Fresh strawberry jam, that is!
For all the lushness of Southeast Alaska…this is a rain forest you know…this is not a center for agriculture. Fishing, yes. Growing edible things, less so. The growing season for fruits and vegetables is shorter and significantly wetter than in other regions of the country. Some things seem to thrive. Raspberries, blueberries, huckleberries, salmonberries all do well here. I don’t know if any of the berries are native to this area, but if not, they’ve made themselves at home. There are berries all over and berry picking is a local sport this time of year.
Friends who live north of town have a real garden and enthusiastically grow a plethora of fruits and vegetables. They’re gifted with proverbial green thumbs, and are generous with their harvest. So when they asked if I would like to pick some strawberries, I accepted the offer and chose a day to drive the (gasp!) 12 miles out of Ketchikan to gather berries.
The strawberry plants came with the property, and I’m not sure my friends know what the variety is. The berries are small, with the largest ones being about the size of a red grape and the smaller ones about the size of a peanut. They don’t get much brighter in color than a dark pink, certainly not the brilliant red of market berries. But they are fragrant and sweet.
Tonight, I have fresh freezer jam cooling on my counter, with enough to share with friends and kids, and have plenty left for my Saturday breakfast toast (no bread for weekday breakfasts, carb watching).
First, I washed the berries:
I measured about 7 cups of berries into a medium-sized pot. Then I added granulated sugar, about three cups, and a few drops of red food coloring to punch up the color. That’s it, no pectin or other ingredient. Fruit and sugar boil and eventually reduce to a thick jam. The cooking time is at least an hour, but there’s no set length of time until the jam is finished. You can continue to cook and concentrate the flavor and let the mixture thicken. As long as the heat is reduced to simmer, you can relax and quit stirring.
When the jam is thick enough for you, pour into clean jars, or other small containers, and your kitchen project is complete. Remember to store the jam in the fridge once it’s cooled.