I unearthed a giant bag full of strawberries from last June in my freezer assessment of last week. Half the bag went to one of my favorite strawberry recipes, strawberry rhubarb & caramelized onion jam; for the remaining 2 pounds, I wanted to do something new. I poked through Mes Confitures to see what she may have in the way of flavor inspiration (all the while fully cognizant that I may get Ferbered again) and I landed on Strawberry with Pinot Noir and Spices. It just so happened that I had a lovely bottle of pinot noir in the wine cellar (aka “the garage”): on our way home from a recent trip to PA, to visit our friends Mel & Eric (and Malcolm the Wonder Dog), on a whim Tai & I stopped at Sand Castle winery as we were driving right by.
I tend to be a bit disparaging of Northeast wines; many of them are far too sweet for me, as we just don’t get the hot, dry weather that grows a nicely dry and tannic grape. I am especially picky about pinot noirs; having been raised up on the delectable Kistler ’96 (which was beyond my budget then and most certainly is now), I find it nearly impossible to find a domestic pinot that I like, and can afford, let alone one from the Northeast. But I am Local Girl, after all, so I am always on the lookout for tasty, drinkable and affordable wines in the ‘hood. I’m so glad we decided to stop at Sand Castle: we left with a case of wine! Chardonnay, pinot noir, claret and cabernet: all grapes that I would tell you don’t grow well here in the Northeast. But I was pleasantly surprised by the Sand Castle wines (with the exception of their “Alpine Spice” which is apparently their most popular wine, because “it tastes like apple pie.” <shudder>). This pinot noir is not the big, hearty, Burgundian-style pinot of Northern California or Oregon, but it was pinot all the same: berry and cherry with floral overtones, lighter than a California pinot but without the aggressive fruit of a beaujolais, nicely mellowed by an aging in French oak. Altogether drinkable and, for pinot noir, pretty affordable at $30/bottle (even more affordable with a full-case discount).
I don’t know if I can extend the concept of terroir to include Connecticut strawberries and Pennsylvania pinot noir, but all I can say is that this preserve is something special. I’m glad I didn’t include the spices: the flavor of the wine shines through, but is in perfect complement to the strawberries, and the flavor profile is amazingly complex considering there are only two main ingredients. Although I cut down on the sugar (as I always do with a Ferber recipe), I included a bit more than I normally would; firstly, because I increased the amount of wine, and secondly, because strawberries have very little natural pectin, and I knew they would need some help in achieving a set. The resulting flavor is still just a bit too sweet for me, but the set is a dream: absolutely perfect. I think with some tweaking of lemon juice & sugar, I could be onto something here.
Freezer Clean-Out No. 2: success! She’s on a roll.
Adapted from Strawberry with Pinot Noir and Spices in Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber
- 2 lbs strawberries, hulled and halved (fresh or frozen)
- 2 cups pinot noir
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
- 3 cups (1 and 1/2 lbs) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- pinch salt
- 1 cup apple pectin stock
- Day 1. Combine berries, wine, lemon juice, sugar and salt in a heat-safe bowl. Mix well, cover, and allow to macerate, refrigerated, overnight.
- Day 2. Transfer fruit mixture to a large stockpot or preserving pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, transfer back to bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- Day 3. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Pour fruit mixture into a sieve placed over a large, wide Dutch oven or preserving pan. Reserving fruit, bring syrup to a boil over medium-high heat. Add apple pectin. Boil mixture over high heat, stirring minimally, until the gel point: syrup begins to bubble thickly and/or the syrup reaches a temperature of 220 degrees F (about 15 minutes). Boil hard for 1 minute. Add strawberries and bring the mixture back to a boil. Boil over high heat until syrup returns to 220 degrees F, or about 5 – 10 minutes. Fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
Yields 5 cups.
- I increased the amount of strawberries and wine, while decreasing the sugar, omitting the spices, substituting apple pectin for apple jelly, and adding lemon juice. I think this recipe is pretty adaptable to many varieties of wine, sweet or dry, that have a berry-forward profile.
- I don’t think you would achieve the lovely set with commercial pectin, although I hear good things about Pomona’s (which I haven’t tried). If you don’t have apple pectin, you can always make some from Granny Smith apples from the grocery store.
- I processed this for a minimal 5 minutes in order to try to maintain the lovely texture (the 5-minute process is essentially just helping the jars to seal). Hence it is important to make sure you have sterilized your jars before filling, by boiling for at least 10 minutes.
- I think next time I will try increasing the lemon juice to 1/2 cup and decreasing the sugar to 2 and 1/2, or maybe 2 and 3/4 cups. And we shall see…
Canned, in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.
Spring (or year-round with frozen berries).