Strawberries are here! I’m not talking store-bought, either. I’m talking the hand-picked kind. After three years of being in a Asia, I have missed the juicy unbeatable taste of a handpicked strawberry. There is NOTHING like it. NOTHING. Just try and prove me wrong.
So, if you live in an area where strawberries are in season right now, and you are not bound to your house for whatever reason, you have no excuse to not be out at a u-pick patch right now. Just consider the sweat that drips down your back and between your boobs (oh, yea) a small price to pay for what’s to come when you’re out there picking. What is it that is so worth having swoobs for, you say?
I think, or at least I hope, that those of you that have made your own jam before know what I’m talking about. There is nothing more satisfying than sustaining yourself with hand harvested produce that magically turns into preserves of any kind, frozen or canned. You just can’t beat it, folks. There is infinite beauty in having a true connection with your food, and there is no closer connection you can have beyond understanding what it means to nurture, harvest and make it yourself.
If there is anything you need to know before making jam, just know this: it is a process, but it is a simple process once you’ve done it a couple times. If you respect the process, you will be eating jam for months to come with a smug look on your face because you’ll know that you made that jam, damn it. Yes, you did!
Also. You’re going to get burned at one point or another. It may be from water, spitting strawberry goo or hot metal/glass. Exciting, right? It’s a dangerous sport for those brave enough to get involved. Once you’ve finished the process and you hear the little pings from the lids sealing themselves after you’ve canned the jam, you will then have a real appreciation for what you just did. That is the true glory of canning food to me. In fact, it is one of life’s greatest yet simplest pleasures, and it will never get old.
Okay, if that didn’t pump you up for the sport that is canning, channel the warrior within and begin!
This recipe won’t be as straight-forward as others so, stick with me. It was passed down to me via my grandmother, and to avoid confusion, I’ll do my best to break it down.
**** If you’re not into canning, you could easily just skip the hot water bath and send your jam straight to the freezer. ****
What you’ll need:
10 c. washed and halved fresh strawberries
6 T. no sugar added pectin (the pink box if you’re using Sure-Jell)
2 T. normal pectin (the yellow box if you’re using Sure-Jell)
4 c. caster sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice (from the bottle)
1 T. vanilla paste (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
Equipment (you can buy most of this as a kit in the store.)
9 8 oz. jars with new lids and rings (rings don’t have to be new)
1 large sturdy pot (16 – 20 quart)
1 medium size stew pot (about half the size of your large pot)
A round cooking rack that fits inside pot (or your pot may come with something that you can use to help elevate the jars from direct heat)
Got that? Good.
Step 1: wash, hull and halve your strawberries until you reach 10 c. worth. Then, blitz them in a food processor in batches until they are mashed, but chunky. I tend to just pulse it lightly until they’re just right. You’re not looking for them to be liquidy per say. When you’re done, you should end up with 6 c. mashed berries. Now add the berries to your medium pot.
Step 2: Sterilize your jars. It doesn’t matter if your jars are old or new, wash them with soap and water very well. Place them on a baking sheet with a lid so they don’t slide off, and keep them in the over at 200 F until you’re ready to use them.
Step 3: Fill your big pot with risen rack at the bottom about 3/4 of the way and bring water to boil. This can be done while you work. It does not have to be boiling before you begin.
Step 4: Measure out your sugar and set aside. Take 1/8 c. of the measured sugar and set aside.
Step 5: Combine the 1/8 c. of sugar with the pectin in a small bowl and then add to the berries in the medium pot. Stir and bring to a strong boil (can’t be stirred away). This should take about 10 minutes.
Step 6: Add the lids to a small pan and heat the water to very hot, but don’t boil. Let them sit until you’re ready to use them.
Step 7: Once your initial berry mixture comes to a boil, add the remaining sugar. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. When your mixture reaches a full rolling boil, boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat.
Step 8: Skim any foam that formed during the boil and put it in the fridge. This can be your test to ensure the jam will set or you can eat it right away. Once you’ve skimmed the top, stir in the vanilla.
Step 9: Transfer the hot liquid to a large measuring cup. You can do it in two batches if you want. Remove the jars from the oven and place your canning funnel in the first jar. Fill until you reach the bottom of the funnel. Go to the next jar. Once you’ve filled your jars, wipe the edges if you’ve dripped any, take your lids out of the hot water and place them on top of the jars. With an oven mitt or balls of steel, grab the now smoldering jars and place the rings over the lids and seal them tight enough that you cannot twist them anymore.
Step 10: By this time, your water should be really boiling. Take your canning tongs and place half the jars in the pot, cover and boil for 10 minutes (If you live at an average medium altitude. If you are lower, it will take less time, about 5 minutes. If you are higher, it will take more time, about 15 minutes.). When they’re done, remove them and place them on a baking sheet in a flat place and wait for the ping! You’ll hear it, most likely, within a couple hours or less.
Step 11: High-five yourself for being awesome and motivated.
Okay, there are a few questions that you may have, and hopefully, this might help!
Can you reuse lids you already have?
Yes and no. It’s always best to get new lids because once they’ve been sealed they tend not to lose the impression for the next batch. That said, you can boil them to help loosen the impression and make the rim ‘gummy’ again. If you do, ensure that your jars are truly sealed once you’ve finished.
Can I use regular pectin instead of a combination?
I don’t mess with a good thing, but if you use all regular, you will have to up your sugar amount to about 6 or 7 c.
Do I have to sanitize my jars?
Uh, yes!!!! The rule of thumb is to add hot into hot. So, that’s why it’s important to heat your jars before you add hot jam. If you don’t sterilize, you risk bacteria and mold. Need I say more?
What if I don’t hear a ping from my jars or my jam turns out runny?
There are ways of fixing this, and a quick google will solve it for you. Don’t worry. If your jam is still runny, it could be because a number of things, but most likely because you’ve overcooked your pectin. It’s a moody ingredient and doesn’t like to surpass that 1 minutes boil point.
Why bottled lemon juice?
My grandmother always told me that the ph level is more reliable than fresh. Again, I’m not messing with a good thing.