Oven-Roasted Strawberry and Rosemary Jam

Summer. In. A. Jar. The local strawberry season is too short; just six weeks long. Have you ever wanted to capture the smell and flavor of a just-picked, warm, lusciously ripe strawberry? If so, try making a jar of this oven-roasted strawberry and rosemary jam with a touch of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. This recipe was given to me by my friend, Malinda Hersch, Program Director at The Nashville Food ProjectMalinda made it for TNFP’s Patron’s Party gift baskets.

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The idea for this post started when I read in Edible Nashville, a gorgeous publication on local food trends, that the first Tennessee strawberries were coming in. On a whim, I emailed Hank Delvin at Delvin Farms to see if his strawberry crop was ripe. He said they were getting ready to pick that morning and invited me to join them.

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I love driving out to Delvin Farms in College Grove. It’s a beautiful drive, and I know I’ll always learn something new about organic farming practices from Hank or his dad. Check out this post from last year when I chronicled a morning spent gleaning vegetables for TNFP at Delvin Farms. The most interesting tidbit I learned on this visit was the concept of incomplete pollination. Like for many of you, I’ve seen the results of incomplete pollination, misshapen berries like the ones in the picture below, I just didn’t know there was a name for it — or a reason.

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Some misshapen berries are lovely!

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Hank plants new June-bearing strawberry plants in long rows of plastic-covered raised beds every September. The plants go dormant in the winter and start growing again in the spring. The plastic keeps the weeds out and helps to warm the soil in the early spring.  Once the delicate flowers start blooming, it is imperative that the blooms be protected from frost.

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To this end, whenever the temperature dips, Hank’s staff has to cover each row of strawberries with agricultural cloth. This past spring there were six frosts in the three weeks preceding the first harvest.

Plant Sex

Strawberries are considered self-pollinators, and as such, their male and female parts are on the same flower. It takes gravity, the wind, rain, and insect pollinators to move the pollen across the flower to pollinate it. If the plants are covered, the wind and bees can’t do their part, thus, a higher incidence of incomplete pollination.

I was amazed to see the plants’ leaves waving in the wind, a wind I couldn’t even feel.

Pistils and stamens. Remember them?

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The strawberry flower is not your typical flower. Yes, it has the male parts which are the yellow pollen coated anthers known as stamens. And it has the female part called an ovule that connects to an ovary and collectively is known as the pistil. However, whereas most flowers only have one pistil, the strawberry is an aggregate fruit and has as many as 500 spike-like ovules, each one an immature egg needing to be pollinated so it can produce seed. The more of those ovules that get pollinated, the bigger, puffier, and more perfect the strawberry.

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The Recipe!

Yield: 4 cups of jam
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8 cups (2 quarts) strawberries, stems removed and berries quartered
4 cups granulated sugar
¼ cup lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
4 bushy sprigs fresh rosemary (1/2 ounce).

Clean and hull two quarts of strawberries. Figure on four cups of berries per quart container.

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Slice berries into lengthwise quarters.

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Add strawberries and sugar to a mixing bowl, stir and allow to macerate, which means to break down and soften.

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Allow berries to macerate for two hours, or up to 24 hours, stirring regularly to re-incorporate the sugar that sinks to the bottom. Don’t skip this step. It’s what helps the berry chunks to keep their shape.

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Squeeze the juice out from one large lemon and set aside.

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Pour the macerated strawberries and lemon juice or vinegar into a saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat watching carefully, so the juice doesn’t boil over. A rolling boil is one that doesn’t stop boiling when you stir it.

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Once the mixture reaches a full boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for ten minutes. About five minutes into the cooking time, add the rosemary sprigs, stir, and continue to simmer.

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The lemon juice and vinegar are acids and when heated help release the pectin in berries. Pectin is a gum-like substance that is needed to “set” jams and jellies. It occurs naturally in fruits, but more can be added in the form of powder if a faster set is desired.  For more on pectin, read my posts about making grape jelly and crabapple jelly.

Now it is time to roast the berries.
Preheat oven to 150º. If your oven’s lowest temperature setting is a little higher than that, that is fine. You could even set the oven to convection roast and cook it in half the time, but I prefer the slow cook method.

Pour the mixture, including the rosemary, into a  13″ by 18″ baking pan. Place pan on the middle oven shelf and roast for 10 hours, or until the syrup is thickened and has a gel-like appearance. I often put it in the oven at bedtime and take it out the next morning.

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How to test hot jelly for gel formation: Use a chilled wooden spoon to scoop up the preserves. Allow to cool and then tilt the spoon, so jam starts to drips. If the drips form a triangle-shaped thick flake, it is ready. Don’t get too hung up here with the testing. After 10 hours, assume it is going to be great!

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Ladle into four 8-ounce hot, clean jars using a large-holed funnel and either
1) process in a water bath for 10 minutes, using the appropriate two-part jar caps, aka “canning,” or
2) cover with lids, turn upside down, allow to cool, and store in the refrigerator, right side up, until ready to use, or
3) freeze in plastic containers.

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I love the combination of strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar, so I often substitute four tablespoons of balsamic vinegar for the lemon juice. The vinegar not only flavors the jam, but it gives it a smoother, earthier taste than the lemon juice.

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This jam is great spooned over @judyschickens granola and plain, low-fat yogurt.

About The Nashville Food Project

The Nashville Food Project brings people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city. Their primary fundraising event, Nourish, will take place on Thursday, July 20th this year in the gorgeous dining hall at Montgomery Bell Academy.

Other Recipes with Strawberries
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Very Berry Clafoutis

Other Jelly Recipes
Crabapple Jelly
Grape Jelly

Other Breakfast Foods
DIY Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese
Sorghum, Oats, and Cranberry Granola
The Biscuit King
Mom’s Monkey Bread, circa 1970

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Growing Sweet Potatoes and Other Crops at Delvin Farms

“Bringing people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food.”  The Nashville Food Project’s motto is my motto, too.IMG_0821

On Monday mornings, The Nashville Food Project sends a team of staff, interns, and volunteers to glean from the fields of Delvin Farms, a 140-acre farm in College Grove, Tennessee. The farm, started by the Delvin family in 1972, became certified organic in 1998 and began operating a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in 1999. In addition to their CSA, you can purchase their fruits and vegetables at various Farmers Markets around town. I was thrilled to get a chance to visit the farm with TNFP’s Monday team of gleaners: Marijke, Darrius, and Chris.

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We drove to College Grove in TNFP’s new refrigerated food recovery truck donated to TNFP by the H.G. Hill Realty Company this year.DSC_0370

Every Monday, when the team arrives at Delvin Farm, Hank Delvin, Jr. directs TNFP’s food recovery team to different areas of the farm where they can glean. This week, the gleaners harvested onions and chard from fields about to be plowed over. Hank also let us glean from Delvin Farm’s abundance when he let us harvest from their newly ripening fields of zucchini and summer squash. This was Biblical. The Delvins’ generosity netted the indigent citizens of Nashville 295 pounds of fresh produce, this week alone.

Zucchini and Squash Fields
These fields take my breath away!

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I like the way the Delvins cut down on watering, as well as how they control weeds and insects by laying heavy black plastic over the dirt. They then run a soaker hose under the plastic to water the plants.

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Onion Field
That’s Hank and Chris out in the field harvesting onions.DSC_0424DSC_0427

Swiss Chard Field
Rainbow chard always looks like a bouquet of flowers to me. I asked Darrius, TNFP’s Meals Assistant, to pose for me in this photo.DSC_0431DSC_0433

At some point, I was distracted from gleaning by what was going on in the next field over…

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I walked up to the jovial field hands to ask what they were planting. Sweet potatoes.

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I must admit, when I first saw them, I thought of this, the Nashville Pedal Tavern.

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I asked Hank Sr. to tell me about growing sweet potatoes.DSC_0443

Sweet potatoes are in the morning glory family. Notice how similarly the flowers grow.

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Sweet potatoes are a tropical plant and should be planted when the ground is warm in early summer. They’ll be ready to harvest in 120 – 160 days depending on which variety you plant. The “slips” are very hardy; it doesn’t matter how limp the leaves look, as long as they have a few roots on them, they’ll take.

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The Delvins plant thousands of potato slips each year.DSC_0437

I  am attracted to vintage, ingenious, efficient, gadgets of all sizes and this old planter was no exception.

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Here is how the planter works: A stationary v-grooved piece of metal cuts a thin gully in the soil as the tractor moves forward. Meanwhile, the field hands add slips of sweet potato vines into a device much like a Ferris wheel with multiple slip-carrying trays attached to a rim in such a way that as the wheel rotates, the little trays drop the slips into the dirt. As the slip drops in the ground, two red stationary wheels push the side soil back into place “locking” the slip into the soil. Simultaneously, a black hose delivers a squirt of water to each plant from the yellow tank located behind the men.

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Voila!

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Back to the gleaning. We loaded the containers of food into the refrigerator truck.

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We drove twenty minutes back to TNFP’s headquarters and brought the food into the prep room to be weighed. TNFP’s prep room is a beehive of activity where you hear the harmonious sounds of chopping mixed with chatting. Sign up for a shift at Hands on Nashville!

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Then the food went into our walk-in refrigerator to be used during the week.DSC_0467

I went home and planted the potato slips Hank had given me. One variety is called Orleans (top grouping) and the other is a Japanese variety known as Murasaki.

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I planted the slips in my potato bed in between the Red Norland and Yukon Gold potato plants. The white potato plant leaves should start to turn yellow and die this month which will make room for the sweet potato vines to grow. I’ve never planted sweet potatoes this way before, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Like so many new ideas, we’ll see.

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I think the Delvins would be happy to know that TNFP used all of the vegetables gleaned from their farm this week as they prepared and shared meals for over 1100 Nashvillians. The onions and chard ribs/stems (like celery stalks) went into the chopped vegetables of this week’s entree, Shepherd’s Pie.

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The zucchini and summer squash were chopped by volunteer prep teams and prepared for roasting by the chef teams who simply added olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper and roasted them at 400º for 40 minutes.

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Our chef team decided to add the chard leaves (with ribs removed) to the still piping hot zucchini when it came out of the oven.

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We added the leaves, mixed them in, covered the pan, and put it all back in the oven for another five minutes. The combination was good and a quick way for us to prepare the chard with limited stovetop and oven space. If I were home, I would have served the roasted zucchini/chard mixture over pasta with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

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As Curious George would say, Today was a good day to be curious.

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Related Posts on Commercial Farming:

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.