I’m not a huge jam-eater and the thought of pectin, paraffin, jelly thermometers and jar-lifters puts my brain on instant overload. Yet in my perfect world, I have a vision of a very orderly pantry lined with jars filled with various delicacies to savor throughout the year — continuous reminders of our luscious summer produce. Once a year when the pickling cukes ripen, I sacrifice a day to make Sally’s dill pickles. I don’t have a choice any more — my family can’t make it through the winter without them. This year I’ve vowed to branch out and do a little more preserving.
When I saw a recipe for sun-dried strawberry jam, I jumped at the chance to work toward my goal without being stuck standing over a hot stove while the weather is so beautiful. Thinking of the energy-savings, mine & the electricity, I took this on as sort of a science experiment. I diligently noted my jam’s progress making mental notes like, “next time check the weather report to make sure there are going to be at least two continuous days of sunshine.” I even started baby-sitting my jam while sitting on the deck in the sun, making sure no insects ended up in the lovely red stickiness. To me, making sun-dried jam is actually fun and the way I see it, I can always use a little more fun.
There are only 3 essential ingredients — fruit, sugar and sunshine. A few drops of lemon juice may be added at the end if you find it too sweet. I bought a half-flat of strawberries at Rent’s Due last weekend at the University Farmers Market. I gave one basket away, saved 2 for eating on cereal and in smoothies and used the other 3 to make jam. Which is a long way of saying, you need about 5 cups of fruit (approx. 3 pints) to end up with 4 cups of jam. The other thing I love about sun-dried jam is you decide when it’s done depending on what texture you like. After 3 days of unreliable sun, I was ready to jar it and be done, luckily it was sufficiently thick. If it had be sunny all day, I’m pretty sure 2 days would have been plenty.
There’s a little bit of cooking on the stove that I forgot to mention, but only about 10 minutes at high heat. During those 10 minutes don’t plan to do anything else but skim off the white foam as it rises to the surface. After it’s cooked, just pour it into a flat glass dish and let nature do the rest. Don’t hesitate to give yourself permission to get in a little sun-bathing while you look on.
Sun-Dried Strawberry Jam
5 cups strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
2 cups sugar
Gently mix the strawberries and sugar in a non-reactive pan. Let them sit for 15 minutes while the juice is released and the sugar dissolves.
Cook over high heat for 10 minutes, stirring and skimming the white foam off the top.
Immediately pour into a flat-bottomed dish or dishes with a surface large enough that the jam is no more than 1/2 inch think at any one point.
Let the jam cool and begin to thicken uncovered. Set it in a very sunny spot and it will thicken much more quickly. I tried the recommended method of covering it with plastic with punched holes to allow the moisture to continue to evaporate. Even with lots of holes, the water was condensing back into the jam. So I mostly left it uncovered. Some of the time I left it indoors by a sunny window and that worked too. If insects are a problem outdoors, you can always put some kind of netting over the top. Thankfully, the yellow jackets aren’t out but later in the summer, that could be an issue.
I saw this recipe in Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Fruit but saw a similar one in Putting Food By. If you want to keep jam longer than about a month in the fridge, you can pour it into sterilized jars and process it in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes after the water boils. Maybe next time….
Don’t forget that you have until Wednesday to enter our giveaway. Many thanks for all your thoughtful comments. I didn’t realize that I was fishing for compliments but I guess I kinda was.