Schell: Despite weather, bounty is here for summer entertaining

Irene Ens’ (The Jam Goddess) Strawberry Jam with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper. - Contributed
Irene Ens’ (The Jam Goddess) Strawberry Jam with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper.
— image credit: Contributed

Strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, lettuce, radishes, spinach, onions—praise be, summer is here!

With gardens exploding and Farmer’s Market stands filling up, this is the time of year to celebrate our local farmers. Cheer for them, buy from them and support them.  They are growing healthy food for our families.

Remember, even if some local items are a little more expensive, that money is going back into our soil and our local economy. Help keep our small green world going around here—we have to take good care of it or it may disappear.

Sustainability. This word, which in past would have simply been described as survival, has made a comeback in our modern world. With many chefs leading the way, learning to preserve the bountiful seasons through canning, freezing and drying is an economical and delicious way to live.

Not to mention rewarding, there is much pleasure derived from handing over a jar of homemade preserves to a friend and saying: “I made this for you.”

My dear friend Irene Ens (know as The Jam Goddess) has mastered the art of preserves and creates the most extraordinary jams, jellies and compotes.  From Rhubarb Rosemary to Blueberry Lime, her combinations never fail to thrill the palate.

Alas, her products are mainly distributed in Calgary (if you are there you can find her at the Farmers Markets) with the exception of Meyer Family Vineyards, one of our premier wineries located in OK Falls. Irene created three special jams using their fabulous wines. We are hoping for another batch soon.  Meyer’s new tasting room is open—time to plan a road trip to one of my favourite wineries!

Irene was kind enough to share this amazing recipe with us. Thank you Irene!

Strawberry Jam with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper

1 lb of strawberries. These should be the smallest you can find. Also, make sure they are just ripe—if they are soft, this will not jell for you. If they are mostly ripe with a few under-ripe ones, that works best.

2 cups sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice, fresh or bottled

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Rinse the strawberries in cold water, stem and core. Quarter if large. Take 2 cups of sugar, and 2 tbsp of lemon juice; mix with the strawberries, and let sit covered overnight in the fridge. The next day, strain the strawberries and cook the juice in a heavy pot. Stir frequently. Boil until you have a thick syrup. (222 F at sea level). When the syrup reaches this temperature, add the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and the pepper. Bring the temperature back up to 222 F. Take off heat.

Let sit for five minutes and skim off as much foam as you can.

In the meantime, wash a glass jar and lid in soapy water. Put the jar in an oven at 250  F for 10 minutes. Ladle jam into the hot jar and wipe rim of the jar, then put lid on. Let sit overnight to cool. If it doesn’t set, you can pour it on angel food cake or ice cream for an elegant dessert.

Now—was that hard?

Jennifer Schell is editor of B.C. Wine Trails.



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