In July, I spent some time at home on the farm. All my sisters came home so there was a lot of sun, bike riding, card games outside in the grass, and enough laughter to make my stomach hurt.
Of course, there was excellent food: huge salads loaded with last fall's pickled beets and cucumbers, zucchini spaghetti, homemade soft white sandwich bread, and plenty of chocolate biscotti. Best of all, I was gifted a jar of strawberry jam. My little sister lives in Portland, Maine (lucky her!) and she picks strawberries in the summer and makes her own jam.
If you haven't had really good, homemade strawberry jam, I wish you'd seek some out. When you pop the seal on the top of the jar, thick, sweet berry-scented air wafts up at you. The jam is chunky with softened berries and tastes warm and bright -- the taste conjures up an image of strawberry plants heavy with jewels of tiny, dark red fruit ripening in the bright Maine sunshine.
I'm not a confident canner (although it is clearly in my genes!), so I often make a quick version of strawberry jam in the summer. It won't keep the way real preserves will, but it captures the essence of summer fruit -- and let's be honest, how long does jam really last in my kitchen anyway?
Make this for your toast, or spoon it over your morning yogurt. It is very good in ice cream (I recommend softening some vanilla ice cream, swirling this jam in, and topping it with a warm streusel crumble).
Quick Strawberry Jam
1 quart strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1/2 cup sugar (I use a scant half cup when the berries are sweeter)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Chop the berries coarsely. Add them to a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet and stir in the lemon juice and sugar. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling across the entire surface (not just the edges) and the jam has thickened considerably.
Let cool completely and store in a jar in the refrigerator.