Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

Strawberries have arrived! For me, it’s the fruit that really marks the beginning of the summer season and I’ll go just about anywhere to get my hands on plenty of them. While my garden patch is doing well, it provides just enough for the occasional treat so it’s off for my yearly pilgrimage to the u-pick farm where I usually pick my weight in berries, put up the majority of them and freeze the rest. It’s labour intensive, but it’s brief and you have a year’s worth of sunshine to see you through to the following June.

This year, I was excited a new strawberry patch opened up nearby, saving me almost 1.5 hours of driving. Hick’s Berry Patch has beautifully laid out rows, each identified by their variety. It’s easy picking and the berries were wonderful.

Just don’t get lost en route…

An hour and 17 lbs of strawberries later and I’m armed and ready to start this year’s Strawberry Preservefest. While almost all of them were earmarked for Cocagne River Orchard, I saved the last bit for a spur-of-the-moment and late night attempt at something unique and really special. Born out of a necessity to use up some sweet Marsala wine I inadvertently bought for a Chicken Marsala dish, it’s a gorgeous, deep red jam with a beautiful set and rich flavour.

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

Yields: 2x250ml, 1x125ml

4 cups crushed strawberries

1.5 cups sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 vanilla bean pod, halved and seeds removed

1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine

1. In a large pot, stir vanilla bean seeds and pod in crushed strawberries. If possible, let sit and marinade for a couple of hours. Remove pod before boiling. (I rinse the pod off and put it in granulated sugar.)

2. Add sugar and bring strawberry/vanilla mixture and bring to a soft boil over medium heat. In about 10 minutes, check the gel point. Mine took about 14 minutes for a soft set and I tested using the frozen saucer test.

3. Once set to your liking, stir in 1/4 cup of Marsala wine and ladle into hot jars. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam on Punk   Domestics
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What Grows Together, Goes Together

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Uncanny has some exciting news: For the first time in our history, we’ll be available for retail outside of the Sackville Farmer’s Market! We’re very excited to be working with Cocagne River Orchard a family run apple orchard located in beautiful Cocagne, New Brunswick. Owners Denis and Nicole are long-time supporters of buying local and living gently on the land and uncanny is delighted to be working together, highlighting the best of South-East New Brunswick. The orchard is available as a u-pick, so when you’re done picking apples from their beautiful property, please visit their boutique where you’ll find a wide range of uncanny products and other interesting finds.

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On the theme of growing and going together is a really special preserve that has been crafted from the abundance of local and readily available ingredients. A helpful way to look at flavour combinations is to tour your garden and look at what’s in season and chances are, those flavours will compliment each other. Right now the rhubarb season is winding down, the strawberries are turning red on the vine and the roses are in full bloom. All the makings of a lovely, summery preserve!

If you’ve never preserved with rose petals before, as I hadn’t, give it a try! Here are just a few benefits:

1. They make your kitchen smell like a fairy tale.

2. They are easy to harvest. Nip them in the bud stage and  give them a 2 minute bath in cool, soapy water and a thorough rinse to ensure no bug friends join the party. They open during the day and the petals are ready to fall out by the evening. Super easy harvesting.

3. The flavour is really subtle. I was worried the preserve would taste like a funeral home, but it added just the right amount of floral note. Don’t worry, this is not a jam you’ll be dabbing behind your ears!

My strawberries weren’t perfectly ripe but I wanted them included in the preserve so I opted for my homemade Strawberry Liqueur. All together, you have three beautifully pink ingredients.

I went with a French style with this preserve, letting the rhubarb macerate for a couple of days before boiling the syrup and adding the remaining ingredients back in. I think it’s a darling of a preserve.

Rhubarb Rose Petal Preserve

2 3/4 pounds of chopped rhubarb

2 3/4 cups sugar

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup rose petals or petals from 2 small roses. Please make sure they’re unsprayed.

**Optional: 2 tbsp Strawberry Liqueur **

1. Slice the rhubarb and toss sugar and juice of one lemon together and pour into 9×13 pan. Cover with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.

2. The next morning, strain rhubarb mixture and pour juices into a large pan. Add the juice of your second lemon with the strained rhubarb juices. Bring to a boil and reduce by about half. Stir in rhubarb and fresh rose petals and stir over low-medium heat until the preserve is cooked to your liking. I like a bit of texture, so I reduced my liquid to the setting point and added the fruit in. It didn’t take long to finish and the jam is chunky. If you want a smoother, more stewed-like jam, don’t boil the rhubarb juice as much and give your rhubarb extra time to cook and break down.

3. Remove from heat and stir in your strawberry liqueur. Pour into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Perfect for Tea Time.

Rhubarb Rose Petal Preserve on Punk   Domestics

Thinking Outside the Jar: Strawberry Liqueur Update

After patiently waiting my almost four weeks for the vodka to extract all that fantastic strawberry flavour, today was the big reveal. I wish I could convey the full aroma of the liqueur and its perfect strawberry smell; it’s like opening “June”. The process was really simple and in a nutshell: Take some berries, throw some vodka over them, put them in a cool dark place and gently shake once a week until the four weeks are up. To complete the liqueur, I strained the berries in a large coffee filter nestled in a fine mesh strainer for crystal clear liquid and poured it into a hot and clean 1 L mason jar, where it will reside in a low traffic cupboard so it won’t lose its colour from sunlight exposure. Another idea is to get fancy and fill dark green, 250 mL wine bottles and cork it so it’s ready for gift giving. The dark green will help protect it from colour loss.  (Full instructions on how to begin found here.)

My batch yielded about 2.5 cups and although I had the best of intentions of using this as Christmas presents, one whiff and I realized I couldn’t bear to part with it. It really is that good.

It started like this:

Vodka Meets Berries

And turned into this:

Strawberry Liqueur

I tried serving the strained, boozy strawberries with a sweetened ricotta dish when I made for company and while they enjoyed the berry-turned-shooter, it was agreed that I should find another use for them. Given that I hate wasting food and they still had a lot of strawberry flavour, I decided to repurpose them into this:

Rhubarb Pineapple Strawberry Preserve

Rhubarb Pineapple Strawberry Preserve
* Actually, it’s closer to Kitchen Sink Preserve as I had some leftover crushed pineapple that needed to be used, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Yields: Almost 5×250 mL

4 cups diced rhubarb (frozen works fine)

1 small can of crushed pineapple, with juice

1 cup strawberries, from the strawberry liqueur

2 1/2 – 3 cups sugar

2 tbsp strawberry liqueur

1. Combine pineapple, strawberries and rhubarb and bring to a boil over medium heat.

2. When the fruit has broken down to your liking (I prefer my rhubarb more on the stewed side), add your sugar and return to a boil, stirring until jam has thickened to your liking, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add strawberry liqueur. Pour into hot, clean jars and process at 10 minutes in your boiling water bath.

These are not pectin rich ingredients and I was aiming for a very soft set and something to spoon over my morning porridge or blend into yogurt. The strawberry flavour really shines through and balances nicely with the pineapple and rhubarb. A great, impromptu preserve that takes very little effort. Enjoy!

Thinking Outside the Jar: Thumbprint Cookies with Strawberry Preserves

I made this to suit my toddler daughter, Honey Bear and her allergies to peanuts and dairy, but feel free to substitute the real deal when making these. The recipe was born out of a late night snack on a piece of toast with peanut butter and a generous slathering of Strawberry with Creme de Cacao Jam. The nuttiness from the cocoa, the peanut butter and the sweetness was like heaven together. I’m pretty sure this cookie rivels that experience:

Sunflower Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Adapted from this Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprint recipe at My Recipes

 

2 cups all purpose “white” flour (closer to a whole wheat)

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup sunflower butter (recipe found here)

1/4 cup margarine

2 cups eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Jam (I used Strawberry Vanilla Bean and Strawberry with Creme de Cacao)

 

1. Combine dry ingredients.

2. Combine sugars, margarine in a large bowl or stand mixer and stir until whipped. Add eggs one at a time. Add in vanilla and gradually add in dry ingredients.

3. With oiled hands, roll out little balls of cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and indent middle with your thumb. Refigerate for one hour.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes and allow to fully cool before adding about 1/2 tsp of jam. (I got impatient and added the jam, leaving a jammy pool under the cookie. Really is best to follow directions sometimes!)

Thumbprint Cookies with Strawberry Vanilla Jam

 

*Cross-posted on our family’s blog: 100 Mile Locavores*

Thinking Outside the Jar: Strawberry Liqueur

Strawberry Liqueur, or more like the makings of it. The recipe is really simple and I’m hoping the results will be fantastic. I’ve handled almost 30 lbs of strawberries this season and I’m coming to the end of my strawberry preserves and with a batch of strawberry wine in process, I was looking for something new, delicious and can be enjoyed in the days ahead. Given that I’m almost 6 months pregnant and currently unable to enjoy this treat, my hope is with the long cellaring, I’ll have something phenomenal to enjoy this winter.  The best part, it starts with some very basic ingredients like these:

Unsprayed, Freshly Picked Strawberries

Vodka

I’m following the recipe found here at Growing a Greener World by Theresa Loe. She has some wonderful suggestions on other fruit to be preserved and Strawberry Liqueur will not be the last thing I try! I divided the ingredients into 2x1L jars for ease and stored it in a cupboard. I’m excited for the next step in four weeks time. Stay tuned!

Strawberry Season Has Arrived!

The Quintessential Summer Fruit

Turns out, the Maritimes are having a lousy year for strawberries; too much rain and not enough heat in the spring to really kick off a good strawberry season, so it feels great to be able to pick anything at all, let alone fourteen pounds of strawberries.

 

While about 2 lbs are destined for a strawberry wine and at least 4 lbs for the freezer to help us through the winter in case we undertake another 100 Mile Challenge, there was plenty of strawberries to go around and lots of strawberry preserves destined for the Sackville Market and online market. We have:

Chipotle Strawberry Jam
Strawberry with Vanilla Bean
Strawberry Jam (made in the French style of slowly drawing out the juices and keeping the berries whole)
Strawberry Margarita Jam

 

Vive La Fraise!