I was watching Jacques Pepin the other day and he made a strawberry confiture that looked awesome. It reminded me of a recipe from Sunset Magazine back in July 1994. I’ve never been a fan of the stove top, stirring and boiling with pectin kind of jam making. This process of baking the strawberries with sugar in a low oven seems inspired for walk-a-way chefs like myself. As I just went to the Ponchatula Strawberry Festival, I had to make some for myself.
This is small batch preserving – I bought two pounds of strawberries but, after hulling and nibbling, only had 1 pound 12 ounces of strawberries. I used 14 ounces of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to brighten the flavors and up the acidity.
The flavor is intensely strawberry without being overly sweet.
Baked Strawberry Preserves
Hull strawberries and slice in half if large. Weigh the berries and then spread them out on a rimmed baking pan. For about every 2 pounds of strawberries, toss with 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add 50% of the berries’ weight in sugar on top. Stir well.
Bake at 300 F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the berries are very soft and the pan is thickly layered with berry juice. Every 20 minutes gently stir the berries. Once the berries are done, pack the fruit and juice in sterilized jars and refrigerate.
I don’t know about you but my fridge isn’t that empty. I don’t own canning supplies. While I can anticipate inheriting a wide mouth funnel, rubber coated tongs for getting jars out of hot water or even pots with racks to lift hot jars out of a water bath, I don’t have them right now and did not want to twice cook the jam.
I, however, went old school and used the inversion method for sealing my jars. That means as I made the preserves, I ran my jars, rings and lids (I bought brand new, never used lids) and tongs through the dishwasher to get them really clean. As the preserves finished, I then put the jars, rings and lids in simmering water. Working quickly, I removed the hot jars from the water. After filling the jars with the strawberries to within about 1/8 inch of the top, I cleaned and dried off the top, fished out a lid and ring from the water and set them in place. I then finger tightened the rings and flipped them upside down to cool. The heat and inversion will typically be enough to create a vacuum to seal the jar. Any jars that didn’t seal, I was ready to put in the fridge and eat but they all sealed.
Don’t take unnecessary risks. Don’t do this with any low acid foods or with jars that aren’t pristine – no cracks or nicks. Once the jars have cooled, check the seals. The lid should be concave (curved down slightly in the center). If you can remove the lids easily with just your fingers or the lids are flat or convex or spring back when you press it, the jars didn’t seal properly. Put those jars in the fridge. Store the other jars in the pantry without the rings. When you take a jar out of the pantry to use, you should be able to lift the jar up by the lid. If it comes off easy, throw it out. If you see bubbles or it is fizzy in any way it is fermenting and needs to be thrown out. If you see mold, throw it out. Your peace of mind and your stomach are more valuable than a couple of jars of jam.
Lecture over! Time to enjoy some jam on toast. Or over ice cream. Or mixed into cream cheese frosting to top cupcakes. It is all good!