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I had a palm reading my senior year of high school.  The only thing I remember the palmist saying was that I am quick to fall deeply, fanatically, in love.  For years, I refused to believe her.  I wanted to think I was even-keel, rational, and not prone to reckless infatuations.

But ten years later, upon plucking my first mason jar out of a cauldron of boiling water, and hearing it ping! shut, all bets were off.  I was head-over-heels, deliriously, ravenously, in love with canning.

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That summer of 2011, I kept up weekly pilgrimages to Detroit’s Eastern Market every Saturday.  I’d be home with a bushel of fruit by 10 o’clock.  It would be spattering all over my arms by noon.  Then it’d be cooling in glass jars by 2 o’clock.  My jam-making quickly expanded into pickles, then hot sauce.  I started with just a copy of Tart and Sweet [highly recommended for novice canners, by the way], but quickly amassed a dozen more canning and preserving cookbooks.  By summer’s end, I had filled an entire five-shelf cabinet with preserves.

The palmist had been right all along.  I fell in love hard, and I fell in love fast.

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Two moves and four years later, I’ve had to quell my canning obsession.  My stockpile of compotes, jellies, and pickles has been reduced to barely a half-shelf of essentials.  And my canning pot sits at the back of a cabinet.  But when strawberry flats were $8 at the produce stand, I couldn’t keep my canning itch at bay any longer.

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Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits to jam because as they cook down, they begin to smell intoxicatingly like summer.  But not just any summer — the summer when you were eleven and ran around in glittery jelly sandals, ate too much ice cream, and listened to your best friend talk about kissing boys and wearing a training bra.  I remember those days fondly as I taste-test my strawberry jam.

But being the proper food blogger that I am, I simply cannot make — gasp, the horror! — plain and simple strawberry jam.  I need to find something to make this basic recipe interesting.  Unfortunately, every other food blogger has tried every other combination — strawberry basil, strawberry balsamic, strawberry rhubarb, strawberry Sichuan.

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So I thought long and hard about how I could make my strawberry jam a bit different.  Then I found some red shiso from Purple Sage Farms at the market.  It’s brilliant.  The shiso provides a gentle brush of grass, mint, anise, and basil to the jam — a perfect partner for the strawberries.

Heat makes shiso purge its flavor, so it’s important to add the shiso right before you start jarring the jam.  Fresh shiso, if available, is ideal.  But you’ll get the same flavor out of dried shiso — you just need to add a bit more of it.  I’ve made this jam with apple pectin, which works well for low-sugar jams.  But dry pectin can certainly be used instead — I’ve had good results with Pomona’s Universal Pectin for low-sugar jams.

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Strawberry Shiso Jam

Makes 6 pints | Cook time ~3 hours

  • 5 lbs strawberries
  • 1/2 + 1/3 C sugar
  • 2 apples
  • water
  • 1/4 C lemon juice
  • 5 Tbsp fresh red shiso leaves, finely chopped (add 2 Tbsp if using dried shiso)
  1. Rinse and hull strawberries, halving the larger berries.  Place into large bowl with 1/2 C sugar.  Toss to coat strawberries in sugar, then set aside.
  2. Rinse and chop apples into 1″ cubes.  Place into a wide, non-reactive saucepan, then add water to just barely cover the apples.  Place over medium heat and cook below a simmer until apples are translucent and very soft, about 1 hour.  Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Once apples are cool enough to handle, pour apples and their juices into a cheesecloth lining a large bowl.  Press apple pectin through the cheesecloth; peels, core, and seeds should remain in cheesecloth and be discarded.  Pulp and juices that emerge from cheesecloth are your apple pectin.
  4. Place apple pectin back into non-reactive saucepan.  Add strawberry mixture, lemon juice, and remaining 1/3 C sugar.  Cook over medium heat, crushing strawberries with a potato masher and stirring frequently to prevent scorching on bottom.
  5. Jam is done when it mounds on spoon, about 1-1.5 hour of cooking.  Thoroughly mix finely-chopped shiso into the jam immediately before pulling jam off stove.
  6. To can for shelf-stability, prepare water bath canner.  Fill sterilized half-pint jars with jam, wipe rims, and secure lids.  Process in water bath for 10 minutes.  Let jars cool to room temperature after processing, then store without bands.
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