Monday, June 30, 2008

Strawberries And More

This is my season! I absolutely love fresh picked berries. With buckets in hand, I wait patiently to hear which farms are ready for U-Pick. Blueberries, strawberries, tay berries, raspberries, blackberries... I love them all!

Last week I got an invitation to get in on some strawberry picking. In the three years that I've been in the Pacific Northwest, I've yet to actually pick my own strawberries. I know. It's just that the strawberries here have a very, very short season. On top of that, they are so petite, juicy and fragile, that they don't export well. In other words, you either pick them quickly or buy them at the farmer's market for the couple of weeks that they're available, otherwise you're out of luck. Needless to say I was definitely up for strawberry picking!

So I dragged the entire family to pick and kick off the summer berry season. We managed to get about 23 pounds, some for jam and the rest to be bagged and frozen (for winter smoothies).

Before I go on though about the jam, I've got to tell you about another new ingredient that I've been playing around with. It's Instant Clear Jel. ICJ is basically an instant cornstarch. It dissolves instantly, so there's no need to cook your sauce. Case in point my new strawberry jam.

Jam making usually involves a lot of stove top cooking as well as tons of sugar. No cooking necessary for this jam. Commercial pectin needs lots of sugar to jell the pureed fruit, so you wind up using a ton of sugar, most often needing more sugar than actual fruit. Now with the instant starch, you can add as much or as little sugar as you like.

Apparently the Instant Clear Jel doesn't work well for traditional canning or processing, but is awesome for freezer jam. I have to say that this was some of the best strawberry jam I've had, although maybe the fresh-picked strawberries had something to do with it. I will share the recipe, but need to type it up first. Sometimes scribbling on a napkin isn't the best way to keep recipe notes.

I would definitely recommend looking into the Instant Clear Jel. You will see me calling for it in lots of upcoming recipes, and there's really no substitute for it. I do have a little to spare and can try and hook you up with some, although I don't have a large enough quantity to list it on our website (you can email me at Otherwise, you can check out King Arthur Flour or some other places on the internet. Apparently it's been available to the baking industry for something like 60 years, and was even voted the best pie thickener by Cook's Illustrated. It's certainly an uber-cool ingredient for vegan desserts.

Strawberry jam, straight from the freezer


urban vegan said...


I love to make jam, but hate the cooking. I think I'm dreaming. I'll check back tomorrow jjust to make sure that I'm not.

Bianca said...

I've always wanted to try freezer jam, but I usually go the traditional route and cook it on the stove top. I've been afraid how the freezer stuff will set up, but yours looks great!

Thanks for the pancake tip. My mom called me after she read that and said the same thing...apparently, it's all about the baking powder.

And I FREAKIN' LOVE your sausages! I'm eating my last one in the morning. I made a big batch months ago and froze half. I'll have to make some more!

Shellyfish said...

I have got to find me some of that ICJ!!!

Julie said...

YUM! I love berries too. I have no idea if they even are able to grow berries in AZ, but I will be asking the people at the farmer's market tomorrow!

Julie's Kind Kitchen

Tami said...

23 Pounds! That's a ton of strawberries! Your jam is gorgeous and it's great to know about ICJ. Thanks!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

I'll be right over for some of that jam!! Maybe there will be some U-Pick spots open when I'm in town in a few weeks? I'd love to pick fruit with you!

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

Freezer jam? That sounds like something I might be able to tackle! Yours looks delicious.

Erin said...

This new jel sounds promising for an array of uses, please keep us updated. I'm especially interested in your jam.

aTxVegn said...

I love all berries too. I've never made freezer jam before. It sounds much easier than stovetop.

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

your freezer jam looks perfect and must be delicious with fresh picked strawberries! i love the idea of not using so much sugar!

kimmykokonut said...

this jam looks great! i can't wait to try the recipe. where did you get the icj? if you have a little to spare, i'd love to test it out.
i went strawberry picking last weekend and it felt like it was near the end of the season. so sad! i LOVE strawberries. i made a strawberry-rhubarb pie last night and it truly felt like summer.

julie hasson said...

I've really been thrilled with the Instant Clear Jel for making jam. The texture is perfect, and the taste is great. The ICJ doesn't have a starchy taste to it like cornstarch does. I'll try and post the recipe soon.

If you are interested in the ICJ, email me ( I'm thinking about adding it to our website, because this stuff is awesome for vegan cooking.

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