Strawberry Pro & Con (-serve)
When we were quite small (7 & 8 years old? 8 & 9?), Aurora and I spent a hot sticky day in our godmother’s kitchen, making raspberry jam. I remember mashing raspberries, I remember a (metric) crap-ton of sugar, I remember steam pouring out of a giant pot, and I remember learning that our godmother was allergic to what sounded like every food under the sun. What I don’t remember is eating any of the jam.
Maybe the efforts of A & my labors made its way to our house later, but who knows. Mama didn’t do any jam making, and I never tried it myself until the summer of 2009. It was June in Chicago, hot, humid, and sticky as hell. I had just quit smoking a few weeks earlier, and was spending all my time (which, being on break from grad school, I had a lot of) cooking and running, to combat the cravings. I was crashing at a lovely friend’s colorful condo south of the university, sharing the kitchen with her dude, who seemed to mostly cook meat and lift weights. It worked out pretty well.
One Saturday while living there, I wandered up to the Woodlawn farmer’s market and snagged myself some strawberries marked “pie berries”. They were a bit bruised, a tad blemished, and half off. SOLD.
From these half-priced, but whole-ly delicious fruits (har har, I like puns), I cooked up my first batch of strawberry jam, and canned it in a jury-rigged water bath contraption involving a round cooling rack and the largest stock pot I could find. I cooked it past the point I probably should have stopped, and decided that it was way too stiff, and a faaailuuure. 4 half-pint jars of failure.
When I moved to California the next year, a jar of the jam snuck into my moving boxes and resurfaced in my new fridge, only to be devoured by the now husband. Turns out, it was just how he liked strawberry jam. Who woulda thunk.
I didn’t touch strawberry preserves again until this summer, when a flat of Swanton Berry Farm strawberries called out my name at the market.
I was powerless to resist, particularly given the Orangette story of a few days prior, replete with picture upon picture of glistening strawberry conserve.
What the heck is strawberry conserve, you say? Or any conserve, for that matter? Funny, that, I asked the same thing. The wikipedia page didn’t tell it as well as this, imho: it’s strawberry topping. Just like you get at the ice-cream store. Or from a jar for your at-home-ice-cream-sundae-making pleasure. It’s soft but not fall-apart berry chunks in gooey, smooth syrup.
Having tasted the conserve now, all I can say is, move over, jam. You’re not (as) wanted in our house. (I joke, jam’s totally good, this is just heavenly.)
Strawberry Topping, otherwise known as Strawberry Conserve
Molly over at Orangette got this recipe from Bon Appetit, but it’s so simple you will barely feel like you are following a recipe. As usual, I made some modifications, mostly due to laziness / lack of desire to buy something I didn’t already have (cough – I’m looking at you, superfine sugar – cough).
- 2 pints of strawberries from Swanton farms – came to 1 lb 6 oz when hulled
- 1 cup regular sugar – 187 gm / 6.6 oz
- peel of half a lemon, including pith (i.e. not just zest)
Hull and rinse the strawberries, and cut them in half. Cut a lemon in half and peel that half like an orange, being carefully not to completely smash the segment part. Use the lemon juice for something else (making jam! ricotta! booze-y drinks!).
Plop the cut berries, sugar, and strips of lemon peel into a heavy-bottomed pan (titter titter), and let them macerate together for a good two hours or so. At the end of this time, the sugar will have sucked juice out of the strawberries.
Stir the ingredients together over medium heat. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the strawberries are getting soft but not falling apart. Gently remove the strawberries with a slotted spoon, directly into storage containers (clean and sanitized if you’re going to can them). I used two half-pint jars – you could probably use a single pint jar. Or 4 4 oz jars. Go crazy with tiny packaging if that’s what you’re into.
Keep cooking the jewel-colored liquid made up of sugar and strawberry goo for another 4 minutes or so, until it gets a tad thicker and resembles syrup more than water. Pour the strawberry syrup over the berry halves until the fruit is covered, leaving head space if you’re canning them up.
Process the jars in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes, or put the conserve in the fridge after it has cooled, and eat it within 2 months.
There will probably be some of the liquid left. DO NOT DISCARD THIS – it is liquid gold. This is homemade strawberry syrup, but better than any damn thing Hershdizzle ever made. Put it in a jar, keep it in your fridge for the few seconds it’ll take for you or someone in your house to eat, drink, or inhale all of it. Or give it to me. I’ll pay shipping.
If you can’t figure out how to eat this, even I can’t help you in the imagination department. Slather it on muffins. Pour it over ice-cream.
Make a cocktail with the syrup if you know what’s good for you – 1.5 shots gin, juice of half a lemon, 1/2 shot strawberry syrup, shake up with ice and drain into glass – OMG YES. MOAR. NOW!
You’ll figure it out. I have faith in you. Or at least, in this product’s ability to get into your belly.