In honor of the month of love, I decided to share with you one of my latest creations: a tasty little jar of hearts.
Right now you may be thinking, “The song by Christina Perri?” or maybe you’re thinking “A jar of artichoke hearts? Hearts of Romaine? Celery hearts?” and the answer to all of those would be a resounding no. It’s a different kind of heart. And nope- it’s not an animal heart either. Okay, so it’s not really a jar of hearts at all. It’s a jar of preserved whole strawberries in a light syrup. The reason I decided to call them a jar of hearts is because when I picked up the jar to label it, I noticed the strawberries looked like little hearts. Perfect for this time of year.
See? That’s totally a little heart!
It really looks like hearts! That shit right there is so Snow White. I felt like the evil Queen Grimhilde surveying the heart of my enemy in a jar. Creepy, I know. Sorry. Too many fairy tales thanks to Grimm & Once Upon A Time. But it can also have a romantic spin. Hearts, love, etc. Remember back in the day there was a dude on The Real World (this was when it was still cool, so it must have been the first 5 minutes it was on) who’s girlfriend sent him a pig heart for Valentine’s Day? No? Whatever. This is far from a pig’s heart.
I had a few strawberries left over from a little experiment I had to do (more on that in a week or two) so I decided to do this. I couldn’t let them go to waste; they were perfect, huge, beautifully colored fresh strawberries. And I had already used them in the more obvious capacity (like I said, more on that at another time), so this was the only unique thing I could come up with to do. It was really easy too. They make a perfect ice cream, oatmeal or cheesecake topping & they’d be smashing served with some soufflés, not to mention the syrup is great for putting in ginger ale/seltzer/7-Up as a flavoring, or for making cocktails. It’s like an alcohol-free shrub (though it certainly could be made into one with alcohol, if you’re so inclined, there are tons of great ideas here). Or you could just add a little alcohol to it, & it’s an instant party. These are the things I think about. I’m a sicko, right?
Alright so now you’re probably wanting your own jar of hearts, possibly to give your significant other? Perhaps even just because the thought of telling nosy people who ask you what you got/gave, “Oh, I just gave ’em a jar of hearts” amuses you? Well, all you have to do is this: take your strawberries (fresh, not frozen) & wash them. Then remove the hulls. Put them in a large saucepan & coat them in granulated sugar, just enough so that each berry has a nice coating & there’s enough sugar so that you don’t see the bottom of the pot. Let it sit, covered, for 3-5 hours. Then turn the heat up to medium high & with a wooden spoon, continuously stir to avoid scorching. The sugar & the liquid that had seeped out of the berries should combine to create a thick syrup. Take care while stirring to not break any of the berries, you want them whole (but if little pieces here & there separate or break off, that’s okay). Cook long enough so that the berries are cooked through or else they’ll float in the jar (this happened to me, even though I was sure they were cooked through). Once it’s ready, using a slotted spoon, scoop out the berries & put them in a hot, sanitized jar. Then pour in enough syrup to cover, leaving about ½”-inch headspace. Seal & process for 10 minutes in a water bath, and allow to cool in the water. If you have any syrup left over & no berries… that’s where the strawberry syrup comes in!
If you’d like to add some liqueur to it, maybe some vodka or maybe some vanilla bean, then do so. If you don’t add any liquid, add a little water if needed to fill whatever size jar you want to use for your syrup. Bring to a boil & then pour into a hot jar & process it, again for 10 minutes. Allow both jars to cool & check the seals. If they didn’t seal, use immediately & refrigerate. I did both of these at once & processed them together, then let them cool in the water bath overnight. I removed them, checked the seals, dried them & labeled them appropriately. Yes, I design & print my labels myself.
This is not a USDA approved recipe, but the incredibly high sugar content & the fact that I only made a half-pint of berries & 4oz. of syrup -both of which will be used fairly quickly- didn’t make that an issue for me. If you’re concerned, take appropriate measures, but I don’t really see any reason to be concerned. Once the berries themselves are done, the remaining syrup in that jar will be used just as the separate syrup. On ice cream, yogurt, cheesecake, pound cake, as a cocktail mixer or in seltzer or soda water. Waste not, want not. Although I doubt any of this will go to waste. As a matter of fact… it is so incredibly delightful as an ice cream topping, you wouldn’t believe it. Yes, I said delightful. Especially over a homemade French vanilla bean ice cream.
Mmm. Ice cream with fresh hearts.
The only warning I can give here is to avoid white clothing. I did, but I have white dish towels & somehow, I guess from spatter & the drips from the spoon, it ended up looking like Dexter Morgan was playing around in my kitchen. I wish. Well, not necessarily that he was killing people in my kitchen, but it’d be pretty awesome if Dexter was hanging out in my kitchen. He’s the bee’s knees; I can’t believe it took me so long to watch that show! I’m officially obsessed now. So yeah, anyway, keep an eye out for that, ’cause white can be bleached- yes- and that’s why it’s perfect for lab coats & chef’s coats & dish towels. But if you’re wearing that really nice light colored apron or your favorite white t-shirt while you make this and then bam- you’ve got a strawberry blood splatter problem, you might not feel as flippant about it. Remember, extra strength Hefty bags, gloves & tape. No… wait… I meant dark-colored aprons or clothing. That other stuff is for making a different kind of “hearts in a jar.” Which you could also do, really, depending on your level of childhood trauma or who you’re planning on gifting.
So now you too can have a jar of hearts in your pantry without being a creepy Disney-villain type. Even though I sort of am a creepy Disney-villain type, myself. I kinda like the witch who lives in the house made of candy, don’t you? Although I don’t want to lure any kids there to do terrible things. I just wanna sit on a marshmallow couch with a buttercream pillow & watch TV.
Your kids are safe with me.