Monday, May 31, 2010

Strawberry Jam With Homegrown Strawberries

Your hint yesterday was that there would be lots of red in today's photo's... did you guess correctly? Gold stars for all who did! Ok, imaginary gold stars.

Last year was the first time I ever tried my hand at canning. And yesterday was the first time I have ever made jam! I'm pretty darned proud of myself.

And now on to the strawberry jam! I cruised the internet and saw most recipes included only three things: strawberries, pectin and sugar. The sugar helps preserve the fruit's color and shape; I am not ready to experiment with low-sugar recipes yet. Anyhoo, every recipe had different measurements so I just made up my own. Click here for a good resource for canning instructions.  You don't have to can the jam; if you're going to use it up within a couple weeks, why bother.  Just keep it in the fridge.

For the recipe you will need: 
  • 5 or 6 cups crushed strawberries,
  • one envelope of pectin, and
  • sugar (I used 6 cups and it was a little too sweet for me... and I like sweet).
These amounts made enough jam to fill 9 half-pint jars.

For canning you will need:
  • jars and lids (this recipe made enough jam for 9 half-pint jars), and
  • a canner (a big pot to boil the jars full of jam).
 And for canning it can't hurt to have:
  • jar grippers/special tongs shaped to grab the jars out of the boiling water,
  • a funnel for keeping the rims of the jars clean when filling them with jam,
  • a fun stick with a magnet on it to pull the lids out of the water, and
  • that flat piece of blue plastic laying over the funnel is a tool to measure headspace in the jar. 
I get my canning supplies at the grocery store; they have not been hard for me to find.  I think I did have to go to a farm and home store to get the canner last year, but that may have been because it was later in the year and most people had already bought their basic supplies.  However, I was able to find jars and lids at the regular grocery store throughout the year.

Jam-making goes pretty quickly, so before you start it's a good idea to go ahead and sterilize your canning jars by leaving them in boiling water for 10 minutes in your big canner-pot, and also put the lids in a saucepan and barely bring that pan to a boil.  As soon as the lid-pan starts to boil, pull it off the heat.  Leave the lids in the warm water while you make the jam.  Pull the sterilized jam jars out of the water and start making your jam!  I did all my boiling and sterilizing while I was cleaning the berries.

Wash and hull the strawberries, slice them into chunks and crush them. I used a potato masher to crush them.

Mix one envelope of pectin with 1/4 cup of the sugar.  Stir that mixture and the strawberries together in a tall pot over high heat.

Stir constantly.  When the berries come to a boil add the sugar.

That's alot of sugar.  I cringed a little after seeing the huge pile of it, but it's for an entire recipe of jam and how much jam do you really use at a time, anyway?

Stirring constantly, bring the berry mixture to a hard boil, the kind you can't stir away.  Continue stirring as you keep it at the boil point for one minute. 

At this point, smarter people than me would test the jam by either putting a spoonful on a chilled plate or on a spoon that you have kept in ice water.  Cool the sample and check to see if it's still a little runny.  If it is, try boiling it a little longer or add more pectin from the extra box I was not smart enough to have on hand.  I, of course, did not test it and my end product was a little runny.  Lesson learned.

Pull the pot of jam off the heat and let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes.  This is a good time to skim off the foam.  Look at all the foam I removed! 

Later I microwaved it (not in that metal bowl, of course) and it turned back into jam. Foam is just jam with some extra air in it. It's not as flavorful as the actual jam and it can reduce the shelf-life of your canned product, so while it won't hurt you (prior to spoilage, anyway) it's a good idea to get it outta your jam.

Also, while I was letting the jam cool I put the jars back in the boiling water so they would not break when I filled them with jam. As soon as I was done skimming the foam off the jam I pulled the jars out of the water for use.

Give the jam a stir, then using the funnel fill the jars to within 1/4 inch of the rim.  Wipe the rim and place the lid on it, then screw on the lid-ring-thing.  Once all your jars are full, use your special funky tongs to place them in the canner where you kept water boiling all this time, in anticipation of this moment! 

Leave them in the boiling water for 5 or 10 minutes, depending on the elevation of where you live.  Where I live it's under 1,000 ft above sea level, so I boiled them for 5 minutes.  Pull them out, again using your funky tongs, and set them on the counter where they will be undisturbed for about 24 hours.  You will  hear the lids "pop" as they seal; it is such a happy little sound!  After 24 hours, press on the middle of each lid.  If any of them click up and down, they didn't seal.  Use those first; it doesn't mean the jam isn't any good, it just means they aren't "canned" correctly, whether it was a problem with the lid, or maybe the jar's rim had a chip in it, who knows.  All you need to know is you can open this jar first!  This recipe filled 9 half-pint jars.

I dug into my jam first thing this morning, adding it to my peanut-butter wrap breakfast.  It was fab!


It's a little runny, as you can see.  And it is ultra-sweet.  I think next time I will try making it with 4 cups of sugar instead of 6, and I will use more pectin, too.  But it is a fresh, summery taste that I will be able to enjoy this winter when the only green to be seen is on the Christmas tree and spring and summer are something you just dream about.


A said...

Looks GREAT Liz, can I come over now?

liz said...

sure, i'll start a pot of coffee to go with our toast and jam :)

JourneyBeyondSurvival said...

I used the special pectin sold for low sugar and used juice concentrate. Apple seemed to work best. I know sugar is sugar...but I can play tricks on myself and feel better about juice :)

I'm excited to make my annual batch.

Mary Bergfeld said...

Your jam looks wonderful! I now, of course, have a case of the Walton syndrome and want to return to my pioneer root:-). Our local berries are going to be late this year. I usually make freezer jam once they are available. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Nona said...

How absolutely FANTASTIC!!!

You've inspired me to try this one day soon.

Anonymous Fat Girl said...

Fabulous post! My mother in law has invited me to "learn" how to can with her sometime. I'm considering it. Really considering it. :)

Arti said...

The pics look mouth watering..
Feel like having some right now...

My Yatra Diary...

Gina Fit by 41 Maybe 42 said...

My family loves strawberry jam. This is great. And no HFCS! I can see us doing this as a family project (and I can see all the little fingers dipping into the sugar).

Thanks for all the details in your lesson.