Thursday, September 24, 2009
Strawberries were shining stars a few months ago. My friend Caralea and her friend Ruth came over bearing many many pounds of fruit, a big stock pot or two and some good conversation. With all those ingredients at the ready, we made over 30 pints of jam and learned a few lessons in jamming.
When you have to hull, slice and mash as many berries as Ruth brought to the jam party, it gets a bit tiresome. But we were a strong team, taking turns and rotating through the tasks so no one got bored or tired of any particular job. If I had to hull all of these strawberries myself I would have surely broken down crying.
It's a good idea to make jam when berries are at their ripest and cheapest. We didn't pick these berries, unfortunately, but they were exceptional specimens. Just sweet enough with a deep red color.
Borrowing a large stock pot from A Full Plate was one of the best ideas we could have had. The largest pot in my collection is wimpy in comparison to this heavy duty professional kitchen variety.
If I were to re-live this day, I would make the jam in smaller batches. We made a quadruple batch and as more experienced canners know, that's just asking for trouble! Some of our jars didn't jell and we ended up with some jam and some strawberry 'sauce' that I've been using on yogurt and ice cream, but not on toast. Oh well, you live and you learn, right? Writing this post now I'm very glad to have participated in this jam session. I'm extremely satisfied when I go down to my basement and see an entire shelf of homemade jams that I get to enjoy all fall and winter.
In the end, even though some of our jam didn't quite turn out, it was a great afternoon, made even better with the company and take-out Chinese food! I used my favorite low sugar pectin and followed the instructions (save for quadrupling the recipe), but you can use whatever pectin you like or are comfortable with. I'm also going to give just the basic canning instruction here, if you've never done it before check out your copy of the Joy of Cooking or one of the online resources recommended by Food in Jars.
Strawberry Jam (single batch)
4 cups ripe strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons calcium water
2 teaspoons pectin
Wash and mash your berries. This is easy enough to do with a fork to very ripe berries or use a potato masher. Combine mashed berries, lemon juice, and the measured calcium water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. In a separate bowl mix the sugar with the pectin and add to the boiling fruit. Stir vigorously for two minutes to dissolve the pectin and bring jam back to a boil and remove from the heat.
Carefully fill your sterilized jars to 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe the rim of the jar clean, place on the lid and screw on the band. Then process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool completely, about 12 hours.
My yield was about 4 1/2 cups of finished product. Delicious finished product.