Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Strawberry-Wine Jam

Hello, my name is Laura, and I'm a BBC addict.  Lately I've been watching Lark Rise to Candleford, which is an adaptation of the autobiography of a woman who apprenticed at the village post office at the turn of the last century.  Industrialism is just starting to creep into the country, but there's still plenty of old timey charm to keep people like me coming back.

What prompted me to develop this recipe was an episode where the postmistress makes wine jelly.  Sounds tasty, right?  I was completely on board.  Until she started boiling the pigs feet.  Thank god for modern conveniences, because I am not going to spend an afternoon boiling pigs feet to make jelly with.  Or anything with, really (yes I know pigs feet can be tasty but that is for someone else to boil in their kitchen and secretly feed to me without telling me what it is).

Also, the postmistress's jelly was more of a jell-o mold type thing rather than a spread, but the bug of wine jelly was already planted in my head.  Also, I'm more of a jam girl.  And so this recipe was born, with strawberries, and without pigs feet.

One great thing about this jam: 3 ingredients (house plants optional).  There are two things you should know about me, other than my love of costume dramas.  One, I am extremely cheap.  And two, I am extremely lazy.  Thus, box wine and frozen fruit, 'cause that's how I roll.  Use a wine that's not too sweet, or you'll want to cut the sugar by a bit.

Those super classy frozen strawberries are one pound bags.  Toss one bag in your non-reactive pot with the wine and sugar, and wait for your kitchen to smell like awesome.  After the berries have simmered for a few minutes, skim them out with a slotted spoon and reduce the liquid by half.

Lather, rinse, repeat with the other two pounds of berries.  Now here's where you have some options.  I like a looser jam so at this point I quartered a granny smith apple and let it simmer away for the final reduction.  Apples have a lot of natural pectin in them, especially the cores and seeds.  If you prefer a firmer jam, you'll probably want to go with pectin.  This step also depends quite a bit on your patience.  I didn't have it in me to wait for the syrup to reduce to the 1 1/2 cups it should have to really come together, so my jam is pretty loose.  If you can handle fussing over a pot for long enough to get a nice thick reduction, you don't even need extra pectin.  An important note: DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM SIMMERING WINE AND SUGAR.  Check in on it every 5 or 10 minutes, or it will turn into a burnt sticky mess.  Not that I know from experience or anything. 

Hey, remember that giant pasta pot you got that seemed like a great idea at the time but you hardly ever use because it's huuuuuge and takes 40 minutes to boil a pot of water and is a pain in the ass to clean?  Drag that baby out, it's time to can!  As previously mentioned, it'll probably take a while to get a good boil going, so you'll probably want to start this up during your last reduction.  Boil your jars and rings for ten minutes, and add the lids maybe five minutes before you start to fill the jars.

Once you've exhausted whatever patience you have and reduced your liquid, it's time for pectin if you're using it.  Bring your liquid up to a full boil for at least a minute, stirring the whole time (or follow the instruction on the box, they're all a little different).  Now, dump your strawberries back in the pot, and simmer for 10 minutes or so.  You can either leave them whole or break them down a bit.  A potato masher works nicely for this.  Full disclosure: I did not test this recipe with pectin so I can't guarantee results, or that I'm even giving you decent instructions on using it for this kind of jam.

At this point, if you used a granny smith apple, fish it out and toss it.  Remove one jar at a time from your boiling water and fill it with jam, leaving 1/2" of head space.  Wipe away any jam that gets on the mouth of the jar, put the lid on and tighten the ring about halfway.

Return your jars to the boiling water, making sure to have at least 1" of water covering them.

And now you're pretty much done!  The advantage to the pasta pot is that you can just lift the perforated inset out and not have to screw around with lifting slippery jars out of boiling water.  If you don't have this kind of pot or a canning basket, I suggest investing in a pair of canning tongs because it is annoyingly difficult to remove full jars from the pot with normal kitchen tongs.  Extra jar rings can be used to elevate the jars from the bottom of the pot, but again I strongly recommend canning tongs if you're going to do that because otherwise you'll probably end up curled in a ball on your kitchen floor cursing yourself for wanting to save $4 because fancy equipment is for sissies.  Or something.

Gently test the seal on the lid by removing the ring and pulling up on the lid a bit.  If it comes off, wipe your jar mouth and reprocess.  Let your jars cool and test the seal again the next day.  If all is well, tighten down the rings.  If you find that your jam isn't firm enough for your liking, you can add pectin (or pigs feet) and try again.

With less sugar, this also makes an excellent cake topping or filling.  Cut the sugar by about 1/2 a cup if you're planning on putting it on something that's already sweet.

Strawberry-Wine Jam

3 pounds hulled strawberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/8 cup sugar
1 cup wine
Optional: 1 granny smith apple, quartered, OR 1 package powdered pectin

Combine 1 pound strawberries with the sugar and wine in a non-reactive pot.  Bring to a simmer for a few minutes, then remove the strawberries to a bowl.  Reduce the liquid by half, then add another pound of strawberries and repeat until all the berries are cooked.

If using a granny smith apple, add to pot and simmer until liquid is reduced to 1 1/2 cups.  If using pectin, add after the liquid is reduced and bring to a boil for at least a minute, or as the instructions indicate.  Add the strawberries (whole or mashed) and their liquid back to the pot and simmer for at least 10 more minutes.

Put jam in boiled jars, wiping the mouth of the jars before adding the lid.  Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Check the seal after processing and again one day later.

Makes 4 half-pint jars, with a bit left over, depending on how far you reduced your liquid.


  1. Laura, I love the blog. You and Sallie are naturals and very entertaining. I made jam and jelly several times before you were born, and it was fun. This recipe sounds very good. You need to get a couple of your father's bread recipes to go with your jam.

  2. I've never done any canning, but this jam sounds yummy, so I might have to try my hand at it.