Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jam jam jam jam - lovely jam, wonderful jam.

Jam on it.
When I worked at Pasadena's late, lamented Old Town Bakery, we used to make this jam in huge rondos (actually braziers) every day, because the restaurant would go through buckets of the stuff during every breakfast shift.

I remember the bakery's owner (hi, Amy!) skimming off the foam from the top of the simmering jam and then pouring this reserved byproduct over our homemade vanilla ice cream. Sounds disgusting, was delicious.

Anyway, you should make this, especially if you make the mistake of going to a farmers' market or Costco and buying about two metric tons more strawberries than you can actually consume before they spoil. This recipe will reduce those tons (or "tonnes," for our British friends) down to a couple of manageable little cups.

Oh, and these ingredients might sound as if they make some sort of horrible aberrant bad-Margarita-from-Chili's strawberry jam, but actually the Grand Marnier and lime juice serve to make it strawberry-er, if that's possible. The play up the taste. Trust me. Not only is this ridiculously fast, it's purely delicious, and great on toast, crackers, ice cream, in ice cream (as you're freezing it), on pound cake, as a shortcake or summer pudding enhancer, etc. etc.

Quick, Delicious Strawberry Jam

Makes about two or three cups.

6 heaping cups of hulled, washed, halved fresh strawberries

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or other orange-flavored liqueur, like triple sec, Cointreau, Mandarine Napoleon, etc.) - don't omit this because it is a subtle but crucial flavor enhancer

Juice from one medium-sized lime

Two things: this is a non-jarred jam which must be stored in the refrigerator, AND it has a peculiar equipment requirement: you will need to cook it in a 10" non-corrosive skillet or frying pan - that is, one made of stainless steel, tempered glass or enamel. I've never tried it in a Teflon-coated pan, but as long as there are no weird smells clinging to it, it might work. At any rate, DO NOT cook this in a saucepan or an aluminum or cast iron pan, because a saucepan is much too deep and will not allow for quick reduction of the strawberry juice, and because an aluminum or cast iron pan will turn the jam a horrible color and impart a terrible taste (aluminum and cast iron react with the acid in the strawberries AND the lime juice).

So - pile the strawberries in the skillet (don't worry; it may look overfull but like spinach it will cook down quickly). Top with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the Grand Marnier. Don't stir yet. Place on a stove burner and crank the heat to medium low. Let the strawberries cook for a few minutes until they start releasing their juice, then stir carefully with a big spoon. Bring them to a simmer, then set a timer for 10 minutes. You can walk away for this amount of time, but make sure the heat is on the low side.

When the timer goes off, return to the strawberries and add the lime juice. You may see some foam collecting on top - skim this off with a skimmer or a large spoon. Set the timer for 10 minutes again and let cook.

When the timer goes off again, you will see that the strawberries have released a lot of their juice and there may be more foam on top -- skim it off (save it or throw it -- your call). Add the last tablespoon of Grand Marnier and turn the heat up slightly - the strawberries should just come to a gentle, rolling boil. Let cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the juice is reduced and thickened and strawberries are cooked. It may still look soupy - this is OK - it will thicken as it cools. Remove from the heat and pour into a storage container. Cover and chill thoroughly. Keep this jam in the refrigerator for about a week (ours only lasts a few days). You may be able to freeze this, but I've never tried it, so don't do it on my account.

© 2008 Sandy Soto Teich
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