If you’re like me, you’ve already been totally seduced by the complex sweet perfume of summer strawberries, lying there all innocent-like in their little baskets and boxes… maybe even twice. Okay three times. Seriously, that smell! I take home pints, pounds, flats. But here’s the embarrassing thing: once those little red gems have enticed me into slapping down dollars to take them home, I eat a few, nibbling around the hull, I cut up a handful and stir them through yogurt, I may even sprinkle on some sugar and dollop on some lightly sweetened whipped cream.
But the remaining berries languish. They flirt with me, teasing me with that gorgeous aroma, but once they are safely home and in the fridge (fruit molds FAST in my Southern California kitchen), the affair is half over already. I – how could I ever? – forget about them. And when they are weak and softening and reluctant to be sliced without collapsing, I try frantically to think of ways to use them so I won’t waste their summery tartness.
Well then, let’s jam. Strawberry lemonade jam. It’s an easy prospect. It’s a perfect non-adventure for a lazy day when pajamas are the right wardrobe choice, that novel you’ve been longing to finish finds its way into your hand, and you aren’t ready for breakfast until almost afternoon. And if that breakfast is toast with still-warm jam, well, carry on.
Strawberries, a few flurries of sugar, a generous squeeze of lemon (freshly squeezed, please), a pinch of salt for its indescribable magic (you won’t taste it, but it will heighten the flavors of the other ingredients), and if you’re feeling sassy, a drizzle of framboise or chambord for extra depth and tingle. I’m nearly always feeling sassy. Then a long, slow simmer, almost an hour, until the fruit breaks down and the bubbles get thick and sluggish. Strawberries don’t have huge quantities of pectin, so this isn’t a tremendously thick jam, but who needs that, in the summer?
There’s little else to say, because really, a perfect summer beverage in jam form doesn’t need much advertisement, but I suppose we can linger over serving suggestions for a moment. A languid spoonful oozed over toast, or pancakes, or dribbled into the holes of a waffle, is perfectly acceptable. If the day has, as they say, “gotten away from you” in its summery glory, a soft ladle over vanilla ice cream could never be a bad thing. If you’re more of the cocktail type, a drizzle of jam topped with gin and soda would cool and sweeten a sweltering afternoon.
I went as far as using this for the filling in a batch of cupcakes I took to a baby shower last month. A quick slather between layers of cake would do nicely as well. But really, since I’m a bit of a purist, I think my favorite application was slathered across the slightly over-toasted surface of an unapologetically thick slice of homemade sourdough bread.
Let’s do summer. Let’s jam.
Strawberry Lemonade Jam
Makes…. well, it was a summer afternoon… and I forgot to measure… but it certainly made enough to play with for several days.
1 ½ pounds strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
⅔ cups granulated sugar
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I needed two lemons for this. You may need more or less depending on how juicy yours are)
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons fruity liqueur such as framboise or chambord, optional.
- Dump all ingredients into a pot. Set your stove to medium heat and stir gently to combine and begin dissolving the sugar. Continue to stir occasionally as things heat up.
- After ten minutes, the strawberries and sugar will be foaming up bright pink bubbles. Stir and reduce the heat to medium-low. We do want to evaporate some of the liquid the strawberries are exuding, but not burn the sugar.
- Simmer for another 30-45 minutes for a loose but still spreadable jam. It will still look quite thin when you take it off the heat, but will thicken as it cools. If you are unsure about thickness, put a tablespoon or two on a plate and stick it in the freezer for five or ten minutes to see how thick the finished product will be.
- Because strawberries don’t have a tremendous amount of pectin, this all-fruit concoction will never be as thick as a commercial jam. If that is what you are looking for, you will have to add thickener.
- Serve warm or cool, in or on, or even under, your favorite bread product, or see serving suggestions above.