Strawberry season is the unofficial start of summer in my part of the world. In the average year, the strawberries show their brilliant ruby selves just as the sun starts to make a more regular appearance from behind the grey clouds. However, this has been remarkably dry and warm spring for rainy ole Oregon, which is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the first cutting of hay is put up and the cherry and berry crops are ahead of schedule – on the other hand, it is dusty dry and my cool season crops like kale and lettuce have fallen flat. Literally. Like melted. But when life gives you lemons — or in this case a lovely and abundant strawberry crop – you take advantage of every little bit and make lots of jam. But ever the kitchen adventurer, this year’s strawberry comes with a twist: elderflowers. So strawberry jam with elderflowers it is.
My strawberry patches are dedicated to ever-bearing varieties that allow for frequent small pickings throughout the growing season – ideal for keeping my family is fresh strawberry deliciousness all summer long. But when I am ready to make a few batches of jam and put up sealed quart bags in the freezer, we drive to a berry farm down the road and get to pickin’… This year’s haul totaled 50lbs. But remember we are a huge family of 10. Fifty pounds won’t go too far!
While picking, my wild crafter’s eye was drawn to a tall thin elder tree in flower and my wheels started turning… Strawberry jam with elderflowers. Because why not? I wanted the two notes of strawberry and elderflower to shine through, so I elected to use a specialty pectin instead of citrus peel or apple to achieve the texture I sought. I like to use a brand called Pomona’s Pectin, which is available in most grocery stores, that uses calcium to activate the pectin instead of vast quantities of sugar. This type of pectin allows the user to sweeten to taste, allowing the fruit to be the star of the jam show. I snipped the tiny florets into the fruit, before starting the cooking process, discarding as much of the stem material as possible.
The result? So delicious. The ripe strawberry flavor is rich and pronounced, offset by the light floral, almost powdery flavor of the elderflowers. Something in the flavor evokes a texture for me. Like that of obscenely soft flannel sheets. This gives me a sense of comfort and ease, of causal luxury. Because strawberry jam with elder flowers is lovely. And not like fine china, designer clothes lovely, but like barefoot in the cool grass, laying in a hammock, reading a good novel lovely. Nothing exotic, just plain old lovely.
- 10 cups, halved strawberries, stems removed
- 4-5 elder flower umbels
- 2 cups organic sugar (or to taste)
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin
- 4 teaspoons calcium chloride water (included in Pomona’s package, see package directions)
- Place strawberries, elderflowers, lemon juice and calcium water into a heavy bottomed stock pot. Carefully snip individual florets into the fruit, discarding as much stem material as possible.
- Over medium heat, bring fruit and flower mixture to a simmer stirring frequently.
- Meanwhile, bring a water bath canner to a simmer, and prepare your jars and lids, and mix sugar and pectin into a separate bowl.
- When the fruit comes to a steady simmer, stir in the sugar and pectin. Cook for 1-2 minutes until dissolved.
- Ladle into sterilized half pint jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Wipe rims, and place on prepared lids and rings, screwing on finger tight. Process in a boiling water bath, covered by at least 1″ of water for 10 minutes.
- Remove processed jars from canner and allow to cool completely. Check for seal and then loosen or remove rings for storage.