Friday, May 25, 2007

Balsamic - Wild Strawberry Preserves

Balsamic vinegar is the best thing that's ever happened to strawberries. Now strawberry preserves have always left me a bit cold. Why spread that on your toast when you have fig jam, wild blackberry preserves and pear-coriander chutney, I ask? It didn't occur to me until very recently, that if balsamic vinegar can bring out the strawberriestness of fresh strawberries, then it can do the same for strawberry preserves. At the market last Saturday, I bought more tiny wild strawberries than we could finish and the rest were getting a bit soft so I went online trying to find a good balsamic-strawberry preserve recipe and found out that this is much more the kind of thing one spends $10 a jar on in a schmancy shop than it is a thing one makes from scratch. (Meaning I didn't find any recipes.) So I winged it. For those of you with more time and culinary talent than money, here's the recipe:

1 lb strawberries (wild, if you're really lucky)
1 lb sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (please! no aged-for-25-years stuff, save that for drizzling and use the cheap stuff for this, ok?)

In a large stock pot place 2-3 clean empty glass jars (recycled jars with screw-tops will do just fine), cover with water and put over high heat. It usually takes a long time to get a large volume of water to boil, so put the jars on the stove before you start the preserves. Place the strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cook until the boiling bubbles seem thick. This took me 15 minutes. (When the preserves are thick enough, the bubbles at the surface seem to take longer to pop). Test the doneness of the preserves by letting a drop of it fall onto a room-temperature saucer. Music to test wild-strawberry preserves by: "No Way to break My Heart" by the Wild Strawberries". The drop should remain like a high dome. If it spreads at all, the preserves are not done yet; continue cooking for another couple minutes and try again.

Once your preserves are thick enough and your jars and lids are at a rolling boil, you’re ready to jar the preserves. Utensils you will need: 1 long wooden spoon, 1 ladle, 1 plastic funnel cut in half so that the pouring space is narrower than the jar mouths but wide enough for the preserves to go through, 2 oven mitts and ideally 1 friend standing by, surgical technician-like, to make the process go more smoothly. Using the long, wooden spoon, fish out one of the jars and shake it upside down to remove excess water (the spoon should be inside the upside-down jar). Place the jar right-side-up next to the pot of preserves. Place the funnel over the jar, ladle in jam up to just millimeters from the very top, fish out a lid with the spoon and, using oven mitts, screw the lid on very tightly. Flip the sealed jar upside-down on the counter and proceed with the subsequent jars. Allow to cool completely. There are often some extra preserves that won’t fit into the jars and that can be ladled into a cup and eaten with toast the next morning.


Blogger Figs, Olives, Wine said...

Susan, this is brilliant! I keep buying up great tubs of strawberries and macerating them in posh balsamic and sugar, but I hadn't thought of taking the next step! Thank you, thank you. I am off to the market now to get some fresh berries and make this.
- Figs

2:54 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Great idea! I agree with you about simple strawberry preserves: the complexity of a fresh strawberry seems to disappear when you try to make it into preserves. The traditional combination of balsamic vinegar and strawberries, turned this time into a jam, is a fantastic twist. Good thinking!

Thanks also for reminding all of us foodies that it's okay to use the "cheap stuff" for preparations such as these. My wallet could tell stories about how often I forget that simple rule.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hey Figs, Thanks, let me know how yours preserves come out.

Hi Christina, As far as I'm concerned, nobody should seep-fry in extra virgin olive oil or boil good balsamic. It's kind of like cooking a really good steak to well-done.

6:10 PM  
Blogger J at said...

This sounds divine...but why save it for the next morning, when you could spoon it, still hot, over vanilla ice cream? Mmmmm.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi J. Now why didn't I think of that?

10:28 PM  

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