Sunday, December 18, 2011

Recipe: Justin's Christmas Jam

Last year, or maybe it was even two years ago--I'm not sure, a family member showed me an empty jar of jam she had received as a gift (it was, of course, full when she received it) and said something to the effect of, "If you're looking for a new jam recipe to work on, I'd love some of this..."

I turned the jar around and looked at the ingredients, which were simple enough: Strawberries, Cranberries, Oranges, Pectin.  An odd combination to be sure, as strawberries are a June fruit and the other two are winter fruits, but it sounded kind of tasty.  I quickly jotted the list down on a scrap of paper and stuck it into my pocket.  When I got home, it got mixed in with the detrius on my desk and I more or less forgot about it.

Just the other day, I was doing some cleaning around my computer and I spotted the list of ingredients on that scrap of paper I had penned so very long ago.  It just so happened that I needed a gift idea for said family member, so it was a great little bit of happenstance that it should show-up right about then.

Now, if only I knew the concentrations of the ingredients.  I'd never actually tasted the stuff myself, so I couldn't even go on memory.  A quick Google or two turned-up some similar recipes called "Christmas Jam," sans the orange, so I jotted down some rough measurements and headed into the kitchen.  I decided to forgo the commercial pectin and do an old-fashioned boiled jam instead because both the cranberries and the strawberries are quite high in pectin and I like the smoother, more spreadable consistency of old-fashioned boiled jams.

The result is quite tasty and tangy.  I'd say it's pretty darned good.  Even if you're not into canning, this would make a great addition to a holiday brunch table.  Just slather it on some homemade biscuits or fresh dinner rolls.  Mmmmmm....

Justin's Christmas Jam
Makes about 4 1/2 cups

- 12oz Cranberries, Fresh or Frozen
- 16oz Strawberries, Fresh or Frozen
- 2 large navel oranges (3 to 4 clementine's would also be holiday-appropriate)
- 4 cups sugar

1) Locate a large 5qt or larger heavy-bottomed pot.

2) Zest the skin of one of the oranges and add zest to the pot.

3) Peel both oranges using a knife, being sure to remove as much of the white pith as you can.  Better to lose some flesh than to include pith, as it is bitter.  Quarter the flesh and finely chop/puree with a food processor.  Add to the pot.

4) Process the cranberries in the food processor until chopped fine.  Add to the pot.

5) If using frozen strawberries, add directly to the pot.  If using fresh, core and finely chop before adding to the pot.

6) Add all 4 cups of sugar to the pot.

7) Cook mixture on medium-high, stirring constantly.  Test periodically with a probe or a candy thermometer.  You're looking for a temperature of 220 degrees, known as the gel point.  You can also use the gel test (see below).

8) As soon as you've hit the gel point (there's a fine line between done and burnt, so be careful!), immediately remove the pot from the heat and allow it to stop bubbling, stirring to help it cool.

9) If you plan to can the jelly, fill sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Alternatively, ladle into very clean glass containers and cool on the counter.  Store in the refrigerator a month or longer.

The Gel Test: Chill a small plate in the freezer.  Place a spoonful of jam on the plate and return to the freezer. Wait 1 to 2 minutes and remove plate from freezer.  Gently press jam with fingertip; it should wrinkle slightly.  You'll want to remove the jam from the heat while doing this to prevent overcooking.

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