Italian markets are now brimming with colorful and tasty strawberries, the symbol of spring and… la fragranza per eccellenza! Strawberries are an ancient fruit; the Greeks and Romans enjoyed them because of their sweet smell and aroma. Actually, strawberries are a false fruit, they are the fleshy receptacle containing the real fruit, ie the yellow seeds on the surface. Strawberries are very healthy, rich in vitamin C, they also contain moderate amounts of vitamin A, B1 and B2. They have tonic, re-mineralizing, purifying, detoxifying properties, and also good in a weight-loss diet. They are one of the tastier and more versatile fruits found both in savory and sweet recipes. Have you ever tried strawberries with balsamic vinegar? The vinegar truly enhances their flavor! Spring is also the perfect season for preparing strawberry jam, a multipurpose ingredient for many sweets (there is nothing better than an homemade crostata http://passionandcooking.com/2012/10/06/crostata-di-marmellata-jam-pie/ with strawberry jam), an ideal topping for spreading on bread or brioche for breakfast or a tasty condiment for goat cheese! This jam is soft, spreadable and delicious!
CONFETTURA DI FRAGOLE (STRAWBERRY JAM)
Preparation time: 60 minutes + 40 minutes canning
1500 g (3 pounds and 5 oz) fresh strawberries
700 g (3 ⅓ cups) sugar
Juice of one lemon
1. Wash strawberries under running water and dry with paper towels
2. Remove the green leaves and cut into pieces
3. In a large saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring slowly to the boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Skim the foam. Cover and let cook over low heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring often. Remove the cover and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. When jam becomes quite dense, stir constantly to prevent sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. This recipe prepares approx. 1200 g (less than 3 pounds) jam (3 jars). Good jam should cook until the temperature reaches 220-222°F/104-105°C on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use this test: Place a small amount of jam on a spoon and pour back sideways into the pan. At first it will be liquid, then later two separate drops will form on the spoon. The jam is ready to be removed from the heat when it falls off the spoon as a single drop. You can store the jam in jars in the refrigerator for two weeks. However if you prefer to keep it longer, you should preserve it, using for example the following canning method
4. For canning, use previously sterilized jars and new caps. Pour warm jam in hot jars and fill them up leaving a gap of 1 cm (½ in). Seal and turn them upside down for about 10 minutes to create the vacuum. Put the jars in a large pan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the pan and store in a cool and dark place.
Note: When you purchase strawberries choose ones that have uniformly red color but not too dark, because otherwise they are too ripe. Furthermore it is important that they do not have green or white spots, indicating that they are immature. Strawberry jam requires a longer cooking time than other jams because strawberries contain little pectin, a natural fiber that is used as a thickening agent. -Paola