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After summer's overwhelming surge of fruit, winter can feel especially gray with the sudden loss of color from our gardens and markets. Sure, we love apples, pears, and persimmons, but what is there to do when a sudden craving for bright red strawberries rears its head? Just grin and bear it while eating your fourth bowl of applesauce? Thankfully there's another way. When the weather's turned frigid and it feels like there's not a sunbeam to be found, you can find a little sunshine in your local grocery store's freezer section.
Many people shy away from store-bought frozen fruit for fear that it's "unnatural," but I'm here to tell you that frozen fruit can be actually very, very good for you. Since the fruit isn't being trucked over many miles and is at far less risk for damage during the rigors of transportation, fruit harvested for freezing is picked at the peak of ripeness. Very ripe fruit often has a higher nutrient content, so there's a health gain to be had in eating frozen fruit. And since the ripest fruit is also the sweetest, this makes frozen fruit perfect for snacking, baking, or, of course, making jam!
If you're concerned about the contents of your frozen fruit, there's only one way to put your fears to rest: read the label. Packages of frozen fruit should only contain, well, fruit (and occasionally citric acid to prevent browning in varieties like peaches). If the fruit in your hand contains any sort of ingredients you're not comfortable with, throw it back and find another more natural brand. I personally prefer organic frozen fruit, as my preference for non-pesticide laden foods does not stop at the fresh produce section.
Now that you've cozied up to the idea of using frozen fruit, why not make a little jam? I've included my recipe for strawberry-cranberry jam, which is perfect for those days when you're hoping for a little bright sunshine but see only clouds extending in all directions. This jam is super sweet-tart, and it will cause your sun-starved salivary glands to kick into high gear.
Sweet strawberries are always the life of the party, and we've invited tart cranberries as well, making for a bright red flavor explosion. You'll find the texture of these preserves relatively chunky, but if you prefer your jam smoother, feel free to whiz your just-defrosted fruit a few more times in the food processor for a finer finished product.
I enjoy this incredibly colorful jam most when it's perfect spread on a bagel during a particularly cold winter morning.
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About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.