Sunday, June 3, 2012

Spiced Strawberry Preserves

Preserves are one of my little secrets.  I could make foods without them, but those foods would not be fabulous.  Why eat anything that isn't fabulous?  Put into your body, your temple the best food with fabulous flavor and your body will be your friend.  Maybe for the first time in your life.  Before I started on the Paleo diet I hated my body.  Even when I was young and thin, my body never felt this good.

One misconception I had when I started the Paleo journey was, "Everything is going to be so boring, I'll never stick with it."  No soy sauce?  No Teriyaki?  No sweet and tangy barbecue sauce on my chicken wings?  All of those sauces in the grocery with their bright labels and syrupy deliciousness were killing me and I didn't know it.  Corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, soy, canola oil (do you know what it's made from??).  Chemical stabilizers to keep all the ingredients perfectly combined while the bottle sits on the shelf for months.  But, gee... they sure are delicious!

Delicious.  I must have delicious.

So I got to work figuring out how to make the delicious without the bad-for-me.  I read labels of sauces I liked and figured out how best to create sauces that fit with the Paleo style.  There are Gluten-Free sauces you can buy, but they still contain corn starch and soy ingredients which do evil evil things to my body. 

Enter the star of this post: Spiced Strawberry Preserves.  You may be thinking, "Hold on now, preserves are not sauce."  You are correct.  Preserves are not, by themselves a sauce exactly.  Although you can melt them and use them as a sauce over ice cream.  I use these preserves as a basis for sauces and dressings as well as a flavoring boost for things like fruit crumble.  Is your mouth watering yet?  More recipes are definitely on the way.

Made on a whim when I had an abundance of fresh picked, local strawberries.  Some of my best inspirations come when I'm in a pinch because I'm in a hurry and don't wish to run to the store.  The original preserve recipe called for white wine and I didn't have any.  I had just been perusing recipes that used strawberries and Balsamic vinegar and thought that sounded like a fine combination, when I already had Balsamic on hand.  Be aware that some Balsamic vinegars are made with caramel color and this is often made from wheat so search labels to find one without it.

For my recipe, you should use a water bath canning method and Pomona Pectin.
One small box of Pomona Pectin Powder will make several batches of jam or preserves.

Spiced Strawberry Preserves

3 pints strawberries  ( 5-6 cups )  rinsed, hulled, and slightly mashed
3 lemons zest and juice (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup Pomona Calcium Water (instructions in the box)
4 teaspoons Pomona Pectin powder
16 oz. frozen apple juice concentrate
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Jamaica allspice

Quick directions, if you have done this canning thing before:
Wash and rinse jars; let stand in hot water.  Bring lids to boil separately; turn down heat; let stand in hot water.
Prepare fruit.  Place fruit with lemon juice into a pan.
Add calcium water into the pan and stir well.  Begin warming the fruit on low heat.
Bring 2 cups of juice concentrate to a boil separately.  Put in blender or food processor.  Add pectin powder; blend 1 - 2 minutes until all the powder is dissolved.
Bring fruit + lemon juice to a boil.  Add pectin-concentrate, stir until well mixed.  Bring back to a boil and remove from heat.  Add remaining ingredients.  Cool a spoon full and taste.  If it is tangy, that's good.  If it is really sour, add 1/4 cup of Wildflower Honey.
Fill jars to 1/2" of the top.  Wipe rims clean.  Screw on 2-piece lids.  Put filled jars in boiling water to cover.  Boil 5 minutes.
Remove from water and place on a towel.  Let cool.  Check seals -- lids should be sucked down.
Makes about 10 -  8oz. jars.

-----> If you have never canned before, this is an excellent recipe to get your feet wet.  Read the canning directions carefully, print them out if you need to, and also read the instructions for using Pomona Pectin. 

After jars have cooled for 24 hours remove rings, gently wipe the jar's screw-top ridges with a damp cloth, and place jars in a cool dark place (without rings*) for at least one month before using the preserves.  This gives them time to fully develop flavors.  It is best to use the preserves within one year but if proper canning methods are followed and jars are kept cool and seals remain in tact, they can easily be kept for two years.  If you ever notice a jar's seal has popped during storage and the top is domed, do not use it!  If you open a jar and its contents smell bad, do not use it!  Wash and save rings for use after you open your preserves and want to keep them in the fridge.

*You want to remove the rings and clean the jars to avoid mold and deter insects and other critters from being attracted to your canning.  Jars that are properly sealed do not need rings on them until after you open the jar.

I have found a ton of uses for these preserves and I will be sharing some recipes later that use it.  Here is a little teaser to keep you interested:  Strawberry Barbecue Sauce, Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing, Mixed Berry Vinaigrette Dressing, Chicken Liver Pate' with Bacon and Strawberry Preserves.

I flubbed (read: I didn't follow my own directions) and the fruit floated to the top in the jars.  This will not affect the preserves at all.  If this happens, simply stir the contents when you open the jar.


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