I have had a love-hate relationship with strawberry jam from the beginning of my canning career. Strawberry jam ranks up there with tomato sauce as the most-canned produce item in the history of my pantry. While tomatoes have never let me down, I’ve been all over the block with strawberries. But now I have a new secret ingredient: currants. The day that I went to pick strawberries (which I prefer doing since I can pick ones that are not over-ripe and thus better for jam), the farm market was selling red currants, which they grow. I decided to make this for the June Tigress Can Jam, which is all about berries.
Homegrown red currants are not so available around here so I buy them when I can. I knew they are high in pectin content and would be a good buddy for the strawberries. With the extra boost of pectin, I could cut down on the cooking time and preserve the fresh bright flavor of the strawberries. It worked! This gelled in less than10 minutes of cooking time and made a jam that is bright, flavorful and “clean” tasting.
I could have added the whole currants to the strawberries but I was concerned about the knotty little seeds, so I looked up a technique written by Harriet Fasenfest of The Preserve, a cooking school in Portland, Oregon devoted to preserving; it was published in an issue of the Edible Portland magazine. (It’s interesting to read her mission and her point of view on the Preserve website, http://www.portlandpreserve.com.) She also makes apple pectin extract similar to one that I found in an old preserving book that I purchased in a second hand bookstore last month and was already in the middle of an experiment. More on that later.)
For the jam, boil the currants in a little water (like making cranberry sauce) until they burst, let them sit until cool (or longer, as I did, so as to develop the pectin), then strain them to remove the seeds. The result is a concentrated currant mixture that I added to the strawberries, using the typical 3:4 ratio of sugar to fruit. While I had only a small amount of currants available, I could well imagine doubling the amount.
Currant-Strawberry Jam with thanks to Harriet Fasenfest, The Preserve
¼ pint red currants, stemmed (1 cup)
½ cup water (or half the measure of the currants)
1+ quart strawberries, sliced (4 cups)
3 cups sugar (or ¾ of the measure of the berries)
Place the currants and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and continue cooking until the currants burst. Turn off the stove and let them cool for a couple of hours to develop the pectin. Push them through a sieve to remove the seeds and set the liquid aside.
Meanwhile, combine the sliced strawberries with the sugar and let them macerate for several hours, or overnight, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
Prepare the canning jars and lids. Combine the strawberries and currant mixtures and cook over high heat until the gel point has been reached (220 degrees F but test on a cold plate). Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes once the water returns to a boil. After 10 minutes, remove the lid, turn off the heat and let sit for five minutes before removing to let sit undisturbed for a day.
Makes 3-4 half-pints.