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Van Gogh’s “la fraise & la liqueur de chocolat” jam… & cobbler too.

August 9, 2011

I’m not exactly giving you a recipe today, at least not for the jam… I’ll explain all of that later. I’m really just giving an idea for the jam. The recipe is actually for the mini cobblers made with the jam.

I named this jam Van Gogh’s “la fraise & la liqueur de chocolat”  jam, which means roughly “strawberry & chocolate liqueur jam” after one of my favorite artist’s, Vincent Van Gogh, not because of any particular thing in common with him. He didn’t really paint strawberries, although in the 1880’s, he did write in several letters to his brother Theo about his efforts to “eat strawberries in the spring” ; a reference not only to his actually eating strawberries, but also a reference to learning to enjoy things in the moment. And to me, that’s a nice thought- enjoy things in the moment. Life is short, and we might as well enjoy the little things as we can. Too often we get caught up in the bullshit of every day life & we forget to stop & “eat strawberries in the spring.” I’ve been thinking of that ever since I read it, and especially with recent events I think it’s really important. My grandma lived every day to the fullest, and enjoyed every single day. She definitely ate her strawberries in the spring. And that’s a lesson we should all learn.

Sadly, Van Gogh was very troubled and cut off his own ear, so I’m guessing he wasn’t eating a lot of strawberries or enjoying a whole lot of things at the time.

Mirror image self-portrait, 1889

So all of that sounds nice (except the ear-cutting part). However there was another factor in my naming this jam.

That other factor: Van Gogh’s Amsterdam Chocolate liqueur, which, obviously, is a key ingredient in the jam. Say what?! Oh yes. Behold:

My liquor shelf be poppin’, yo!

 ..

Yep. That’s right. There’s no actual chocolate in this jam. Just chocolate liqueur. It’s so good. This one happens to have a great chocolate flavor, not bitter & not fake-tasting, with no cream (unlike the Mozart or Godiva liqueurs which are divine but being cream based, I can only imagine they would not bode well for jam making). Perfect in a martini or even straight up. It looks as though it’s a bit difficult to find now, I bought it a while ago but I’m fairly sure my liquor store still sells it. Anyway, you could just as easily use a chocolate vodka, vanilla vodka, regular vodka, any liqueur not cream based… and even Chambord or Cointreau. Whatever flavor you like. I just happen to think strawberries & chocolate are a great flavor combination, so that’s why this struck me as a good idea. But why not use blackberries & Chambord? Or raspberries & pomegranate vodka? It all sounds pretty awesome. And if you’re gonna make a jam, why not make one with liquor!? Isn’t there an Ogden Nash quote, “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker”?

Yes, those are fake strawberries.

Here’s the deal: I made this on a whim after a “buy one get one free” sale on strawberries. I was partially inspired by a jam recipe that Tania made & sent me from Poet in the Pantry, but I wanted to do a different spin on the chocolate/strawberry thing. So I kind of made it up as I went along. I can’t come close to telling you the exact process I went through, and I’d feel terrible if I wrote something up that was awful, & you wasted 2 pounds of berries. So I won’t lead you down a terrible path by giving you one of my mangy, sad, made-up jam recipes that might not work for you. But I will say this: find a good strawberry jam recipe that makes about 3-4 pints (with the use of pectin, unless you’re confident about your strawberries gelling naturally, which I am not), and add  ⅓-½ cup liqueur of your choice to it. I actually only used ¼ cup and it was too subtle for my liking. You could taste it, but not quite enough for me. My base recipe was this small batch one from Food in Jars (except I altered it to use 2 lbs of berries, I added pectin & took out the vanilla).

My jam also took a few days to firm up properly, even with the pectin. It was sorta gelling before I jarred it, but after I stirred in the alcohol it watered down a bit. However, it definitely got more firm as it settled. Possibly it took longer because of the alcohol addition? I’m not sure. If you don’t like to play with fire that way, do the cold plate test until you’re 100% positive it’s ready, then add the liqueur once it definitely is. I knew based on my sugar/acid/pectin that I’d be good, eventually, so I didn’t worry about it setting up. And even if it didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have cared. It was only a small batch, and let’s be honest: strawberry chocolate liqueur ice cream syrup sounds pretty awesome. I am no expert by any means, though, so don’t take my word for it. There are plenty of other people who know what they’re doing far better than I. I’m just a lowly canning neophyte.

Clearly backlit from heaven!

This recipe makes roughly 3 pints. I filled up two & a half-pint jars for the waterbath/canning process, and then had a bit left over that might have been a bit under 6-8 oz. I just put that right in the fridge in an old marmalade jar for immediate use. That little part of the batch firmed up right away, probably from the cold. I had some right away and it was a bit sweet, but I know a lot of jams “mellow” in the jar after processing & sitting, which the small jar did not get a chance to do. Plus, the colder the jam is, the less sweet it will taste, so if you refrigerate it after a few days, even before it’s opened, it’ll dull the sweetness. Same principle as when making ice cream- it may seem too sweet, but when it’s frozen it’s really not. Or something.

What a beautiful jewel-toned ruby colored jam this is. I could just stare at it in the jar all day. But that would be weird, right?

This would be a great cupcake filling, by the way. I’m thinking of a chocolate cupcake with this jam as a filling, and then an Italian meringue buttercream frosting made with some of the jam as well. Unf. That would be phenomenal. And how about a homemade pop-tart made with this? INSANE. Although… on two pieces of soft wheat toast it wasn’t exactly disgusting, let me tell you. Far from it.

But… you can also make it into a bunch of mini cobblers. Strawberry chocolate liqueur mini-cobblers made in little ramekins! Adorable. Totes adorbs. And everything tastes better when it’s homemade start to finish, amirite?

Yep. Take it all in.  Homemade mini-cobblers made with homemade strawberry chocolate liqueur jam. Are you loving this yet?

MINI-STRAWBERRY JAM COBBLERS WITH A KICK

Makes about 8 average sized ramekins

Ingredients:

  • 1 16-ounce jar strawberry chocolate liqueur jam
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold & cut into pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400º F. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil (because the jam will overflow & things will get very messy) and place ramekins on it. Spray ramekins with cooking spray, lightly & evenly, to make clean-up easier later.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder & salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Spoon jam into ramekins, filling almost up to the top, maybe ¾”  away from it.
  3. Top each jam-filled ramekin with a heaping pile of the flour mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it starts to turn golden-brown. Remove, and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Best eaten when still fairly warm, but I know some people who wouldn’t turn it down room temperature either.

And there you have it. I finally got around to baking something! How exciting. Although it was my first time baking since my grandma passed, and it was pretty hard. I’d normally bring some of whatever I made to her, and she’d eat it and rave about it and tell everyone how amazing it was. But, life goes on, and I know the last thing she’d want is to hear me complain or stop baking or be weepy & sad. At least I keep telling myself that.

Either way, this is some excellent cobbler, and I bet my Nana is pretty pissed that she missed it.

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  1. I’m such a big fan of your site. I’ve been reading it for years and i wanted you to know that i feel so bad for your loss. You seem like a great person and I think youre nana would want you to be happy. I think i’m going to try canning can you recommend how i start? i probably need everything so if you could tell me what to get that would be great. thank you and please keep up the recipes. You hAve alot of fans out here!

  2. Thank you so much! I love when people write such sweet comments to me. I know my Nana would want me to keep doing this, because I enjoy it, and I know she hated to see me sad.

    As far as the canning, I recommend getting the Ball Discovery Canning Kit & jar lifter to start.
    http://www.freshpreservingstore.com/detail/TCL+1440010790
    http://www.freshpreservingstore.com/detail/TCL+1440010731

    I also recommend you read blogs or websites on canning & buy the Ball preserving book.
    http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Complete-Book-Home-Preserving/dp/0778801314

    It’s easy, but you want to do it safely… so I suggest reading up as much as possible on it before starting. When you’re ready to buy more jars, you can order them online or get them at Ace Hardware or Walmart (although my Walmart only sells them at this time of year, sadly). Good luck!

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