What is this craziness? Strawberries? In winter? Don’t worry dear reader, I haven’t dipped into the pallid, cardboard-like specimens from south of the equator popping up in stores everywhere. That would be regrettable.
The source of these lovely berries is the freezer, as is a lot of my current diet–not my favorite way to live, but much more responsible than buying asparagus in January (so strange an idea) or blueberries in February. I still miss berries. I love berries. I spend far too much time recollecting the most delicious berry experience of last summer: a hot, hot (read: rare) morning, a carton of fresh raspberries that didn’t make it even back to the apartment. Between me and the boyfriend, they didn’t stand a chance. Neither did our hands, shirts, or chins.
OK. Back to winter. Unfortunately.
Have you ever used agar agar? It’s remarkable. It hails from a processing of red algae and is widely used throughout Asia to set fruit desserts and to make jelly candies. You can use it as if it were gelatin, and you can also use it like pectin, as I did here. This amount won’t get you to a jelly; rather a thickened, slightly gelled jammy preserve. As you can see, perfect for toast. Or as an excuse to eat peanut butter with a spoon (knife? fork? finger?).
The syrup is light and I feel like it was almost unnecessary. Your berries may be different though; these ones were remarkably sweet for frozen berries, which are often the seconds from bigger farms.
You must keep the agar agar with the mixture on the heat for several minutes, steadily simmering/boiling for it to properly set. That’s it. It’s simple, I promise.
Tool recommendations: a clean jar with a nicely fitting lid.
Strawberry Maple Preserves
Sweet, silky berry preserves with a hint of maple.
- 12 oz. frozen strawberries
- 1 T. maple syrup
- 1/4 t. agar agar powder
- pinch salt
- Simmer berries with salt on medium-low heat until thawed and soupy.
- Gently mash with a potato masher or fork until desired consistency is achieved: I prefer some chunks, but not large ones.
- When berries have become a sauce, add agar agar and stir well.
- Simmer thoroughly for 4-6 minutes. If you have rather watery berries and desire a thicker sauce, simmer longer to reduce.
- Taste and add more salt or syrup if necessary.
- Pour into clean jar and let cool uncovered in fridge. Preserves should firm up within 1-2 hours, though I prefer mine after 4-5.