Monday, August 20, 2012

Dehydrated Strawberry Jam

Dehydrated Strawberry Jam and Amish Butter on Essentials Bakery "Fremont" Sour White
A while ago, on Facebook, I posted a photo of a cookbook that I had purchased:  The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant.  I think this was perhaps four months ago?  Maybe six?  I can't remember, but I finally had the time, inclination, and extra fruit laying around to try a recipe this past weekend.

I was initially very excited about this book since it has *different* preserves- not only does it have jams and jellies, but it has a whole section on mostardas and aigre-doux.  And...they are fairly low in sugar compared to many formulas.  This is something that's pretty atypical in American preserving books.  Also, the author advocates making your own pectin, which I think is very cool...

I've been canning for years- mostly fruit preserves since I have yet to purchase a pressure canner.  We have put up our own sauerkraut, made various pickles, and butters, jams, and compotes...all items with enough of an acid content to be processed in a water bath.  I would like to expand into other items but haven't made the leap yet.

For this recipe, I picked the second flush of strawberries from our totally organic garden.  We have two varieties growing this year- something standard and then (the belle of the ball) some heirloom Olympia berries that are softer, sweeter, and more intense.  The Olympias sent out quite a good sized batch of fruit, and since it's been so warm, they all ripened very quickly.  It is very important to use good quality strawberries in this recipe.  Since they are dehydrated, everything, for better or for worse, gets concentrated.  The only adaptations I made in the recipe were to use store bought pectin, and mash the mixture roughly before jarring.

Dehydrated Strawberry Jam
(adapted from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant)
yield: 5-half pints

4 # strawberries
4 1/2 oz sugar
2 t Pomona Pectin
2 t calcium water (from Pomona Pectin)

Rinse and hull the strawberries, halving if they are large.  Spread out on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet or on dehydrator trays.  Dehydrate at 135F (or as close as you can get to this with your oven or warming drawer), until the juices are thickened and the berries are about half their original size (4 to 8 hours, depending on the temperature).

Transfer the berries to a non-reactive bowl, stir in the sugar, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and up to five days.  This draws out all of the remaining juices and primes the mixture for jamming.

Move the berried into a heavy-bottomed pot, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the juices are reduced by half.  Meanwhile, scald five half-pint jars in a boiling water bath.  Whisk in the pectin and calcium water, return to a simmer to dissolve the pectin, and then turn off the heat.  Mash with a potato masher lightly to break up the larger fruit pieces.

Remove the jars from the bath and prepare to fill them with the hot strawberry mixture.  Heat the rings and lids.  Ladle the strawberries into the jars, leaving 1/2" head space, wiping the rims clean, and then screw the lids on firmly but gently.

Place the jars back in the water bath (preferably in a jar rack, or you can improvise with whatever you have on hand to keep the jars from bouncing around).  Make sure there is enough water in the pot to cover the jars by at least 1".  Process for a full ten minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to sit in the water for a couple of minutes.  Remove to a safe spot and allow to cool to room temperature.  

The resulting product is fruit-leather intense, packed with flavor, and more spoon-able instead of spreadable.  It has tons of texture and is perfect on toast, pancakes, scoops of ice cream...  It truly is the essence of strawberry.