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Confettura di Fragole (Strawberry Jam)

2 Jun

Italian markets are now brimming with colorful and tasty strawberries, the symbol of spring and… la fragranza per eccellenza!  Strawberries are an ancient fruit; the Greeks and Romans enjoyed them because of their sweet smell and aroma.  Actually, strawberries are a false fruit, they are the fleshy receptacle containing the real fruit, ie the yellow seeds on the surface.  Strawberries are very healthy, rich in vitamin C, they also contain moderate amounts of vitamin A, B1 and B2.  They have tonic, re-mineralizing, purifying, detoxifying properties, and also good in a weight-loss diet.  They are one of the tastier and more versatile fruits found both in savory and sweet recipes.  Have you ever tried strawberries with balsamic vinegar?  The vinegar truly enhances their flavor!  Spring is also the perfect season for preparing strawberry jam, a multipurpose ingredient for many sweets (there is nothing better than an homemade crostata with strawberry jam), an ideal topping for spreading on bread or brioche for breakfast or a tasty condiment for goat cheese!  This jam is soft, spreadable and delicious!

Preparation time: 60 minutes + 40 minutes canning

Confettura di Fragole
1500 g (3 pounds and 5 oz) fresh strawberries
700 g (3 ⅓ cups) sugar
Juice of one lemon

1. Wash strawberries under running water and dry with paper towels
2. Remove the green leaves and cut into pieces
3. In a large saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring slowly to the boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Skim the foam.  Cover and let cook over low heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring often.  Remove the cover and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens.  When jam becomes quite dense, stir constantly to prevent sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. This recipe prepares approx. 1200 g (less than 3 pounds) jam (3 jars).  Good jam should cook until the temperature reaches 220-222°F/104-105°C on a candy thermometer.  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use this test: Place a small amount of jam on a spoon and pour back sideways into the pan.  At first it will be liquid, then later two separate drops will form on the spoon. The jam is ready to be removed from the heat when it falls off the spoon as a single drop. You can store the jam in jars in the refrigerator for two weeks. However if you prefer to keep it longer, you should preserve it, using for example the following canning method
4. For canning, use previously sterilized jars and new caps.  Pour warm jam in hot jars and fill them up leaving a gap of 1 cm (½ in).  Seal and turn them upside down for about 10 minutes to create the vacuum.  Put the jars in a large pan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the pan and store in a cool and dark place.

Note: When you purchase strawberries choose ones that have uniformly red color but not too dark, because otherwise they are too ripe.  Furthermore it is important that they do not have green or white spots, indicating that they are immature.  Strawberry jam requires a longer cooking time than other jams because strawberries contain little pectin, a natural fiber that is used as a thickening agent.  -Paola


Crostata con Confettura (Jam Pie)

6 Oct

…..The crostata is perhaps  the oldest Italian dessert.  A popular tradition traces the origin of this Italian pie to the ancient Romans. This is the first kind of baked dessert that, as little girl, I learned to make from my mother.  It evokes memories of many happy hours spent with her in the kitchen preparing delicious food. This Italian version of an American pie can be prepared by using different ingredients such as jam, fresh fruit, ricotta cheese, chocolate (kids love a Crostata di Nutella) and pudding. It can satisfy a wide variety of palates! In Italy, it is not only eaten as a dessert, but often for breakfast too, with a hot cup of espresso or capuccino, or with tea in the afternoon.

Preparation time: 1 h               Baking time: 40 min.           Servings: 6-8

300 g flour (245 g (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour and 55 g (⅓ cup) potato starch)
5 g (1 teaspoon) baking powder

100 g (½ cup) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
130 g (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
grated zest of half lemon
350 g (1 cup) jam (fig, plum, strawberry, raspberry, peach and etc..)

Preheat the oven to 170°C (350 °F)
To make crostata you first need to prepare the “pasta frolla”:

  1. Cream the butter
  2. Combine all the ingredients, handling them as little as possible
  3. Wrap the dough (the pasta frolla) in wax paper and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, on a lightly floured board roll (or gently pat the pastry dough in the pan) ⅔ of the pastry dough to 4 mm (a little less than ¼ in) thickness, to line the bottom and sides of 24 cm (10 in) springform pan. 

The edge should have a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 5 mm (¼ in).  Prick the pastry bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times is sufficient), then spread with the jam on the pasta frolla.  Roll the remaining pastry on a lightly floured board (3 mm), then with a sharp knife or pastry cutter cut it in strips (5 mm) wide and make a lattice top on the layer of jam. There might be some leftover pastry.

Bake the crostata until golden, about 35 minutes. Unmold the pie as soon as it is ready and let it cool on a rack. If left in the pan it will turn irremediably soggy.  It is great freshly baked but it definitely improves after a day if kept in a closed container.


Note: Usually the crostata crust is quite hard.  I prefer a tender, fluffy crust.  My recipe calls for starch,  baking powder (a leavening agent) and creaming the butter; all contribute to making the dough lighter.  A note on the jam: select a jam that is relatively low in sugar, or prepare your own.   For example the crostata in the picture has fig jam on top (see the recipe in the fig jam post).  Jams that contain a higher percentage of sugar tend to be negatively affected by the baking temperatures, turning sticky and ruining the final result.  -Paola

Confettura di Fichi (Fig Jam)

6 Oct

… delizia per eccellenza.  Figs are an ancient fruit, first appearing in the earliest of historic accounts.  They are the symbol of abundance and fertility, and they were even used as a sweetener before the advent of refined sugars.  Figs are rich in calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and high in fiber.  They are one of the most delicious and versatile fruits found both in savory (for example with Prosciutto di Parma) and sweet recipes.  In summer I have a ritual of making confettura di fichi, fig jam, a versatile ingredient for sweets and desserts, a filling for a brioche (breakfast pastry) or a condiment for cheese (it is delicious with Pecorino).  The whole point of making jam is so that you can then use it to make something else … that is even more delicious!


Preparation Time: 50 min.

1 kg  (about 2 ½  lbs) fresh figs
300 g (1 ½ cup) granulated sugar
juice of one lemon


  1. Wash the figs in plain cold water
  2. Cut off the stems, peel and dice the figs
  3. In a large saucepan, combine the diced figs, sugar, and lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer over medium low heat, stirring constantly.  Cover and simmer over low heat for  40-45 min, stirring frequently.  Remove the cover and continue simmering, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. When the mixture gets quite thick, begin to stir constantly to keep from scorching.  This recipe makes 640 g of jam.

Good jam should cook until the temperature reaches 220-222°F/104-105°C on a candy thermometer.  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use this test: Place a small amount of jam on a spoon and pour back sideways into the pan.  At first it will be liquid, then later two separate drops will form on the spoon. The jam is ready to be removed from the heat when it falls off the spoon as a single drop.  You can preserve your jam using your preferred canning recipe (refer to my post on strawberry jam for my canning method).  -Paola

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