Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When Life Hands You Strawberries....

...or more correctly, when you buy a 4lb container of them...make jam! A couple of friends had made jam or jelly during the past month and it just seemed like a good idea considering the sheer amount of fruit I had at hand.

 I love strawberries.  I love strawberry season...especially in California.  When I used to drive from L.A. to Ventura for work a few years ago, strawberry season was unmistakable.  Once you came to Oxnard, the scent was overpowering (in a good way!).  With the windows down, you were assailed with the sweet, wafting scent of ripe fruit from both sides of the 101.  It always made me smile.  It makes me smile thinking about it.  It makes me want to take that drive up the freeway right now.  It makes me want to dig that jar out of the fridge and eat it by the spoonful.

I was under the impression that jam was difficult to make.  Sterilizing jars, pectin, gelatin, pressure cookers (I remember a commercial for Welch's years ago showing the pressure cooker).  How thrilled am I that it's so easy and requires nothing more than a pan, a stovetop, fruit, sugar, and a little lemon juice?  Today is a good day to pair that jam with some scones.  Oh, to have a day off and bake.

Strawberry Jam
(Adapted from this recipe on AllRecipes.com)

1 lb strawberries
2 cups sugar
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice.

Slice strawberries and mash in a bowl.  I used my handy-dandy pastry blender, which worked beautifully.  In a large saucepan, combine strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.  Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved, then increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil/cook until temperature reaches 220 degrees.  (Yes, I used my candy thermometer for this one.)  It will take about 25-30 minutes to reach this point.  Turn off heat and allow to cool.

I'm not planning on preserving this for long, so I just put it in a Mason jar and then in the fridge.  If you're anything like me, it won't last long.

The following scone recipe has become my absolute 'go-to' recipe for them.  It's completely adaptable to adding fruits, nuts, or whatever you want.

Cream Scones
(Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart)

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or Silpat and set aside.  Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in large bowl.  Add butter in small pieces to flour mixture.  Using a pastry blender or by hand, bring all ingredients together until is resembles small pebbles.  You want a crumbly mix.  In a small bowl, combine milk and eggs and beat lightly.  Make a well in flour and add egg-milk mix. Stir with fork or hands to combine, but don't overwork it.  Turn dough onto floured board.  Knead for a few seconds.  You can either cut out your scones with a round 2-inch cutter or make individual ones by hand.  Or make one large round form and cut into triangular slices before putting into the oven.  However you decide to form them, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle a little sugar on them.  I love the sparkling sugar from King Arthur Flour because you don't need a lot and it looks pretty!  Bake for 16-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve warm or room temperature.  Use a big spoon for your jam.  Load it on there.  And smile.

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