Thursday, July 17, 2008

Strawberry Lemonade Fruit Spread

As a little kid we lived in the UP of Michigan, yes, I am born a "yooper" and quite proud of it. Every summer at the end of July into early August the strawberry's ripened on the farms north of us along Lake Superior around Calument, Houghton over to Ontanogon. My grandparents living in Minnesota would come for a short visit and it ended with strawberry picking. We'd fill the trunk of his old Galaxy Sedan with Berry's, we'd fill the back of our old Country Squire Wagon with berry's and head home. Other than a picnic lunch along Lake Superior we'd just pick berry's for what seemed an eternity (I was 5 at the time so who remembers how long we really were there).

Even after we moved to MO my grandparents for years made the drive to the UP for berry picking. When I was in high school I went along for the ride one day. From Ely to Houghton was some 8 hours of driving, 328 Miles. My grandparents were in their 70's at the time and I had just started driving, I was sent to go along in case Grandpa got tired and needed help driving back. Didn't happen. We left at 1AM and got to town for breakfast around 9. By 10 we were in the fields and started picking berry's. Breaking long enough to enjoy sandwiches Grams packed then back to the picking. By 3 PM we were on the road home and back by 10PM that night. Grandpa drove the whole thing, which was fun as his ancient 68 Galaxy had neither power steering nor power brakes and I don't think I was up to manhandling a car like that then (I was still a runt at 16).

Enough of the diversions and back to the point of this post. Fresh Strawberry Jams were always a big deal growing up. My Mom and Grandmother would make dozens of jars of jam from all those flats. Some would be simply sliced and frozen for shortcake right way, others would be frozen for shortcake in the winter.

Both of my Grandmothers were always cooking up small batches of jam. Living in Northern Minnesota they always were out in the woods picking little batches of berries for eating fresh, baking pies or simply making small batches of spreads. You haven't lived until you have had real wild strawberry, raspberry or blueberry fruit spreads. Nothing comes close in the store to the intense flavor they have.

In So Cal by the time July rolls around we are a few months past peak berry season. The stores have cheap flats of strawberry that are so ripe if you don't use in a day or so they start getting mushy and soft. Those over-ripe berries according to my Mom is what is perfect for making jam and spreads.

I didn't have enough for a full batch today, but I do remember watching my Grandmothers make small batches and it is really easy to do. If you can boil water you can make your own fruit spread, it is that easy. I use lemon juice for small batches as it contains the natural jelling agent pectin to help it set. I also use the peel to up the lemon quotient...more like strawberry lemonade than plain strawberry jam.

Strawberry Lemonade Fruit Spread

1 1/2 lb strawberry, halved
1/2 c sugar
1/4 corn syrup
2 T water
1 small lemon - zested and juiced.

Put the first four ingredients into a heavy, wide sauce pot. It must be heavy to prevent scorching and wide enough to evaporate off the moisture. Zest the lemon with a rasp and add to the strawberry mixture. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Reduce heat to low simmer for 5 minutes. Use a potato masher or similar to mash down the berry's to the consistency you like, I use very light mashing as I like to see big chunks of fruit in the spread.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the berry mixture is reduced by 1/3 - 1/2 and starting to thicken. Add lemon juice and stir in well. Using a spoon carefully skim off as much of the foam as possible.

Pour the fruit spread into a sterilized jar and seal lid. When lid "pops" you know it is sealed and you can put away into fridge to let it set at least 24 hours before using . This makes about 2 cups which is a nice use for left over fruit.

Slow simmer to reduce, stir carefully so you don't coat the sides and have scorching.
For gawds the foam, that fruit scum is great on wonder bread!
Everything needs to be sterile for storing. Boil the funnel, jar, lid and ring for at least 5 minutes before filling. Everything needs to be hot when being filled to prevent contamination.

No comments: