I’m sure I’m not the first person to look at a big bowl of jam-destined berries and wonder how many margaritas I could make instead. And if I am, I’m quite happy to continue living in denial. I’ve made a few kinds of strawberry jam this year, but this version is definitely my favorite. Lightly spiked with lime and tequila, this recipe is just Texan enough to cure my summertime homesickness while making a serious dent in my local berry bumper crop. All gussied up in ribbons and bows, a jar of this stuff is just the ticket to securing a regular place at a friend’s table or erasing all memory of the merlot you dribbled on the new white rug. Unless your friends don’t like margaritas. In which case, I’d hate to meet your enemies.
And now for the obligatory safety announcement regarding home canning. I am going to tell you how I go about canning jam, but be aware that it differs slightly from the method recommended by the USDA. If you go hunting for jam recipes on the interweb, you will see that there are almost as many opinions about how to safely process and store it as there are flavor combinations. If you’re new to canning, I recommend you mosey on over here and read what the US government has to say about how not to kill yourself with fruit preserves. Try not to get overwhelmed by all the frightening language about mutating, flesh-eating, kitten-killing bacteria. James’s nonna recently told me that she cans tomatoes by getting them hot, putting them in jars, and wrapping the jars in a blanket overnight. She’s in her eighties and is still kicking, so either there is some margin of error in the canning process, or Italian grandmothers really are as superhuman as they seem.
Strawberry Lime Jam
2 kg (4.4 lbs) strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1.6 kg (3.5 lbs) white sugar
Zest and juice of 2 limes
30 ml (1 oz) tequila
Chill a small plate in the freezer for jam testing. Sterilize jars and lids. [I use my dishwasher's sterilization cycle.]
Measure out slightly more than the prescribed amount of tequila, then find a creative way to dispose of the excess. Repeat this step until you feel like the high queen of jam universe.
Put the strawberries, sugar, lime zest and juice, and tequila in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Using a potato masher, partially crush the fruit while combining it with the sugar. Place the mixture over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower the heat to medium and maintain a gentle boil, continuing to stir very frequently and skimming off foam as it rises to the top. The mixture will thicken and darken in color as it cooks. To test jam for proper consistency, drop a small spoonful onto the chilled plate. Tilt the plate downward, letting the jam run in a line down the plate. Draw a line with your finger through the line of the jam and count to five while keeping the plate tilted. If the line has not reconnected, the jam is done and you are ready to can.
Fill sterilized jars with hot jam and wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp paper towel to remove any drips. Place a lid and ring on each jar and finger-tighten the lids. When all jars are filled, place as many as will fit into a large pot of boiling water and leave them in the boiling water bath for five minutes. Carefully remove jars from the water bath using a jar lifter [a cheap piece of equipment worth every penny] and place them on a kitchen towel or cooling rack. After five minutes, check the seals on all of the jars. If there are any that have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator and eat those first. Cool the sealed jars upright on the counter overnight. In the morning, re-tighten the lids and store in a cool, dark place.
Makes 2 liters (8 cups) of jam.