December is here and so is the season of homemade jams and jellies! I normally spend a fair amount of this month over a hot stove, coaxing marmalade into jelling, and cursing as I burn myself on my canning equipment. (If you are a fellow canner, you will understand my plight.) Anyhoo – This month I decided to make something a bit unconventional to give as a gift for the holidays: my strawberry tree jam.
But first, have you ever seen a strawberry tree full of fruits, ready to harvest?
Now, lets go back on our recipes.
It’s delicious, has an amazing texture, and is incredibly easy to make. I just so happen to have an abundance of strawberry tree fruit growing in my yard too. This jam is a new favorite of mine to make for the holidays as its fruit conveniently ripens late November through early January.
Don’t be fooled by its name. Strawberry tree fruit tastes nothing like an actual strawberry. These beautiful scarlet berries grow on the Arbutus Unedo (more commonly known as strawberry tree) and are slightly sweet with the texture of a ripe fig.
The strawberry tree is an ancient fruit, with a long history interwoven with legends, myths and rituals. The Romans attributed arbutus to magical powers. Even now, in some areas, you can find strawberry tree branches with three berries hung in homes for good luck. Its flowers are also laid on graves as a sign of respect for those who have passed away.
During the Italian Risorgimento the strawberry tree (or Arbutus Unedo) was considered a symbol of national unity. They considered the green leaves, white flowers, and red berries that appear on the tree at the same time, a symbol of the national tricolor flag.
Arbutus berries are said to have euphoric and energetic properties. Ripening fruit becomes partly alcohol, due to fermentation, therefore it is not advisable to consume large quantities of mature berries. Note, the alcohol evaporates out during the jam making process.
The strawberry tree has amazing bark that peels off once a year, resembling that of chocolate shavings. Yum!
This tree is also very easy to grow. It is a generous plant that does not require much attention. It thrives in full sun and is drought tolerant and has a tendency to lean, which in my opinion, adds character to the yard!
Ok, enough about this wonderful tree. Let’s make some jam! This recipe makes enough jam to fill one 4 ounce jar and can be easily multiplied to make a larger batch.
Step 1. Rinse the berries in cold water. While wet, put them in a pan (the moisture helps keep the berries from sticking to the pan).
Step 2. Sprinkle the berries with orange juice and cook on low heat for about ten minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the fruit becomes soft.
Step 3. Sieve the softened fruit. Crush the berries with a wooden spoon and collect the pulp in a saucepan. Expect a great deal of waste from seeds. Return the pulp to the heat and stir in the brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Bring back to a boil and continue to stir with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and ladle into sterilized glass jars.
Step 4. If canning, seal the jars and store them in a cool dark place. They will keep for up to one year. If freezing, simply screw the lid on the jar and place in the freezer where the jam will keep for up to 6 months. Once opened, the jam will last for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Step 5. Time to eat! The strawberry tree jam has a special texture, reminiscent of fig jam.
I find it perfect for breakfast on a slice of toast or in the afternoon as quick snack with some cookies. Enjoy!
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