Friday, March 13, 2009

At Market...Strawberries

There is nothing more heavenly than fresh strawberry jam spooned over a cream biscuit. When I was a little girl, strawberry jam was my favorite...and I suppose it still is. Chunky with ruby-red fruit and glistening in the jam pot, it looks almost as beautiful as it tastes. I have made strawberry jam several different ways, including outside on a thin sheet pan covered by a screen. But perhaps the easiest and quickest way is to make it thus; smash some strawberries together with a bit of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, simmer for a bit, then put it in a jar to refrigerate. It's so simple even a child could manage it. And if you make a smallish batch, you won't need to process the jam because it will be eaten up before it goes bad, especially if you serve it with these heavenly biscuits. It would also taste fantastic swirled into oatmeal or yogurt, over toast, or in a trifle. Yum.

Strawberry Jam
makes 1 pint

2 pints of ripe strawberries
1/2 C sugar
1 T lemon juice

Hull strawberries and put in a heavy bottomed pot. Pour over about 1/2 C sugar and using your hands (or a potato masher), break them apart, making the pieces as small as you like (I like to leave some large chunks). Add lemon juice and turn on heat to medium high. Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low and skim foam about every 5 minutes or so. (By the way, if you save the syrupy foam, it tastes amazing poured over some vanilla ice cream...but I think I might mix it with vodka and make a strawberry martini later...). It should take about 20-30 minutes for your jam to be soft set and will congeal more as it cools. You will know when it is ready because it will spit and sputter, and when you stir, you should begin to see the bottom of the pot. Pour into a sterile pint sized jar (you can boil it for 3 minutes or take it out of a hot dishwasher). Top with lid and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Jam should last about 3 weeks in the fridge, but I'd be willing to bet you'll use it up long before then.

James Beard's Cream Biscuits
makes 1 dozen

2 C flour
1 t salt
1 T baking powder
2 t sugar
1-1 1/2 C heavy cream
6 T butter, melted
sugar for sprinkling (if desired)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl. Slowly add one cup of the cream, stirring with a fork. Gather the dough together. It should feel soft and tender, but if it is still a bit shaggy, add more cream until it holds together but is not sticky. Place dough on a lightly floured board and knead for one minute. Pat dough into a square that is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut 12 equal sized squares and dip each in the melted butter to coat. Place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle tops with additional sugar if desired and bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot or cool to room temperature if using for a berry shortcake.

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