~ Super-Easy Strawberry Bread-Machine Preserves ~
This has been a banner year for strawberries. Our little backyard strawberry patch gifted us with almost more than we could eat -- almost, but not quite, we ate them all. Each one seemed to be perfectly ripe, juicy and full of flavor. Then, strawberries started showing in both of our local farmers markets. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been picking up a box or two to make small, super-easy batches of strawberry preserves in my bread machine. I enjoy preserves more than jam, because it's like finding a two-for-one special at the grocery store -- unlike spreadable jam, spoonable preserves give me the opportunity to use them as a sauce as well!
I'm no stranger to making jelly, jam, preserves, marmalades, chutneys, conserves, etc., and, I've got the fancy-schmancy maslin pot to prove it. This 10 1/2-quart vessel is ideal for other long, slow methods of food preparation too (soups, stews, chowders, chili, etc). It's heavy bottom and wide, sloping sides, reduce the possibility of scorching and promote evaporation. It's long loop and helper handles make transporting and transferring a large quantity of hot food easy and safe. It's seriously one of the best investments in a pot I ever made.
I love it for making big batch jams from fruits and berries my husband grows right in our very Happy Valley backyard. Two of my favorite recipes, ~ Blue Berry Jam: The End of My Blueberries 2012 ~, and, ~ 'Tis True: Sour Cherries Do Make the Best Jam ~, can be found in Categories 8, 9 or 22. My recipe for ~ Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine ~ is in those same Categories too!
The bread machine? Yes indeed. My bread machine, which has a "jam cycle", has become my best friend for making small batch preserves -- it takes most of the guesswork out of the process. There's a bit more to it than that: When it comes to home grown peaches and strawberries, more-often-than-not, I don't have a lot of them to process all at once because they tend to ripen rather randomly.
The only change I made from my big batch stovetop recipes to my small batch bread machine recipes:
use powdered, not liquid, pectin.
Here's why, &, what you need to know about the bread machine method:
While liquid and powdered pectin both achieve the same thing, they're a thickener, they are not used in the same manner. For stovetop methods, liquid pectin is always added to the boiling mixture near the end of the cooking process while powdered pectin is stirred into the raw fruit at the beginning. In the case of cooking on the stovetop, the option of liquid or powdered is available to you (although you should always follow the recipe). When it comes to the bread machine, once you start the automatic jam cycle, stirring liquid pectin in at the end is no longer an option. Therefore, I use powdered pectin in my bread machine recipes.
Two very important points of note: #1) Do not double this, or any jam or preserve recipe that gets made in any bread machine. They will not thicken properly -- repeat, will not thicken properly. The bread machine has neither the capacity or the proper stirring control to handle that amount safely. Use the bread machine exclusively for small batches of jams or preserves yielding 3 1/2-4 total cups of end product. #2) Unless a recipe specifically proclaims, under oath, that it is ok to use frozen, partially-thawed or thawed fruit or berries in any recipe made in the bread machine or on the stovetop, proceed with extreme caution before considering that substitution -- on second thought -- run away, don't do it.
It all boils down to the form the fruit takes on in the end. Jelly is made from fruit juice and is gelatinous. Jam is made from pulp, pureed, mashed or smashed fruit and is softer, more spreadable than jelly. Preserves are made from diced, chunked or whole fruit with it being looser than jam, spoonable rather than spreadable. Marmalade is usually made from citrus fruit, sometimes containing chards of rind or bits of zest, and, it has a consistency between jelly and jam.
As for jam and preserves specifically: Depending upon the recipe, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two, and, you will very often see the terms used interchangeably. Why? Past one being mushier and one being chunkier, in both cases, the thickness of the liquid is controlled by how much pectin gets added, which is determined by personal preference.
What's pectin and what's the difference between liquid and powdered?
Pectin is an all-natural substance found in fruits and vegetables, and, a store-bought product used to thicken jelly, jam, preserves and marmalade. Some fruits contain so much natural pectin, they require none or very little to thicken it (peaches, apples, citrus fruit and apricots contain the most). In other cases, mother nature needs a bit or a lot of help -- that's where store-bought pectins comes in (water-soluable, thick gelatin-like liquid or powdered substances usually made from apples). Every brand is a bit different, so, always use what is recommended in the recipe. I stick to Certo and Sure-Jell because they are reliable sister-products marketed by Kraft foods and give me great results.
The amount of pectin used depends upon the fruit being used and the desired thickness of the end product. Here are some helpful conversions:
1 box liquid pectin contains: 2, 3-ounce pouches
1 box powdered pectin contains: 1, 1 3/4-ounce packet
2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) liquid = 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) powdered
3 ounces liquid pectin (a generous 6 tablespoons) thickens 2-4 cups crushed fruit
1 3/4 ounces powdered pectin (a scant 6 tablespoons) thickens 4-8 cups crushed fruit
5-6 cups hulled and 1/2" diced slightly under-ripe or ripe but not over-ripe strawberries
a scant 6 tablespoons powdered pectin (1 box of Sure-Jell)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice, preferably fresh or high-quality bottled concentrate
2 teaspoons pure strawberry extract (optional)
~ Step 3. Insert pan into machine, close the lid, plug machine in and select "jam" cycle. Press "start" button. When the cycle is complete, open the lid and carefully remove the pan from the machine -- this is very hot stuff!
~ Step 4. Using a large slotted spoon transfer and evenly divide the chunky fruit between 2, 2-cup food storage containers, then, pour the liquid into the containers.
~ Step 5. Partially cover the containers and allow the preserves to come to room temperature, about 2-3 hours, prior to covering completely and refrigerating overnight. The preserves will thicken as they chill. Chilled preserves can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks (if they last that long) or frozen without compromise for a year or longer.
Note: This method of chilling and refrigerating prior to freezing prevents condensation from building up, which causes ice crystals to form and freezer burn.
Super-Easy, Super-Delicious, Superb Strawberry Preserves!
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; bread machine; large slotted ladle or spoon; 2, 2-cup size freezer-safe containers w/tight-fitting lids
Cook's Note: Every year during strawberry season, which conveniently coincides with the Father's Day holiday, I can't resist making one of my father's signature recipes. You can find my recipe for ~ It's a Dad Thing! My Dad's Strawberry Soup ~, by clicking into Categories 6, 11, 16 or 20. I grew up eating this and I can tell you it is perhaps my favorite all-time way to enjoy our freshly-picked perfectly-ripe backyard strawberries!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)