As a kid there were two canned staples in my home that I always cherished and often would sneak spoonfuls of, home made strawberry jam and home made sweet pickle relish. Theres something quite pure and almost ethereal about home canned jam, its so simple yet extraordinary. Although I do make 3-4 batches of jam per picking season I often have to purchase regular jam in the store through out the year. With my six year old peanut butter and jelly addict in the house I just can not keep up! (and honestly the grape mystery jiggle is so much cheaper for the daily packed lunches) The home made preserves are such an obvious treat that is absolutely no rival to the store bought variety. Often after Autumn’s apple canning I find that I have to stash my canned goods wherever I can find the space. Its almost as if theres secret stashes from natures bounty among my table linens and cereal. The best part about this lack of organization is that when I’m certain there is no jam left I find a jar that got away! These little surprises are often wonderful for gloomy miserable days, usually when I’m snowed in and have no clue what to do with myself. Its just what I need, the perfect pick me up and reminder of sweet treats and summer festivities. Most of all my favorite thing about home made preserves is that the fruit tastes like… well FRUIT! The colors are brighter and more vivid, and more importantly I know exactly what went into it and I am able to alter all of the delicious delicate flavors.
This year after strawberry picking I made two varieties of Strawberry Jam. The first variety is my All american basic jam, the stuff I ate as a kid. Its nothing but strawberries, sugar, pectin and fresh squeezed lemon juice. The second variety I used a “No sugar needed” pectin packet along with brown sugar and honey. With the intense sweetness of fresh fruit I often find traditional preserves have a cloying sweetness that is just too much. This honey variation is still mighty sweet but with a slightly different flavor profile. Although I know some purists are against the usage of store bought pectin I am not against it. It is by no means un-natural, pectin is actually found naturally in lots of plants Apples and citrus fruits specifically offer a great deal of pectin. On the other hand things such as strawberries, cherries have much less so you’ll want to take that into consideration. If you’d like to stir the preserves and hope for great results by all means go for it, but when preserving things such as strawberries its crucial to keep in mind that the longer you heat and stir the fruit, the more it will dissolve. Every pectin packet I’ve gotten over the years has always had a coupon on it, so not only is it so darn cheap to buy it also keeps me sure that my jam will come out just the way I’d like every time without second degree burns and a sore back.
Although I’ll admit I was honestly terrified the first time I ever made and canned my own home made jam over the past few years I’ve really become more comfortable with it. Honestly I’ve home canned, and I’ve home brewed wines and beers. Home brewing things is much more stressful with a lot more science to be thought of. I’ve had canning mistakes, and home brewing mistakes…believe me when I say that the home brewing mistakes more stressful…and stinky. To me canning is a simple yet gratifying past time that is stress free and highly rewarding if done right. If your careful with your sterilization, and don’t add too much to the basic recipe your bound to succeed. The best advice I can share is read your pectin packet. Its got most of the information you’ll ever need for basic recipes. For more intricate recipes and looking further into the science behind things besides jams I would recommend picking up a book about canning and preserving. I’ve found my best canning books at antique malls or at flea markets but most book stores offer modern ones as well. I can not vouch for them personally but I’m sure they’ve helped enough people.
Basic Strawberry Jam (preserves)
(6 or 7 – 8 ounce jars)
I typically prefer using 16 ounce jars. Its easier to process less jars, and one 8 ounce jar in my household seems like its 1 days breakfast. I have a variety of canning supplies and jars on hand. If your new to this I would recommend for this recipe purchasing 1 case of 8 ounce jars or one 4 pack of 16 ounce jars. Can the three 16 ounce jars and then put remaining jam in the refrigerator.
- 5-6 cups smashed strawberries including the juices, (about 2 pounds before smashing)
- 7 cups sugar
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 packet of pectin
- Prepare and sterilize your jars according to packaging directions. Fill a large stock pot about half way with water and bring to a boil.
- Wash and trim your strawberries removing the hulls. Rinse them thoroughly before cutting off the hull (you do not want the water to seep into the strawberry)
- In a large bowl or measuring cup smash the strawberries using a potato masher then your hands. You want them pretty well squished but with chunks. If you would like a seedless smoother jam you could run it through a food mill.
- Place the berries pectin and lemon juice into a large pot and bring to rapid a boil that can not be stirred down. Slowly add the total amount of sugar and return to a boil for 1-2 minutes. You will notice it thickening on your spoon.
- Place the jam into sterile jars, wipe the rims of the jars dry and apply the lid and ring.Process by gently placing the jars in boiling water or a canner according to manufacturers recommended directions. I do about 15 minutes for 16 ounce jars, 5-10 minutes for 8 ounce and smaller.
- Remove the jars and place on a dish towel or heat proof area.
- Allow to rest UN-TOUCHED for 24 hours. The lids will make popping sounds as they seal. The following day you can press on the lids of each jar and if its firm, the center is taught and no longer makes a clicking noise when pressed your jar has sealed.
Honey Strawberry Jam-
yields 3: 16 ounce jars
This is a recipe I made primarily out of necessity. I had a packet of no sugar needed pectin and I had run out of white sugar. I also wanted to try something different, which is why I had the no sugar pectin in the first place. This is a great recipe to keep in mind for diabetics or people with health concerns. You can alternate agave syrup, no sugar sweeteners or even use no sweeteners at all. Its important to keep in mind how sweet your fruit is and what you think you’d really enjoy to sweeten this.
- 5 cups smashed strawberries including the juices
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 packet of no sugar needed pectin
Follow previous recipe’s instructions but instead of adding sugar, add your desired sweetener. You will have to bring this mixture back to a boil and boil the jam up to 5 minutes (instead of 1-2 minutes) until it thickens.