Friday, June 5, 2015
Tarragon strawberry jam
Jam-making has become a happy seasonal pursuit for me. Sadly, I don't foresee much preserving from our own fruit this year; both the apple and the plum trees have put out very little fruit. I think the apple tree has a grand total of six apples. It seems to be a bad year for fruit trees where I live. They just didn't flower well. Spring was cool and wet, which may have had something to do with it. Last year, I made a huge amount of jam from our plums. I'd hoped to do it again this summer but it looks like I'll have to buy fruit for jam instead. This is really okay; I try for my bit of self-sufficiency but it doesn't always happen. I can't make a hen lay eggs when she's molting and I can't force plums from a tree in a bad growing season. Blood from turnips and all that.
I was in the mood to make jam last weekend. We'd been to Costco, where the four-pound boxes of strawberries were looking really nice (and the price was right too), so strawberry jam seemed like the thing to do. At home, I decided to try something different by adding chopped, fresh tarragon to the fruit as it cooked. The result was deliciously different strawberry jam.
The decision to use tarragon was not an arbitrary one. I have a huge amount of tarragon growing in the side yard at this time of year. It was planted by a previous owner of my house and it's remarkably hardy, coming back lushly year after year. Tarragon, which has a mild licorice-like flavor, was a new experience for me and I set out to learn how to use in my cooking. I love tarragon in marinades and salad dressings, especially. I've even tried muddling it, like you would mint leaves, for an improvised alcoholic drink (it was interesting but not great). I've made a salad dressing with tarragon and pureed strawberries many times and really enjoyed it, so I thought it would be good in strawberry jam too. I cut a stalk about six inches long and stripped and chopped the leaves, for about 1/4 cup.
For a smallish batch of jam (about 5 half-pint jars), I used one and a half pounds of sliced strawberries and 3 cups of sugar, halving the amounts in a basic strawberry jam recipe, and cooked the fruit as normal.
I stirred in the tarragon when the sugar had dissolved and the mixture was just coming to a boil. The tarragon cooked down to fine, wispy strands. The scent was wonderful.
It's really good. The tarragon comes through, mildly herbal, without overpowering the strawberries. And you know how much I love my strawberries.
Tarragon Strawberry Jam (makes 4 to 5 half-pint jars)
1 1/2 pounds hulled, sliced strawberries (about 1 quart)
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter (optional; to reduce foaming)
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 pouch liquid pectin (or equivalent powdered pectin)
Crush strawberries with a potato masher in a large pot. Stir in sugar all at once. Cook over high heat until sugar has dissolved; stir in tarragon. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin, returning to a full rolling boil. Boil and stir for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off any foam. Ladle immediately into prepared jars, screwing on lids and rings tightly. Process as desired (I follow USDA guidelines for safe homemade jam).