|Ripe strawberries fresh from the field|
We can't always eat all of that bounty at once, try tho we might, so today we be jammin'. As in making jam. From scratch. Yup, me.
Not only making jam but picking the berries, too. Drove out to the farm in the morning and scored 13 lbs of berries in about 20 minutes with help from some kids who were having a lot of fun but who filled up their moms' baskets way too fast.
Before you even get the berries, tho, get your supplies in order! Jars (these are pint size), lids and rings, jar gripper, funnel, ladle, spoon, bowl, tongs, clean dish towel and your canning pot. You can reuse jars but make sure there are NO chips or cracks in them. Buy new lids and rings. The first time you try to pry one of these open you'll understand why.
Next you're going to want some time. This is not something you squeeze in between soccer and band practice.
2 quarts (8 cups) crushed strawberries (crush, then measure)
5-6 c sugar depending on how ripe the strawberries are. Back off on the sugar if the strawberries are really ripe.
You can add a tbsp of lemon juice to cut the sugar, if you want.
Do NOT double up the recipe. You'll come to grief.
Directions: You'll want to do this as soon as possible after picking. Local berries are built for taste, not longevity.
Prep the strawberries. Wash berries and take the tops off. Discard any beat up berries; you only want the best for your jam. (Eat the ugly ones.) Crush the berries with a potato masher. Repeat until you have 8 cups.
Start your water boiling in your water bath. You'll end up turning this off but it won't take that long to heat up later on when you need it right away. If you have a pot like the one I used, fill to the line closest to the top. The water has to cover the tops of the jars.
Set your berry pan on the stove and pour in the berries and the sugar.
Turn the heat up to medium and start cooking! Within the first 10 minutes the mixture may boil over if the heat is too high. Once you've stirred it down a few times you can raise the heat to get a good rolling boil.
You will need to skim off the foam that forms. I'd use this on vanilla ice cream later on! The more foam you skim the fewer air bubbles you'll have in the finished product.
While this is cooking away (about 40 minutes) use the time to sterilize the jars, lids and funnel by putting them in the boiling water in your water bath. (Use the tongs!) Remove the jars and lids and place upright on a clean towel. DO NOT TOUCH THE INSIDES OF THE JARS OR LIDS. Keep those germs away!
First time you do this you will wonder how you know the strawberries have cooked enough. This is where old movies come in handy. Really old movies. Your boiling jam will start to sound like the noises from old swamp thing movies. Bloop, bloop, bloop. The next thing that happens is a bubble will burst and splatter jam all over the stove. You be jammin'! (OK, you want more scientific than old swamp thing movies? You can put a small plate in the freezer. When you think the jam is done, take the plate out. Pour a little jam on the plate. Turn the plate so the jam runs off. If it doesn't run, the jam is done. I like the bloop, bloop, bloop better, but that's me.)
|Bubbles start to look like this right before it's ready to can.|
Using the jar gripper, move a hot jar close to the pan. (Remember: hot foods into hot jars.) Pop in the funnel and ladle in the jam until it is about 1/4" below the rim of the jar. Remove funnel and move to the next jar, working quickly. Your water bath should be boiling at this point.
When your jars are full (8 cups filled 4 pint jars), make sure the top edges of the jars are clean before you put the caps on (wipe with a damp paper towel if there are jammy bits)then screw on the rings (not tightly). Pick the jars up with the jar grippers and place in the basket in the water bath. (Alternate sides when putting the jars in. If you load up on one side, the whole thing tips into the water bath. No, I did not actually do that myself, but I came close!)
When all the jars are in the basket, lower gently into the bath, cover and boil for 15 minutes. With grippers, remove jars immediately and place on towel. Listen for popping noises. That's the sound of the vacuum forming and sealing the jars. You can tighten the rings after that happens. If you can push down on the lid and it flexes, you did not get a good seal. This jam cannot be stored for later use.
Cool and then label the jars and store in a cool location. They don't have to be refrigerated until opened.
Want to make more? The best book out there is the Ball Blue Book. Try to get the old one. The newer ones use 'products' instead of just fresh produce, spices and sugar.
(Do I have to say: Caution, contents are hot? I hope not. You're a smart cookie!)
White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032