Recent Preserving (Part 2)

It seems whenever Friday afternoon rolls around I become nostalgic in a way, for the way things were before I had my own family and the weekend loomed like a glittering jewel before me.  A good part of my single life, I held 2 jobs - and there were plenty of weekends spent working I'm sure, but in retrospect I had this miraculous thing called "free time" which seems to come with alarming infrequency lately.

Sunday afternoon, I got a couple of pounds of gooseberries from Klee's.  I made the time to work them into jam right away Monday morning since they were pink and soft.  They were mixed varieties, that when commingled with sugar transformed into a singular flavor that I still can't describe.  They are tropical I swear, a Midwestern answer to passionfruit.  My little tester jar of gooseberry jam the other week told me I should stop shy of the 220 degree gel point, so I boiled to 118 degrees and was rewarded with a softer set.  I'm going to write down the recipe, since it bears remembering my process. 


Gooseberries are naturally high in acid.  Green gooseberries higher of course than those that are picked and allowed to blush - but with the blush their tartness mellows just a bit and makes a "prettier" finished preserve.  There really aren't a whole lot of gooseberry jam recipes out there I noticed in my digging.  Even the county extension website was vague (and why don't those conventional sources use weights?? This plagues me:  I am a scaling addict.).  To be extra "safe", I added the juice of a half lemon.  There is definitely enough natural pectin that you should never dream of using a box of liquid or powder.

Gooseberry Jam 
yields about 4 half pints (I got 3 jars and one mostly full to eat now)
  • 2 lbs. gooseberries, tops and tails trimmed
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
Combine the gooseberries and water in a large preserving pot and smash casually with a masher to crush most of the gooseberries.  Heat over medium heat and cook until the gooseberries break down a little, about 10 minutes.  Then add the sugar and lemon juice, increase the heat to medium high and continue cooking, stirring regularly, until you reach your desired firmness - about 118 degrees as I mentioned above.  You'll feel the thickness of the jam increase as you stir, and the jam should sheet nicely off the spoon you are stirring with.

When the jam is ready, pour into sterilized jars, top with lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

gooseberry jam.
This week, I also did pickles.  My mother-in-law wanted a dozen jars and bought me a half bushel of cucumbers at the farmer's market on Tuesday.  By Tuesday evening, I had done 22 quarts (losing one to a broken jar).  I used my Gram's pickle recipe, misjudging the amount of brine I'd need two times, causing me to pause and make more.  That worked out all right, especially with a new baby walker anxious to try out his new skills at my feet in the kitchen.  Maybe I'll always associate his first steps with a mountain of pickles; that's kind of a nice thing.

This recipe is the only pickle that tastes like a real dill pickle to me.  The recipe is in my book

By late evening, I had the pickles mostly done.  I had about 5 pounds of cucumbers remaining and I was too tired to think about more pickles.  They sat for 2 days in the fridge before I put them to their final rest in jars.  I tried two kinds of refrigerator pickles that I'd not made before.  The first were these turmeric spiked whole dills that Ivy recommended.  I used the recipe as a template, since I was low on fresh dill.  I used Spice House pickling spice and extra dill seed.  I used Bragg's cider vinegar even though I "killed" it by heating it to a boil.  I love the taste of Bragg's so much that any other vinegar doesn't taste like vinegar to me.  A half recipe of the brine filled two quart sized jars just fine.

refrigerator pickle
This Weck jar is slightly bigger than a quart though, I think... 

I sliced the remaining pickles to 1/8 inch on my mandoline and made a big jar of refrigerator pickles.  I got the recipe from my Parents, who had gotten it from someone in the '90's.  I remember the plastic pail of bread and butter pickles as being too sweet and kind of flabby, not really my favorite things 20 years ago.  But I modified the recipe and so far I think they are one of my favorite pickles ever!  In part, because I left out all traces of celery seed.  There aren't many things I dislike, but I've come to the realization that celery seed is kind of one of them. 

I can't seem to keep my fork out of this jar.  After 2 days, the cukes are still pretty crisp.  I kind of winged the recipe, making just 1/4 of the brine (which was simply equal parts sugar and white vinegar, with the addition of 1 tablespoon of kosher salt), and adding a  half onion and extra brown mustard seed.  This recipe is so quick, just mix everything and pack it into a jar.  I'll give the proportions for a whole batch - but keep in mind it's pretty forgiving.  The cukes give off their own liquid when allowed to rest in the salted vinegar brine, so after a few more hours the jar above was completely filled with liquid.

Bread & Butter Pickles
  • 3/4 of an ice cream pail of thinly sliced cucumbers (remember when everyone ate ice cream from a gallon pail??) (I'd slice about 1/8 inch thick) 
  • 4 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 c. white vinegar
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • 1 1/2 t. turmeric (I added extra)
  • 1 1/2 t. mustard seed (I added extra)
  • 1 1/2 t. celery seed (I omitted it)
Combine everything in a large bowl (the ice cream pail if you are following the '90's approach) and mix well.  Place in the fridge and let sit for 4-5 days before eating if you can.  The pickles will last at least 6 months under refrigeration.  (I prefer to store in glass of course, I just mixed everything in a bowl and packed into the more-than-quart glass jar seen below.  I love that jar, my Mom gave me some honey in it once and I can't bring myself to give it back to her...)

bread & butter pickle

Part of the reason I might have a new-found love for these bread & butters is that I've been making single cucumber batches of James Peterson's Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts from his Kitchen Simple cookbook.  I am a voracious reader of cookbooks, and I think one of my favorite authors is James Peterson.  His books seem like friends to me, and the Kitchen Simple book in particular has become my trusted ally in quick summery eating.  His salad has equal parts sugar and rice wine vinegar (the unseasoned kind), some chile peppers and plenty of cilantro.  It's so good.  I'd imagine I could do up a quart similar to the bread and butters and munch on them for a month or so and I might just have to get more cukes to do that.

So what do I, "unemployed" for some 8 years already, do on a Friday evening now?  Afternoon has come and gone since I started writing this, and a spanakopita of sorts is just about to come from the oven, concocted of fresh chard and kale and some frozen spinach unearthed from the freezer.  The new baby walker opted out of a nap to practice his craft and is already asleep at 6 pm.  The window are flung wide open with the coolness of our most excellent summer weather ever.  I don't feel the pangs of sadness I once did that I don't do anything exciting come Friday night, instead I take pleasure in the hard work of the week and get ready for a country visit so I can hopefully bring some more work home with me.  It's really the best kind of life.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam.

This first week of school seems more productive and much different that I had expected.  I wandered around the house feeling lost and a little empty for a day or two, but then seemed easily able to buckle down to the important work of deep cleaning and mastering the art of high-hydration whole wheat sourdough.  I always forget just how deafening the quiet is when the kid isn't around.

Last week I had picked up a 3lb. bag of organic pears at the regular old store, beguiled by their $3.99 price tag to be sure, but also craving a gingery jam.  My across-the-street neighbor had made Marisa's pear jam not long ago and gave me a tiny sample.  I really liked it.  It had a nice consistency, and she had bumped up the vanilla bean even more - making it truly special.  The day before yesterday, my pears had miraculously softened (and I had wondered if they would, little green rocks that they were for nearly a week in a bowl on the counter).  Their pear-ness overwhelmed me.  I fooled even myself into thinking I had got them from a tree somewhere.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam

Pears and I have a long relationship.  Growing up, my Mom canned whole peaches and pears every year in light syrup, and if I ever got to choose between the two, I'd always pick the pear.  I love the grit in the skin of a pear and that settles happily into it's flesh.  I love that it doesn't seem as sweet as a peach and keeps some toothsomeness even after canning.  I used to love, and still do love cutting a home-canned pear with a knife into thin slivers before eating.  And I love drinking the sweetened pear juice, cold from the fridge, that is left in the jar after all of the pears have been devoured.

When thinking about a pear jam, I knew I definitely wanted to keep the pear skins.  Not only does is make less work of things, it keeps some additional fiber.  Most of a pear's fiber and considerable amounts of Vitamin C are located in the skin - but more importantly, all the texture that makes a pear a pear is found there as well.

relaxing pear ginger jam.

crystalized ginger

I decided to go box-pectin free, and as I have come to do with most jams of this sort, I let the fruit macerate with the sugar for about 16 hours and I used raw sugar, which by the end of the relaxation had completely liquified.  Some of the pear edges turned brown, but I wasn't worried about a little oxidization since I knew the whole pot was going to cook down.  I let everything stand overnight together except the crystallized ginger, which I added just before the cooking down, and the vanilla, which I added just before packing into jars.  As with all jam, let your taste dominate the end result, and cook down until you are satisfied of the set.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam (inspired by Marisa McClellan and Linda Ziedrich)
my yield was 6 half pints plus some run-over
  • 3 lbs. pears, ripe and giving to pressure, cored and chopped (skin on)
  • 2 oz. fresh ginger, grated (to taste, about 3-4 inches off a "hand")
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 5 c. sugar (I used raw sugar by weight - the weight of granulated - 958 g. or 33.8 oz.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 3 oz. crystallized ginger, cut into small cubes
  • 1 T. vanilla extract (I used the last of some vanilla bean paste I scraped from the jar and enough extract to equal 1 T.)
Combine the pears, fresh grated ginger, lemon juice and zest, sugar and cinnamon stick in a large, heavy preserving pot.  Let sit, covered, for 8-16 hours, stirring as you think of it.

When ready to make the jam, ready jars, lids and water bath.  Add the crystallized ginger and bring the pot up to a boil.  Boil the jam down until the consistency is as you like (and the jam falls nicely from the spoon, or mounds in a chilled dish).

Remove the jam from the heat and add the vanilla.  Ladle the jam into hot jars (remove the cinnamon stick - I like to keep them in the run-over jam I have), put on the lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam

I refrained from adding more cinnamon than what was gleaned from a single stick of rough cinnamon stick during the resting and boiling.  So often, cinnamon dominates North American bakery and jam efforts.  I love cinnamon and feel it does have a place, but prefer it in the background of this gingery jam.  The jam was full of ginger flavor, but not spicy-hot from it which was my goal.  The lemon kept things in line from turning too sweet, and vanilla is always a good idea in just about anything I think.

Yesterday afternoon, another friend whose child is now is school all day came over and we tried it on simple, eggy, sourdough popovers.  I made a pot of tea, even though it grew warmer out than I had anticipated, and we sat for 45 minutes chatting the way I'd imagine women did 60 years ago. I appreciated every second of a spontaneous visit, while simultaneously keeping an eye on the clock to see when my son would be done with his school day.

sourdough popovers
These sourdough popovers were a King Arthur Flour recipe.  Super simple, and really excellent!

I am surprised again at how fast time flies.  And at how much I can accomplish in a day.  Laundry is once again caught up, the weather cooperates for line-drying in record time, and I found and eradicated dust I didn't know existed.  While those time-honored housekeeping things never truly end, I feel renewed in my purpose - strengthened by cooler temperatures and the need to bake, and the comfort of those who appreciate the bakery.  We're off to a good start this September!

Mango Jam with Cayenne and Black Pepper

It may be safe to say I'll never make another jam without adding some chile peppers to it. I'm addicted. I'll even go as far as to say that I like jam better when it has a hint of the other side of sweet, an afterthought of calm warmth in my mouth. This morning when I woke up earlier than normal (after going to bed much later than usual), instead of feeling groggy and somewhat fuzzy, I felt invigorated and inspired.

My hands are on the mend, and after cleaning up a few dishes from a small dinner party last night I turned to the mangoes that were meant both for mango lassis and frozen storage for future smoothies. All of a sudden, I found a pot of jam on the stove and an excellent breakfast in my belly comprised of mango pits gnawed as clean as cobs of corn.

mango cutting

Mangoes appear to be perfectly in season, and I say this purely based on flavor and not any previous knowledge of when exactly a mango tree is actually prolifically in season. Mangoes are also dirt cheap right now, and armed with the previously culled and stored knowledge that they are a fruit very sensitive to pesticides (and thus rarely sprayed), I usually enjoy the non-organic variety of this fruit. I commonly see the larger, human-heart sized blushing green variety I presume come from Hawaii, but when I find good prices on the smoother fleshed, slender yellow "champagne" mangoes, I get really excited and sometimes go overboard on purchasing them. They taste like exotic peaches, impossibly smooth and slippery in your mouth, and completely without the fibrous tendencies of the more common mangoes. They are mango sophisticates.


I had a couple of varieties of mango already in my possession, and the jam bug hit as I began cubing them up for the freezer. Last week, I moved a jar of cayenne peppers I had dried from my garden last Summer, and I figured mango jam would do well to include that deep, red friend. I also used a combination of orange and lime juices, predominately because I didn't have more than a single lime. I made the most of it by zesting it and including that zest towards the end of the jamming stage. Multiple spoonfuls of boiling jam pot goodness, and this image of Tigress's pepper spiked preserved kumquats, had me also reaching for the pepper grinder...

lime zest

Mango Jam with Cayenne and Black Pepper (inspired by Linda Ziedrich, Hungry Tigress)

my yield was 3 half pints and 1 3/4 pint jars
  • 2 lbs. mango, peeled and diced
  • 2 cayenne peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped (I left the seeds in)
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • enough juiced orange to equal 1/2 c. when added to the lime juice
  • coarsely ground black pepper to taste,
  • 3 c. (574 g.) sugar (I used raw sugar)

Combine the mangoes, cayenne peppers, lime and orange juices in a preserving pot and cook gently over medium low heat until the mangoes soften and are tender. After they have softened, mash lightly with a masher then add sugar. (Taste, and if it isn't hot enough for you, add more cayenne pepper or powdered cayenne pepper.)

Increase the heat to medium, stirring frequently to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. When sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to medium high, add several grinds of coarse black (tellicherry) pepper and boil until a spoonful of jam mounds up when placed on a chilled dish. Stir in the lime zest.

Ladle jam into sterilized and still hot jam jars (use pint, 3/4 pint, or half pint jars), and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

mango jam with cayenne and black pepper
mixed app iPhone pic homage to Tigress...

This chile spiked mango jam has a nice soft heat balanced with peachy sweetness. I can't wait to eat it on grilled cheeses and with cheese (which is my new favorite way to eat jam, I think). It may make a nice seltzer drink, or when thinned, a terrific sauce for vanilla ice cream or a topping for some rich, creamy cheesecake. Half the fun of making a new jam is deciding what to lop spoons of it onto!

My idea of jam making has changed so much in the past few years. I used to think that I could only make jam with fruit that I'd grown myself and in huge batches - probably reminiscent of the way my family preserved jam when I was growing up. Thanks to so many small-batch preservers, I've made stellar little 4 jar experiments with supermarket fruit that have slyly surprised me with their deliciousness. I've grown bold, adding herbs and spices to things I'd never considered, thanks to so many of my favorite preservers - maybe I will make it my 2012 mission to add chiles to everything I pop into jars.

mango jam with cayenne and black pepper

Preserving Sour Cherries.

I really never got addicted to sour cherries until 2 years ago. I popped a couple into my mouth at the West Allis Farmer's market, and my life was forever changed. I'm not really sure why I never ate them before, or sought to look for them. They were something rare, something I never grew up eating.

Last year, I missed the fleeting season altogether - in part because I didn't go to many farmer's markets because I joined a CSA, and in part because the season was not prolific due to our extremely rainy Spring. I made my last jar of tart cherry jam last longer than I should have but by the time July rolled around, I started perusing the Wisconsin Cherry Grower's site nearly daily, paranoid that I was going to miss them again and my memory of tart cherry jam was going to have to hold me for another year.

All of a sudden, there was a cherry explosion. I first saw tiny crates at the Farmer's market last Tuesday, little ruby drops of North Star and Montmorency varieties - gems that put Wisconsin on the gourmet foods map. There really is nothing like a sour cherry, nothing that approximates it's piquant sweetness, and popping the first handfuls into my mouth fueled my growing cherry appetite even more.

When Peef and Lo asked if I'd be interested in getting a substantial amount of cherries from Cherryland's Best, I originally thought I'd split some with another food blogger. But the longer our discussions went, the more we all decided that we could each manage to make 27 lbs. of cherries into something. The way I downed my first little basket, I wondered if 27 lbs. would actually be enough. I imagined myself to sleep by pitting cherries until my fingers hurt, waking early so excited for Wisconsin sour cherries and the task to preserve them all.

I was more than surprised when my cherries came in and they were "processed". A food grade, white pail heavy with already pitted fruits in their own natural, accumulated juices. I drove my haul back home, cracked open the pail, shoveled a handful of tart cherries into my mouth. I was so happy, and I didn't have to pit anything! As soon as I gave my Kiddo lunch, I portioned off my plan of attack. In less than 24 hours, here is what became of the 27 lbs. of cherries:

3 lbs. for the Sour Cherry Jam
2 1/2 lbs. for Limey Rum Sour Cherry Preserves (inspired by Linda Ziedrich, recipe below)
1 lb. for the Bachelor's Jam
3 lbs. for dehydration
2 1/4 lbs. for vinegar
7 1/2 lbs. for quarts canned in light syrup, one jar lost to explosion :(
2 lbs. for cherry crisp
1 lb for fresh eating
just shy of 2 quarts of accumulated cherry juice

I haven't done too much fruit dehydration, and I knew I would be shocked at how much moisture is lost in the process. Of the 3 lbs. of fresh cherries, the finished weight of dried cherries was under a half pound. They are sweeter, and would remind me of a dried cranberry if I didn't know better. After drying them, I put them in the freezer just to make sure any extra moisture doesn't cause them to mold on me. I'll likely use some in my Stollen this year.

bachelor's jam.
I first read about bachelor's jam last year, and was fascinated with the idea of it. Fruit is layered as it comes into season with sugar and kept submerged in alcohol (I used brandy) until ready to use. The "jam" comes from stirring up the boozy fruits and straining them out of the alcohol - each to be used as a separate component to holiday entertaining I'd imagine. I can't wait to make cakes topped with the fruit, to taste the finished alcohol that right now I can only imagine as being extremely sweet.


I feel like flavoring purchased vinegar is totally cheating. I also feel like I have failed miserably at making vinegars, the only success being the blueberry apple variety. The beautiful vat of Lemberger wine that was gifted to me became plagued with black mold, the rhubarb version met the same demise. I still love the flavor of vinegar, especially Bragg's cider vinegar, and put the fruit to steep as recommended in Pam Corbin's River Cottage Preserves Handbook. Next week, I'll strain it, sugar it, and reduce it - where it will be a clever addition to pan sauces and maybe even yogurt. (Note: I decided not to heat the vinegar past the warming point, just enough to dissolve the sugar. This way, the Bragg's vinegar remains raw and healthful despite all of the sugar. It is delicious mixed with ice and seltzer as a shrub.)

the beginning of Limey Rum Cherry Preserves.

Inspired to make more boxed-pectin-free jams this year, I have been devouring the recipes in Linda Zeidrich's The Joys of Jams Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves. Sweet Preserves are something that I never really understood: too thin to be considered a jam, they sit clumsily on toast or pared up with nut butters. They are achingly sweet. I made a strawberry preserves not too long ago that seemed good, but on the sweet side. I felt that when the heat of Summer subsided, they would taste better. But then I made this sour cherry version of preserves - and now my opinions have changed.

Yes, it is sweet. But the texture and viscosity is so lovely that I think it has sold me on the idea of preserves. I used (by weight) raw sugar, which when I smelled in in tandem with the sour cherry, made me think it needed rum. And lime. Instead of lemon, I switched to lime, and in short order, my first tweaked preserves were born.

after boiling 5 minutes, and sitting 12 hours. or maybe a tad longer...

This preserves starts 8-12 hours before the canning process takes place. The sugar combines with the fruit and coaxes the gorgeous juices into being.

Limey Rum Sour Cherry Preserves (adapted from Linda Zeidrich)
my yield: 5 half pints
  • 2 1/2 pounds sour cherries, pitted, any juices saved
  • 5 c. sugar (I used 958 g. of raw sugar, converted by this site)
  • zest of one lime (I use the small, "true" limes)
  • 2 T. lime juice, from the zested lime)
  • 1/4 c. dark, spiced rum
In a large, non-reactive pot, combine the cherries, lime zest, and sugar and let sit covered for at least 1 hour. The sugar should have drawn out some of the juice.

Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring gently and occasionally, until sugar dissolves completely. Raise heat to medium high, and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat, and cover with a cloth. Let the pan stand at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

Set the pan over medium heat and add lime juice. Bring to a boil, and raise heat to medium high. Boil, stirring often (skimming any foam) until the syrup thickens a little. (I tested by using frozen plates - I boiled away for at least 35 minutes until I was happy with the thickness.) Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the rum.

Ladle into half-pint jars. Add lids and rings, and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Since I made these preserves early this morning, I used the skimmed foam (there wasn't much) with an equal part maple syrup for this morning's pancakes. For some reason, I still am not cherried out:

After breakfast, I debated what to do with most of the remaining cherries. I wavered between canning in extra light syrup or freezing, and the canning won out. There's something about seeing quarts of cherries on the shelf, I guess - and the bonus of having some light cherry syrup to contend with...

6 went in, 5 came out...

I talked to my Mom for a good amount of time today, and she was surprised I wasn't making any desserts. "No cherry pies?" I have a serious weakness when it comes to sweets. If I make them, I eat them, if I don't make them, I don't even really crave them. I asked my Husband if he would eat a crisp. "Like, an apple crisp?" he asked, oblivious of the huge white pail that was still sitting on the counter... "No, like cherry crisp," I stated, maybe just a tad annoyed. He said he probably would eat it, so that was the only extra push I needed to make it.

I forgot that I should never NEVER use tapioca flour to thicken pies/tarts/crisps and the like, since I absolutely detest the flavor it imparts. After the crisp baked the first time, I dismembered it crisp from filling and cooked the filling on the stovetop with more sugar to mask the flavor. I also added probably too much cinnamon. Then, I reassembled the crisp into a new, shallower pan, topped with additional crumble (I had only used half the amount the first time, and froze the rest), and re-baked for a half hour. I was much happier.

Have I eaten my fill of cherries yet? I'm not sure. I'm so thankful I have such beautiful preserves to take me through the winter, to give as gifts. And, I'm surprised that it didn't seem like so much work to get it all done in less than a day. Thank you Peef and Lo for thinking of me, and thank you Cherryland's Best for amazing fruit, and less work!

Strawberries. With Chiles.

Strawberry jam has never really been one of my favorite things, though the strawberry itself is. I I feel that not much can improve the natural sweetness of early Summer berries, and adding a boatload of sugar to jam boosts that sweetness to a level that almost makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. Nevertheless, I make strawberry jam every year.

My strawberry season is late this year. My 16 quarts of Amish grown and picked berries were delivered to me last weekend by my Parents, who came to celebrate the Kiddo's birthday. The berries were close to the final picking, and were smaller than the first pickings, but they were sweet and delicious and I was thankful for them.

In the past, my strawberry jam was always made with boxed pectin, but as a recent convert to pectin-free jams I may just find that my stigma against strawberry jam is over. Although the sugar is still high, the soft set of the jam is much more desirable to me - and deciding to add some chiles to the jam pot tempers the too-sweet phenomenon with a deep earthy undertone.

I've seen a number of strawberry-chile recipes around, and originally thought I'd make this one: Tigress's Strawberry Chipotle jam. I do love chipotle, but thought that making a batch may limit my consumption and gifting options. Chipotle is a strong chile flavor, and although I love it, I wanted a soft, what-is-that? flavor. Ever remembering Rick Bayless's words declaring the stately Guajillo chile the "workhorse", I dipped into my large bagful and chose two brick red specimens to include.

I based the recipe on Linda Zeidrich's Strawberry Orange Jam in The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. I altered her method a little, since I combined all the ingredients and let them sit at room temperature for about 24 hours. I think 12 hours would have sufficed. I didn't mash the berries until I began to cook them down. Curious as I am, I lifted the lid on the pot several times when the berries were relaxing. I knew orange and guajillo worked well on pork, and figured they could only improve berries too - but the seductiveness of strawberry-guajillo jam was too interesting for words. Spoons dipped in, I followed the mellowing process to discover the chiles adding the mildest bit of heat, but the strongest undertone of warmth. Indeed, the finished jam coated the back of my throat in coziness, a nice departure from the tongue-stinging bite I usually demand from chile. This is one recipe that I'll be making for a long time I think.

Strawberry Guajillo Jam with Orange (adapted from Linda Zeidrich)
my yield was 6 half pints
  • 3 lbs. strawberries, hulled
  • 1 medium sized orange
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed (use the seeds as well)
  • 4 1/2 c. sugar
Remove the zest of the orange with a peeler, and slice into thin shreds. Squeeze out the orange juice and add to the berries in a non-reactive preserving pot. Chop the guajillo chiles into small pieces and add to the pot. Add sugar, stir carefully to combine, and let the pot sit covered at room temperature for 8-12 hours, or longer if you have to.

When ready to make the jam, heat the pot over medium heat and stir gently to fully dissolve the sugar. Raise the heat, continue cooking until the jam boils, mashing with a masher to break up the fruit as desired and skimming off the foam, until a drop of jam mounds slightly in a dish. (I had a number of dishes in the freezer to use as testers, but didn't use them at all. You can really feel when the consistency of the jam changes as you stir.)

Ladle the jam into sterilized jars, add lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

(I have not made my own pectin, which I plan on trying. This can be done with high-pectin fruit such as green apple or gooseberry. My jams boiled away for quite a while before reaching the jam point, the added pectin would reduce that. But like I've said before, if I'm rich in anything, it's time...)

after sitting overnight.

the finished jam. softly set, perfectly gorgeous.

I actually bought the Linda Ziedrich book I mentioned above for my Mom this past Mother's Day. I had rented and read it from the library, and figured that she and I both would enjoy the use of it in our own shared library. She brought it down when she came, and I hungrily reread the opening "Preserver's Primer" where Linda gives an overview of the history of preserving and the tables of pectin and acid contents of fruits. Then, I happily skipped to the recipes on strawberries, figuring to choose 2. Thinking of shrunken heads and whole fruit preserves, I made the extremely high sugar strawberry preserve recipe. I didn't add anything to her recipe, though next time I may like a little diversity. The berries did turn out well, very sweet, and I think this will be a case where I use the preserve in something else that tames the sweetness rather than to slather it heavily on jam.


I had just a little 2 oz. jar leftover that I could taste when fully cool, and it was still super sweet. the berries were a great texture, however.

Now 10 jars of jam are resting on the shelf, but my favorite strawberry preservation method is just to hull, wash, dry and pack the whole berries into quart jars and then freeze them. Of my more than 16 lbs of berries, 5 1/2 were made into jam, a pound or two disappeared in fresh eating, and the rest are frozen in the deep freeze. I can usually finagle a few frozen berries out with a butter knife for smoothies, or better, I defrost a whole quart. When the berries are still half frozen, I cut them in half or quarters, and sprinkle them with just a bit of sugar. Then, they taste like their true strawberry selves, even if not able to be spread thickly upon bread. (Though if the bread has cream cheese on it first, it will work in a pinch!)

It seems I can never appropriately judge the volume of a container; I can't tell you how much extra dish washing I have done because of this. I suspect I've lost a week of my time to poor judgement, but I find it kind of funny. Frequently I can be overheard talking to myself - congratulating myself on my great spacial handicap, but fortunately the errors in my judgement usually only pertain to volume.

When I add chiles to sweets or savories, it always proves to be good judgement, and makes up for any disheartening times I've had meanwhile. I'm imagining even now that a spoonful of strawberry-guajillo jam stirred into hot chocolate may be transcendent, though I will wait until Fall for that. Meanwhile, I'll wonder if there is anything that the Guajillo can't do. I'm not sure I love any other chile more.