Life in Fairbanks has sure gotten sweeter since the snow melted away. Almost any day of the week we can head out to a number of local events; the Farmers market, Monday market downtown, Festivals, fun runs — it’s like the entire city of Fairbanks is playing catch-up for the dormant winter where everyone hunkered down indoors. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and tour buses full of foreigners fill the streets, all breathing new life into this sleepy town. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere without running into the other military families we’ve met while living on post. The festive hustle and bustle of summer in Fairbanks reminds me of life in my old college town.
I had no idea it would be this way. I thought the pace set last winter would continue at its lumbering rate. Turns out I was really wrong about what ‘pace’ was set. It seems as though everyone else was busy during that time, making soap, knitting, and sculpting … at least that’s what I concluded while walking around at the Farmers Market this weekend. I’m feeling the need to play catch-up, too. The insanely long daylight hours motivate me to work long into the night on projects small and large. Canning is one of those back burner projects I’ve been meaning to get back to.
Last summer Isaac and I lived around the corner from a Costco, which sold us big jugs full of sweet and spicy mango habanero sauce. We adorned everything with that delicious treat. It was seasonal item that eventually disappeared from the shelves, then we disappeared from Washington. But that sweet and spicy memory didn’t disappear at all. I wanted to recreate it at home using seasonal ingredients.
With strawberry season in full swing, I thought now was a good time to jump on the canning bandwagon again.
Et voilà, strawberry jalapeño jam! — I just love how these things come together. I’m a little embarrassed to say that we’ve already emptied one of the 10 jars of this sweet and spicy treat that I prepared yesterday. I made homemade ice cream last night, and swirled in this jam before it even had time to properly set. Then today we indulged in the jam slathered on a layer of cream cheese on artisan bread. It was divine.
We haven’t shared with Margot, since this stuff packs a punch (I’d give it a 7 on a scale of heat from 1-10), then again my heat tolerance has gone down since we went on a short juice fast earlier this year. My Margot isn’t a fan of spicy food, yet.
The fresh jalapeños were strong, even though I almost completely de-seeded them. Between the jalapeños, rogue splashes of boiling water, and multiple loads of dishes, my hands are raw. I recommend wearing food prep gloves for this recipe if you have any, you’ll regret not doing so when you accidentally rub your sleepy eyes with your spicy fingertips like I did.
If you’ve never canned before, don’t be intimidated. It’s much easier than you’d think if you’re using the water bath method (which is only to be used for high acid foods like fruit preserves). The special equipment needed is minimal, too. I have my Ball canning pot, funnel and jelly jars. I do recommend specialty tongs. My normal tongs work okay, but I will be purchasing specialty tongs soon.
For more information on canning, head over to Food in Jars, my favorite blog for canning and preserving foods.
- 4 cups crushed strawberries (use 3 lbs fresh strawberries)
- 1½ cups fresh minced jalapeño (about 4-5 jalapeños, depending on size)
- ¼ cup classic pectin
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 6 cups sugar
- Prep strawberries by rinsing and removing green tops, and mince the jalapeños. Add to blender or food processor and blend on crush setting for a minute, or until semi-smooth in consistency.
- In large canning pot, sterilize 10 half-pint jelly jars and lids for five minutes in boiling water. Remove from canning pot. Dry lids and rings and be sure to allow excess water to drain out of jars. Set aside on a dish towel (use one that's okay to get messy). Don't drain the water, you'll use this exact set up in a moment.
- In large dutch oven, bring strawberries, jalapeños, lemon juice and pectin to a boil. Slowly add in sugar until dissolved. Bring ingredients to a boil, stirring regularly. Check the temperature of the jam mixture using a digital thermometer. When it reads 220F, remove the pot from the heat.
- Ladle the hot jam into jars filling to ¼ inch of the rim. Run flat knife, or thin spatula along interior walls of jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe rims of jars for proper sealing. Tightly place lids on jars (use oven mitts to hold jars, they'll be hot).
- Gently place filled jars into bottom of canning pot giving them 2 inches of space in between and making sure they have at least 1 inch of water covering the lids. Bring water to a boil. Boil for ten minutes. Remove pot from heat, and remove jars from pot.
- Allow jars to cool and set on wood or cloth covered surface overnight. Check the lids for proper seal. They should not have any play vertically. Store in cool dark place for up to one year.
- If you're worried about a proper set for your jam, use the freezer plate method: place several salad plates in the freezer in advance. When you think your jam is done cooking, spoon out a sample on the frozen plate and allow to cool for a few minutes. Remove dutch oven from heat in the meantime to prevent overcooking. Once cooled, slide your finger through the jam, if it has a skin and parts readily, it's ready. If it's still very runny, place dutch oven back on heat and test again a few minutes later when you're think it may be ready.
- It's always a good idea to sterilize a few extra jars in case your yield runs on the large end.
- Recipe adapted from All Recipes Strawberry Jalapeño Jam