I know... technically I could get strawberries anytime I want, but I can't be bothered with the softball-sized mega strawberries they import from Mexico for most of the year. Sure, they may look gorgeous and smell gorgeous, but they taste like... water. Bletch.
That's why I got positively giddy when the Twitterverse started buzzing about this year's crop of Ontario strawberries. These, my friends, are strawberries worthy of adoration - tiny little ruby-red morsels, with an intense strawberry flavour and just the right balance of tartness and sweetness. Complete and utter perfection.
For the past week and a half, I've been in strawberry heaven. I've been eating them by the handful, mixing them into yogurt, baking them in tarts, scattering them on salads, and macerating them with liqueur.
To try to stretch out this year's strawberry season by just a few more months, I decided to make some strawberry jam. Not just any ol' jam, either... this is a blend of strawberries accented with tart lemons and aromatic lemon thyme, inspired by a recipe originally posted on Yummy Supper.
I can't even begin to tell you how amazing this jam is, so you'll just have to try it out for yourself... with proper local strawberries, of course.
A note on timing: you'll notice this jam requires two long stretches in the fridge to allow for flavours to mellow and pectin to develop, which means it's prepared over the course of two days (well... one and a half, really, but who's counting?). I find the easiest way to deal with this is to start the jam in the evening of the first day, then simmer it briefly first thing the following morning, and then finish up the jam when I get home in the afternoon... it fits perfectly into my work schedule, and it lets me feel like I'm doing something productive with my weeknights.
Strawberry and Lemon Thyme Preserves
Inspired by Yummy Supper
1 basket strawberries, washed and hulled (~3 cups)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2-3 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
2 ½ cups sugar
Cut the lemon in to paper-thin slices (a mandolin is best for this, but a very sharp knife and a steady hand will do just as well). Remove and discard any pits.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the lemon slices, and blanch for 5 minutes - this will remove the bitterness, and will also help soften them up. Drain and set aside.
Once the lemon slices are cooled to room temperature, combine them with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for about 10 hours or overnight to let the flavours meld.
Scrape the mixture into a preserving pan (if you don't have a preserving pan, a wide heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan will do just as well) and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes. Return the mixture to its bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator to macerate for another 8-10 hours.
Strain the solids out of the mixture and set aside. Pour the syrup into the preserving pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue cooking on high heat for about 15 minutes or until thickened, skimming off foam and stirring occasionally as you go. Test the jam's set using the cold plate test (or, if you've got a handy-dandy thermometer, cook to 220F) - if it's too runny, continue cooking for another 5 minutes and test again, repeating this process until you're satisfied with the set.
Meanwhile, separate the strawberries from the remaining solids. Using a wooden spoon, mash the strawberries into rough chunks. Finely chop the lemon slices and thyme.
Once the jam reaches the desired consistency, stir in the mashed and chopped solids. Still working over high heat, return the mixture to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally and skimming off foam.
After five minutes, remove the mixture from the heat. Immediately ladle the hot jam into sterilized jars and, if desired, process in a hot water water bath for longer-term storage. (This jam makes a small enough batch that it can just be stored in the fridge, as long as you plan on eating it within 3 months or so)