Being obsessed with fruit since a young kid (fresh strawberries squished on rye bread with a sprinkle of sugar), blueberries and cream on a simple sponge cake base, going cherry picking and eating as many as I could before we got tired, and working in a fruit and veg shop for many years before I came to America I have learned to seriously appreciate seasonal fruit.
Seattlites have been waiting and waiting for some sort of berry to come to the markets for many weeks now, but the past two weeks have been strawberry weeks. Early varieties are available, not as sweet or flavorful as some later ones ("Hood" strawbs are the BEST <- underlined and bolded) sweet, full bodied, rich and so much "strawberry" packed in a little bundle. But, while I wait a few weeks for those guys to come into their peak I have been making some jams out of local strawberries. The latest are: strawberry & rhubarb and strawberry mint.
Strawberry rhubarb is amazing. I have to admit I never had this combo until I came to the USA, but let me tell you, the American's were onto something. You have tart and sweet all at once, just the way I like it. I also decided to make a strawberry mint jam. It's a slow cooked jam with no pectin added, instead the berries are left to macerate in sugar and lemon juice overnight so the juice of the berries is removed from the fruit. I then let this cook down on a very gentle simmer for a couple of hours, and perhaps at two hours in I added some fresh mint leave and then a couple of grinds of pepper. It's a tart, rich and refreshing jam.
I'll be making plenty more jams as the seasons progress, I'm looking forwards to integrating some good local wines into my jams as well. I have some good baking ahead!