During my last visit to my friend and Ayurveda teacher’s home, Mamta Landerman, I recognized eating a pint of strawberries was perhaps a little over the top for me. I was so excited for the just-picked, sweet strawberries from her farm, Sonoma Swamp Blues, I found it hard to control myself. I went a little crazy for all those antioxidants and forgot about their heating energy. A fruit’s color is often good indicator of whether it is heating or cooling. With red, it pretty safe to assume—it’s heating! Silly me. I felt the heating effects pretty soon thereafter. I guess a pint of strawberries in a day is out of balance for my pitta dosha.
So, when she gave me three pints of strawberries a week later, I was pretty excited for more of the sweetest berries—but I knew I had to control myself. Those berries needed a belly and I needed a solution. Somehow, adding fennel sprinkles came to mind as a way to balance the heat. Fennel seeds are cooling to the body with sweet and pungent tastes. Quite often served after a meal as a digestive aide, I thought I would give them a shot and see what happens. I also limited myself to only three (big) strawberries. To help prolong the consumption time, I decided to shave them using my just out-of-storage mandolin. Shaved strawberries—REALLY?! I know, I know…don’t roll those eyes yet. Focus on how pretty they look—the pattern is beautiful, right? And they tasted pretty amazing too. Aside from how pretty they looked on my plate, the combination of flavors took me by surprise. The fennel enhanced the strawberry in this subtle way that gave it a little something-something. It’s hard to put my finger on it. The only way I can explain it is like vanilla in chocolate—it just works. Minutes later, I needed to put the combination to some heat and make jam. 30 minutes later—viola! Why limit the use of spice in your life? Happy jammin’—hope you enjoy these two flavors together as much as I do.
Prep Time: 15-20 mins
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yields: 2 cups
What you need: mortar/pestle or a coffee grinder, a masher, a candy thermometer (optional), and air tight jar
- 4 cups chopped (big) SWEET strawberries (about 3 baskets)
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar or succanet*
- 1/4 tsp pink or sea salt
- 1 T crushed fennel seeds
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1/2 of an apple (like a fuji for natural pectin)
Step 1: Chop the strawberries in halves or quarters depending on their size.
Step 2: Crush the fennel seeds using a mortar/pestle or coffee grinder. Crush them so the seeds are broken up a bit and in the end you have a mixture of fennel powder and seed.
Step 3: In a heavy bottom pot, add berries, salt, sugar, crushed fennel seeds and 1/2 the apple. Mix well, cover and place on low-medium heat, until the mixture begins to get juicy (you can also add an 1/8 or less of a cup of water). Once the juices start to flow, uncover and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes—you may need to stir it periodically.
Step 4: Place a small tasting dish in the freezer (this will help to test the consistency of the jam).
Step 5: Around 10-15 minutes or so into the cooking process, begin gently mashing the strawberries berries with a potato masher (be careful not to mash the apple). You may need to lower the heat a bit. Return to a simmer on medium to medium-high heat, if you lowered the temperature.
Step 6: After 25 minutes, check the temperature of the jam with the candy thermometer. Between 210-215 degrees is when you want to do the freezer test. (If you don’t have a thermometer, do the freezer test at about 20 minutes). Place a spoonful of jam in the dish that you placed in the freezer earlier and return it to the freezer for a minute. After a minute, check the consistency, if it’s too thin or watery continue to cook. The jam should coat a spoon, but not be to thick where it doesn’t drip off the spoon in slow motion. About 30 minutes.
Step 7: Once you have the right consistency, let the jam cool for 10-15 minutes, before adding it to the jar or an airtight container (remove the apple). Then add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the top of the jar. A little extra acidity to help preserve it. Once it’s completely cool—I kept mine open overnight with a piece cheesecloth on top, cover and store in the fridge. The jam will keep for up to 3 months.
*Sugar, if the strawberries are less sweet, more sugar maybe needed. Start the consistency testing earlier on to adjust sugar if needed.
Notes: Prevent any condensation from forming in the jar by ensuring jam is completely cool before closing the lid. Always use a clean utensil when serving the jam to prevent spoilage. If you want to preserve this jam for a longer period of time and store it in the pantry, follow canning guidelines.
Tastes: Sweet (strawberries, sugar, fennel), Pungent (fennel)
on a slice of toast with ghee, coconut butter or tahini (great for vata constitutions)
on a rye cracker with some fresh ricotta, soft goat or feta cheese
in a buckwheat crepe
add a tsp to a glass of lemonade?!
Strawberries are an antioxidant fruit with loads of vitamin C, K and rich in B1, B6, folic acid and iodine. In taste they are astringent and sweet (only sweet when cooked). A good way to recognize the astringent taste is to see if your mouth feels a little dry afterwards. Astringent taste balances both kapha and pitta doshas. However, strawberries are also sweet and combined with their heating energy, are best for vata dominant doshas. Enjoy with balance (pitta and kapha).
Fennel seeds have powerful antioxidant properties, are an excellent digestive aide, a diuretic and antispasmodic. They have anti-inflammatory properties and cooling energy prevents oxidation and inflammation making it great for chronic conditions such as colitis, Crohn‘s disease, IBS and arthritis. Fennel seeds are high in minerals like copper, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and magnesium as well as vitamins A, B, C and E.
*VPK: Fruit digests much quicker in our body than other food. Due to this Ayurveda advises not to combine fruit with other foods. I am not sure how this applies to jam. I think it’s important to be aware of this knowledge and apply it how you see fit. In looking at the predominant tastes, jam is most likely suited for people with more vata energy. Enjoy with a balance that is right for you.