Beautiful Locally-grown Strawberry
I finally got up to the local fruit farm, Dole’s Orchards, where I lucked out. It was the last day of strawberry picking and the picking, I must say, was GOOD. I filled seven quart containers in about an hour, and a quick taste test proved that all the sunshine and copious amounts of rain had come at just the right times and in the right amounts to create plump, sweet, flavorful berries–the best I’ve tasted in a few years.
Dole’s is located on top of a hill, apple and peach and plum orchards spreading out from an old yellow farmhouse and barn and neighboring hillsides in the distance drawing the eye with various shades of blue. The air is sweet up there on the hill. In a week there will be raspberries ripe and fat on thick canes and new peaches to pluck from leafy branches. Blueberries are ready for picking, an early season. Come fall, the Dole’s will be open for apple and plum picking, and on three consecutive Sunday afternoons there will be a hay-bale maze, music performances, a long stack of pumpkins from which to chose your jack o-lantern, and a farm store full of cider and Nancy’s deep-dish apple pie…
But now it is summer, and I have a hankering to experiment with fruit jams. In the past I tried a recipe for blueberry-chili pepper jam with cilantro and thought it was fabulous–sweet, zippy, fragrant. What could I do with strawberries? What did I have growing in my garden boxes? The answer was obvious: Chocolate Mint.
Chocolate mint does really have a taste of chocolate. The more I learn about mint, the more admiration I have for this vigorous, hardy, versatile plant. You can find spearmint, peppermint, lemon, and many other varieties. It can be used for desserts, teas, baking, and jams. My grandmother used to make a beautiful green mint-apple jelly. What could be more perfect for strawberries, I thought, than chocolate and mint?
Strawberry Chocolate Mint Jam
The recipe is simple, based on one from the Betty Crocker cookbook:
4 cups ripe strawberries, crushed
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
2 tablespoons chocolate mint leaves, snipped very fine with kitchen scissors
Prepare 2 half-pint canning jars on 1 one-pint jar. Boil in water to sterilize. Follow canning directions if you plan to store these unrefrigerated.
Put strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan on high. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to keep a boil, stir occasionally, cook for about 25 minutes. Skim the light pink foam from the top. Mix in the mint and stir for one minute. Remove from heat.
Pour into jar(s). Finish processing if you are storing them outside the ‘fridge. This is such a small amount that I simply put the lid and screw-cap on and will eat it within the next couple of weeks. The sugar is a preservative.
Here is the finished product. I “tasted” the jam from the spoon, but the real test will be when the preserves have cooled and I’ve spread some on a homemade scone. I’ll let you know! In the meantime, don’t be afraid to experiment with jams, jellies, preserves, and chutneys. You can generally make a small batch and eat it up without having to invest the time to process it in a canner. If you like the results, well then, make a big batch to can and give away to your lucky friends and family. What special or unusual recipes have you tried lately? Drop me a recipe…Outside the Box.
Strawberry Chocolate Mint Jam