries
- 1 quart strawberries
- 4½ cups sugar
- 1 lemon
- 1 handful lemon balm
- 1 handful lemon verbena
- Mix whole herbs with the sugar, rubbing until fragrant. Cover and allow them to sit overnight. The sugar will absorb the herb flavours.
- Remove and discard the herbs. Running the sugar through a sieve may be helpful. It won't hurt if a few bits of leaves end up in the jam.
- Sterilize five half-pint jars and lids and any other tools you will require.
- Juice the lemon.
- Wash and pick over the berries and hull the strawberries.
- Mash berries and cook on low in a large pot for 10 minutes. Make sure strawberries are completely broken up.
- Put 1 cup of the berries through a sieve to remove some seeds. Discard the seeds and add the pulp back to the pan.
- Add lemon juice. Stir sugar into berries over low heat until entirely dissolved.
- Bring mixture to a full boil for 10 to 15 minutes until jam reaches 104C/220F.
- Remove from heat. Stir and skim jam for 5 minutes.
- Pour into sterilized jars. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.