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posted: 6/15/2012 12:00 PM

Move over Mom: Farm-fresh strawberries worth preserving

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  • Homemade strawberry jam tops these quick, easy and party-friendly mini-tarts.

      Homemade strawberry jam tops these quick, easy and party-friendly mini-tarts.
    Bill Zars

  • Jerome Gabriel, left, and Sean O'Brien, 12, of Palatine, are all smiles after cooking up their first batch of strawberry jam.

      Jerome Gabriel, left, and Sean O'Brien, 12, of Palatine, are all smiles after cooking up their first batch of strawberry jam.
    Deborah Pankey

 
By Jerome Gabriel

I've always liked things made with fruit, but especially I like jam. I like homemade jam because it's not as processed and does not contain high fructose corn syrup.

One of my favorite fruits is strawberries; we grow them in our front yard every year. Strawberries can be sweet or tart; you never know what's coming. And that's what I like -- a little mystery.

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We only have a few strawberry plants, so we don't get as many strawberries as someone who grows them on a farm. We get enough to have for breakfast a few days a week with yogurt.

My mom and I were walking around the farmers market the other day and we saw someone with a jam stand and someone else selling strawberries. That gave me the idea to make my own strawberry jam.

It's very easy to make strawberry jam: all you need is strawberries, sugar, a flame and a pot. And, of course, a little bit of lemon juice. My friend, Sean, and I made this together and we loved it.

There are many possibilities for jam besides putting it on a peanut butter sandwich. You can use it in milk shakes and to top ice cream. You can stir it into yogurt or use it to make these mini tarts that I made for the sixth-grade talent show.

A word from Mom: I think I was about Jerome's age the first time I tried to make strawberry jam. I got the recipe from the book "Science Experiments You Can Eat."

I had fruit juice and sugar, but the recipe called for something called Sure-Jell fruit pectin. I didn't have any of that but I didn't let that stop me. I just used strawberry jelly instead -- hey, it had "jell" in the name. (At this point you're probably wondering how I got to be a food editor.)

Well, my pot of goo sure didn't turn into strawberry jam, but it made a great topping for pancakes nonetheless.

This recipe is nice for beginners because it doesn't call for any unusual ingredients, tricky hot-water canning methods or paraffin wax seals. The acid in the lemon juice helps the mixture gel, and I'm willing to bet more people have lemons in the fridge than Sure-Jell in the pantry.

• Jerome Gabriel, a seventh-grader, has been helping in the kitchen since he could hold a spoon. His mom, Deborah Pankey, is the Daily Herald Food Editor.

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