July 23, 2010 § 3 Comments
If you’ve never had homemade preserves before, I highly recommend trying this delicious strawberry jam recipe, adapted from the one my grandmother taught me many summers ago. It’s one of the best ways to enjoy one of my favorite fruits of the summer, either right now or canned and preserved for the winter months.
Canning and preserving are age-old ways of stretching abundant produce into the leaner months of the year. Even though most of us do not rely on what we can grow to sustain us in the winter, it’s still a lot of fun to turn local, fresh produce into jams, preserves, and jellies. It seems intimidating at first, due to worries about food safety and quality, but if you break it down into smaller steps, it’s really not very difficult, as long as some basic rules are followed. For more information on canning safety, I highly recommend checking out the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I will go into more detail on the canning process in the next post, but a brief rundown of the canning process is available in steps three through five in the recipe section below, as a refresher course if you’ve canned before.
For now, here’s how to make the best strawberry jam, which doesn’t need to be canned if you don’t want to be bothered – my grandmother certainly never did, as she simply refrigerated it, as it never seemed to last very long among the jam-fiends like me!
First, you will need some strawberries. I started with three quarts. Wash them well.
Remove the stems and any bad parts (if applicable), and toss into a large stockpot. This one is a five-quart-er. I used the biggest stockpot I own as the canner.
You can smash them up a bit at this point, but I usually smash while they’re cooking, since I have to stir anyways. Add in the juice of one lemon – it’s such a simple tweak but it really brightens the jam.
Then, toss in six cups of sugar. If your strawberries are especially sweet, you might cut down the sugar quantity by about a half-cup, or if you prefer a sweeter jam, make it 6.5 cups of sugar. I personally like my jam slightly on the tart side.
Over medium heat, stirring occasionally, cook the strawberries down.
Make sure to frequently scrape up the bottom of the pot to ensure none of the strawberries burn.
As the volume decreases, you may need to turn down the heat. This is about halfway through the jam-making process, or forty-five minutes.
Once it reaches about half the volume, it is done. You can also check for gelling by lifting up the spoon and seeing if the jam spreads out into a thin sheet on the spoon, but generally half-volume is a good indicator. If you dislike seeded jam, you might try running the mixture through a sieve, but I like the seeds, so I leave them in. It feels more traditional to me.
At this point, you can begin the actual canning process by boiling for thirteen minutes in half-pint jars with 1/4 inch headspace. (More details on the actual canning process will be explained in the next post, but a cursory explanation is available below in steps three through five of the recipe.) If you prefer, simply place the jam into jam jars and either refrigerate or freeze. Bell canning jars are freezer-safe.
To serve, smear some butter on a nice piece of bread,
top with jam, and enjoy.
Sidenote: butter spreads better when warm, but I didn’t have any patience since this is all the jam that was left!
Makes 5-6 half-pint jars
- Three quarts of strawberries, washed and hulled
- Juice of one lemon
- Six cups of sugar
1. Wash and hull the strawberries. Combine lemon juice, sugar, and strawberries in a five-quart stockpot.
2. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often and lowering the heat to prevent burning. A gentle simmer is preferred over a rolling boil. Cook until jam volume is reduced by half, or the jam slowly drips from the spoon, spreading out on the spoon’s surface in a thin layer. If storing in the freezer or refrigerator, skip to step 6.
3. Meanwhile, if canning, wash and dry the half-pint jars (I recommend at least six jars for this recipe), canning lids, and lid rings. In a small pot, below a simmer, warm up the canning jar lids. Place the jars in a large stockpot and bring to a boil.
4. Once the jam is ready, pour jam into jars, removing air-bubbles with a clean knife. Top off jars to a 1/4 inch headspace, wipe off the rim of the jar with a paper towel or tea towel, place the warmed lid on top, place a canning ring around it, and tighten until just closed, a.k.a. “fingertip tight.” Place jars into the stockpot-canner and bring to a boil. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, place the lid on the pot and set a timer for thirteen minutes.
5. Remove the jars from the canner and let sit in a cool spot for at least twelve hours. The jar lids will make a popping noise as they seal (mine popped right as I removed them from the canner). Once twelve hours have passed, check to see if the lids are sealed tightly – they should not wobble or move if a finger is pressed on the top. You can remove the rings at this point too. Rings and jars are reusable, whereas the canning lids are not. Label the jars, store in a cool, dark spot, and enjoy within one year.
6. For the non-canners, or any extra that doesn’t fill a jar to headspace requirements: refrigerate the jam. It will keep for about a week or two, though honestly will probably be gone long before then. Or, fill jars and freeze. I know Bell-brand jars are freezer-safe, but make sure to check your preferred container is freezer-safe. If sealed tightly, freezer jam should last six months to a year.
Note 1: not all brands of sugar are vegan, so check first to make sure that animal products are not used in processing the sugar.
Note 2: for more information on canning safety, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation.