Jam Session

I have this self-imposed small window on my calendar when I make homemade strawberry jam.

It’s a brief period in late March/early April when Florida strawberries are at their absolute ripest, sweetest and on sale. I realize that they can be found at any point during the year and few more dollars more won’t break the bank, but this is when my mind (and stomach) says it must be done.

This is one recipe that I don’t deviate from. Since it has the potential to cause food-borne illness and kill people, I figure this isn’t the place to experiment. I follow the instructions and recipes to the letter from the people at Ball jars, Freshpreserving.com.

This year’s batch turned out particularly well. The strawberries were really ripe, and adding the pectin at the beginning of the recipe (not later) as the recipe called for, really helped put the jell in the jelly.

I won’t re-write what they have so helpfully provided, but from my own experience over the years, I’d like to add these tips:

1.) Start with a clean kitchen, clean jars, clean tools—clean everything. I take a couple extra steps to make sure there’s nothing to contaminate the jam. I run the clean jars through the sanitizer cycle of the dishwasher, along with all of the tools I’m going to use in addition to the boiling process that is detailed on the site.

2.) 5 cups of strawberries like the recipe calls for translates to just about 2 packages (2 lbs.) in the store.

Strawberries--pre-jam.
Strawberries–pre-jam.

3.) Don’t double the recipe. This makes 8 8 oz. jars. If you want to make more, make a second or third batch. For some reason, the math doesn’t work for doubling on this, and your jelly will be runny.

Cooking jam
Cooking jam

4.) There are a lot of canning tools they will try to sell you, but the 2 that I found worth the little money they cost are the jar-grabbers and the special funnel. I use a big stock pot to process my jars—it works just fine.

5.) Don’t let this process intimidate you. Do your research and follow the directions—it really is simple. If after everything and you still feel nervous, just store the jam in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a month. But it won’t last that long.

Strawberry jam, y'all.
Strawberry jam, y’all.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Bourbon Syrup with a side of auction regret

When life gives you a giant plaster statue of Jack Daniels, you should make Bourbon Syrup with Pecans.

(And never go to another silent auction again.)

I keep telling myself it was for charity.
I keep telling myself it was for charity.

Bourbon Syrup with Pecans

1 1/2 cups good maple syrup
1/2 cup bourbon (Jack Daniels, preferred since he is now the ambassador of my living room)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 ish cup of chopped pecans

Bring the maple syrup and bourbon to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Quickly add the cream and stir to combine. The bubbling will reduce immediately, add the pecans, turn down the heat and simmer on low for several more minutes.

Serve warm on waffles or ice cream.

Or on the rocks. Obviously, a woman with a 7 foot replica of moonshiner makes no judgments.

I feel better now.
I feel better now.

©2014 Tracey Henry