Sunday, April 26, 2009

Strawberry jam

What a fantastic, Spring-y week this was! I was happy to spend time outside (with dirt on my hands) and inside, with the windows open. Even during the rainy times, it was just peaceful to hear the "tap-tap-tapping" on the windows and roof.

This is the time, most every year, that I make homemade strawberry jam. You can get nice, fat red berries for 99 cents/lb or less at the grocery store quite consistently; the small, homegrown ones are REALLY good, but since you add so much sugar to them to make the jam, I prefer using the large, store-bought ones. They are just easier/faster to clean and prepare.

I started with a 4 lb. box of strawberries, which I cleaned in a sink-full of cold water. Then I simply cut off any bad/white spots and the stems.

I decided to puree them in my new food processor instead of slicing them. If you like a slightly chunky jam, you can slice them or use a pastry cutter to crush them. As they cook, they will break down more.

Mmmm... and nice, smooth strawberry puree! What a time-saver!

I did a little bit of math and adapted the recipe found in my trusty Better Homes cookbook. To my largest stockpot, I added the strawberry puree (which was approx. 7 cups from the cleaned 4 lbs of berries), a 4 lb bag of white sugar, a Tbsp butter, and two 1.75 oz. boxes of Sure-Gel (pectin). Stirring pretty consistently, I brought it to a boil. Let it boil for about 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

(Note: Make sure you use a large enough pot while cooking the jam, and continue to stir often. If you fail to do this, it will probably boil over...I had this happen ONCE and it is a horrible, sticky mess to clean up)

Using a wide-mouth funnel (found with the canning supplies), fill your clean jars up to 1/4 inch of headspace. For jam, I prefer to use half-pint jars, but pints will work in a pinch. Wipe the rim of the jar clean, apply the lid/band. Process in a boiling hot water bath for 5 minutes, then remove and allow to cool. (This is how I do it, following my trusty, 8-year-old cookbook. USDA guidelines for home-canners change, so check their website for the most recent recommendations).

Whenever I can something, I always set the hot, processed jars on dishtowels, then cover with another dishtowel as they cool. (This is how my family did it ☺). There is nothing more exciting than hearing all of the little "pop"s as the jars seal themselves. From all of my berries, I think I made approximately 8 pints-worth of jam. I calculate it cost about $1.11 per pint to make ☺


Mamma has spoken said...

That looks so yummy!!! My mom use to make jelly all the time but I have never done it myself. Yesterday I went to the store and they had strawberries for 99 cents a pound. I bought 2 pounds and will be making 'adult' drinks with them tonight ;)

eggcetra_farms said...

Mmmmmmmmmmmm....... I bought everything to do canning and still haven't done anything yet, mainly cause it scares me half to death. I think I'll try jelly/jam first.

SquishyCuteStuff said...

Jessica, jam is pretty easy. Tomatoes and salsa are SUPER easy, too... they are pretty hard to screw up because their acid content is so high. Green beans, corn, etc. have to be done in a pressure cooker. Believe me, I was scared to death at first... I remember being a little kid and having to "leave the kitchen" is my grandma used her pressure cooker. They were always cautious in case it EXPLODED! New cookers have sooo many safety features, so I am pretty comfortable with mine.

Mamma has spoken said...

Randi, same here. My mom, grandmother,& aunts would make me leave too when the pressure cooker was on. They would tell all these stories about so and so and what happen to them, but nothing ever happen while I was there. Which made me wonder if the stories were as true as they made them out to be? Now as an adult I believe them but back then, I thought it was their version of the 'big bad pressure cooker boogie man.'

Paula said...

I am sooo jealous! We are months away from fresh strawberries. Even my rhubarb is just now poking up from the ground. Did you know you don't have to be too picky cutting off the white parts? They actually contain a lot of pectin and help your jam, jam.

Everyone else, I agree with Squishy, jam and tomatoes are easy. Give it a try.

eggcetra_farms said...

I got a pressure cooker, a TON of jars and all the little tools for, like I said, I just have to get on it. Oh, and actually read the manual on the pressure cooker so I know what I'm doing LOL. You've inspired me!

SquishyCuteStuff said...

Thanks, Paula, for the tip about the white spots! I didn't realize that. When picking fresh berries, if they had a bit of a white tip, but were nice and red, I would go ahead and pick them (before the birds could!). I got in trouble by my husband and MIL for doing that :p

Jessica, I would so LOVE to come help you if you didn't live a million miles away! LOL Actually, I don't consider myself an expert or anything. I have basically played around with it and figured it out. Like Lovina says, the most important part is using clean, clean, CLEAN jars/lids/etc and fresh food. Find a good canning book or recipe book and just follow directions.

I am definitely not a manual-reader (ie., my camera) but I was so freaked out by my pressure cooker that I read every word! I definitely recommend doing learn about all the safety features and precautions, and it really settled down my fears. What kind is yours? Mine is a Presto brand and it will hold up to 7 quart-size jars at once. Plus in the direction book, there are a lot of good canning tips and recipes ☺

Mamma has spoken said...

Jessica, Not sure if you have it in your area, but here we have a county extentsion office that offers classes on a variety of topics. You might want to check it out and see if they offer home canning. I know my local one does along with the community education learning center.

eggcetra_farms said...

Mine's also a Presto and holds 7 quarts. This is it

I don't know about the extension office deal but it sounds good.

SquishyCuteStuff said...

Jessica, that looks just like mine! I have had mine for a few years. It is 18 quart (as opposed to yours is 23) but it looks like they hold the same amount of jars :-)

In rural areas, we are used to the extension office. Actually, until recently I didn't know what they did. A patient of mine, her husband used to work for their local extension. They apparently have lot of classes and useful information. If you have questions about things, you can call and ask. She said it is a really valuable, sometimes under-utilized resource.

tracy said...

yumma yumma yum! just like my grandma used to make- i LoVeD her homemade strawberry jam so much. one of my favorite memories from when we'd travel to see her. thank you for reminding me of this comfort! :D

Anonymous said...

I lucked out! One of our Kroger stores had 4lb strawberries for 3.88 this week! Using your recipe, we got 11 -1/2 pints (5.5 pints) at $1.83 a pint, that is still a very good price, plus I know what went into, the pot!