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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Strawberry Jammin' Forever

I'm not gonna lie; making strawberry jam is a bigger pain in the ass than most other jams I've made. But once I taste it, I know the fruits of my labor are worth it. Pun intended.

StrawberriesCloseUp

SinkStrawberries

I think, subconsciously, I'm against anything and everything about strawberries. As a kid, I ate so many of them one summer I broke out in hives. I never ate them again until adulthood, because I was told I was allergic. I think my small, 3-year-old body simply couldn't handle five pounds of strawberries, or however many I ate. I don't even remember it happening. Turns out, I'm not allergic. At least, not when I don't eat my own weight in them.

Anyway, there are extra steps to making strawberry jam, verses other jams, like blueberry or blackberry. First, cutting the stems, coring them, and cutting the strawberries takes forever. Count on it taking hours, especially when working with locally grown berries, which aren't the ginormous berries found at most grocery stores year round. (I don't want to know what's done to them for them to be that big.) Basically, I never knew how big strawberries were supposed to be until I started picking and canning them. Picked strawberries are tiny, usually about double the size of a blackberry. Sad but true. Also, strawberry season is very short compared to most other fruits, only a week or two, so take advantage of the berries while they're around! Picking season here will probably be over by the end of this weekend.

Other extra steps when making strawberry jam include clearing foam that forms on the top of the jam when its cooking down. The foam needs to be scooped up constantly. This doesn't happen when cooking other fruits.

Lastly, when putting the stuff into jars, popping the air pockets with a sterilized pointy item, like a butter knife. Just go around the inside edges a few times to eliminate that problem.

I'm sorry for all of the snide comments. I'm a complainer by nature. The finished project, however, is delicious and worthwhile. And when canned via water boiling, it can keep for a year or more, without refrigeration. That always amazes me. It's magic. Even better, it's completely customizable, and I know exactly what goes into it, unlike the store bought stuff. I usually like putting in less sugar than what recipes call for, because the jam tastes tangier and fruitier that way. (And it's not super sweet.)

Anyway, here it goes:

Strawberry Jam
Recipe adapted from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserves

Yields about six 8 oz jars (have an extra jar or two ready just in case)

Ingredients:
• About two quarts of sweet, sweet strawberries
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 6 tablespoons (or one box) pectin
• 4 cups sugar (original recipe calls for 7 cups)

Directions:
Wash strawberries; drain. Remove stems. I like my jam with pieces in it, so I just crush the strawberries with a potato masher while they're cooking. Combine strawberries, pectin and lemon juice in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into sterilized hot jars, leaving 1/4 headspace. Attach two-piece. Again, lids need to be sterilized. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Once removed from canner, leave jars sit undisturbed for 24 hours. After a day, check seals by pushing the lid. If they stay in place, without flexing up or down, they're sealed. If they move up and/or down, the container hasn't sealed, and you can either water boil it again with a new lid or refrigerate immediately to eat.

For clarification's sake: Jars and rings can be used countless times. Lids, however, when water boiling to preserve, can only be used once.

StrawberryJamCookingUpAStorm

EmptyJars

FullJars

Side note: My favorite part of the canning process, besides the food of course, is hearing the pop of the jars after taking them out of the canner. That means they're sealing! I'm probably just weird.

Also, please please please, if you've never canned before and plan on trying it out, read up on it first. Ball is the saint of canning, so you can read more about how to do it the right way here. While a canning pot helps, things can be water boiled in a large pot just fine. It's just good to be educated about it, since botulism is a very rare but dangerous risk if not done properly. It's most common when canning foods with low acidity (not so much strawberries with lemon juice), but still, it's better to be safe than sorry.

On a brighter note, here's the glorious end result:

HappyJammin

Have you ever canned before?

P.S. You can also view this recipe on the Pittsburgh Kitchen blog.

11 comments:

  1. You made jam? That's awesome, man! I totally suck at this sort of thing and there are so many things I'd like to make and put in jars. >_< I love the look on your face at the end. Haha. I'd look the same way. ^_^

    Oh and thanks so much for the sweet comment you left on my blog! I really appreciated it! <3

    - Anna

    www.melodicthriftychic.com

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    1. You're too sweet. You know, like jam. ;) Thanks.

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  2. Ah yay! I know I mentioned on a previous post of yours I was thinking of taking a jam making class! So Im so pleased you posted directions on how to can your own strawberries! I still don't know if I feel confident enough to do it on my own but maybe after some practice? Maybe I should start with blueberries or something.

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    1. Blueberry jam is my absolute favorite because it's easy (no cutting!) and delicious. I didn't mention it in the post, but I made jam as wedding favors when I got married last year. I made 120 four ounce jars, with strawberry, blackberry, blueberry lavender jams, and apple butter. The favorite was definitely the blueberry lavender jam I made. I'm hoping to post that recipe in a few weeks. :)

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  3. haha that last picture is awesome. and man, this looks like an ordeal. i have a new found respect for jam, who woulda thought it took that much work.

    xo marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

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    1. Thanks. It's definitely worth trying though! I recommend trying to make jam with a no fuss fruit first, like blackberries or blueberries.

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  4. I've never made any kind of jams or jellies before....but gah, just the looks of it sounds soooo good and worth it and I would love to try! It definitely seems like it's work but I can only imagine how much better it is than what you would buy at the store.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I probably just complain too much. Strawberry jam is just harder to make compared to other kinds. Blueberry is my favorite, because there's nothing to it and it tastes like heaven. :)

      And they're so much better than store bought! And cheaper.

      (Sorry, the writer in me had to delete the first comment and fix my typo.)

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  5. Homemade strawberry jam is my jam hehe. But seriously I don't think there is anything better than some homemade jam on toast!

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  6. Actually...you don't need to scoop the foam off the jam. Unless you plan on winning a county fair competition for your jam!
    Also, if you're making a small enough batch of jam, you don't need pectin (have you ever tasted that stuff by itself? Blech!). Anyways, here's a reference to a pectin-free jam recipe: http://foodinjars.com/2011/06/urban-preserving-small-batch-strawberry-vanilla-jam/

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