I haven’t made jam since I was little when my mom would go to the farmer’s market and purchase a large basket of peaches, and make dozens of jars of peach jam to put up in the pantry for the coming year. Mmmmm. I love homemade peach jam, but, for some reason, could care less about store bought peach jam...but that's another story.
Along with the nagging desire to make jam, I also had a notion to pair bay leaf with strawberries. I looked around to see if strawberry and bay leaf jam had been done before, and came up empty handed. Maybe that’s not a good combination?
But I had to try it any way. I split the batch of jam into two – one with bay leaf, and one without – just in case bay leaf and strawberries was not a good combination.
And the results? Quite good! It’s still strawberry jam, but with a spicy, mysterious flavor. If you like intrigue in your food – What is that spice? I just can’t place my finger on it. Oh, yeah, it’s bay leaf! – then you’ll like this combination.
I sort of followed the cooking guidelines of this simple strawberry jam recipe from Martha Stewart, but I had no idea how many pounds of strawberries I had. I took a guess at how many pounds my three quarts of strawberries weighed, and then adjusted the lemon juice and sugar amounts.
Plate test (or gel test) is a fail-proof way to determine when your jam has set up enough. Place a saucer in the freezer at the beginning of your jam making session, cook your jam for just a little under the amount of time specified in the recipe (this is important because "things" happen quickly towards the end of cooking), place a teaspoon of jam on the frozen saucer, then stick the saucer with jam back in the freezer for 1-2 minutes. Remove the saucer from the freezer after 1-2 minutes, and if you push your finger through the jam, and the skin wrinkles, you’re done! If not, boil longer.
Strawberry Bay Leaf Jam
makes about 2 pints
3 quarts fresh strawberries, washed, drained, and halved
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups sugar
2-3 fresh bay leaves
- Place two saucers in the freezer (in case you need to test the jam again).
- Cook strawberries and lemon juice in a large stock pot over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until juices from the fruits have release.
- Add sugar and bay leaves to strawberries, turn heat up to a rapid boil, stirring occasionally, and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until jam thickens. Remove foam off the top of cooking berries with a spoon during the cooking process.
- To test jam for doneness, place a spoonful of jam on the frozen saucer, return the saucer to the freezer for 1-2 minutes, remove saucer from freezer, then push finger through jam. If jam wrinkles, the jam is done.
- Remove bay leaf from jam. Ladle hot jam into sterile jars. Refrigerate and eat within four weeks, or process for canning.