Living La Vita Locale 6/4: Strawberry Jam

Strawberries?  Again?  Well, that’s the seasonal life — eating foods when they come into season, and trying to preserve some of it to eat when it is not.  I have already written about freezing strawberries, but I have never posted about making strawberry jam, a staple item in  our pantry.  We use it for flavoring yogurt, flavoring ice cream and sometimes just spreading it on toasted really easy homemade bread.

I always had very bad luck making jam.  It wasn’t until my friend Andrea took me under her wing that I got the most important part of making jam: follow the directions exactly!  Here they are:

Before you start with the berries, prepare the canning jars according to manufacturer’s specifications.  There is no use going to the trouble of making jam if you mess up on the jars.  They must be sterile.  I boil the jars in the canner and leave them simmering until I am ready to can the jam.

Strawberry Jam

  • 3-4 quarts of strawberries, with the green caps and any stems removed, lightly crushed to make 6 Cups
  • 8 Cups of sugar
  • 3 1/2 T powdered pectin (or one box)

Measure 6 cups of crushed berries into a big stainless (or other non-reactive metal) kettle.  Add the pectin and stir it in.  Turn on a high heat and bring the fruit to a full rolling boil.  Not a simmer (my early jam mistake — I never let it come up to a full boil).  Once it is boiling, add the sugar and stir it in and bring the mixture back up to a full rolling boil and boil for one full minute (actually time it — don’t guesstimate) and remove from the heat. Let rest for 3 minutes.

Take the jars out of the canner and put them on a towel.

Skim the jam to remove any foam and then gently stir the jam to evenly disperse the fruit.

Fill the jars leaving a 1/2 inch of head space and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (that’s for Sea Level NJ.  If you live someplace that has an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult an expert!).

 

S-Berries

Apparently there is a long standing superstition about mentioning strawberries among farmers — to say that the “s-berries” are doing well might jinx the whole crop.  And such a wonderful little fruit!  Who would want to jinx it?

Ours are rolling in.  We’ve picked about 8 quarts from our little patch.  The berries at the CSA are just starting to  come in as well.  As strawberries are highly perishable, they need to be used or preserved very soon after they are picked.  At home we leave the berries on the vine until they are very dark red.  The darker they are, the sweeter they are!

Since school is still in session (and will be for some weeks after our bad weather), I don’t have time to make jam just now, so I freeze the berries.  Here’s how:

  1. Wash the berries.  While we don’t use any sprays on our berries, they are fertilized with composted chicken manure.
  2. After the water drains off, lay the berries in a single layer on some towels until they are completely dry.
  3. Cut the hull (green top) off the berry and lay out on a cookie sheet.  Put the cookie sheet in the freezer.  I leave them in overnight.
  4. Transfer the berries to gallon freezer bags to store.

Easy, right?  And then when I am ready to make jam, I defrost them overnight, right in my big measuring bowl.  Or if my children want smoothies, I take out a handful of frozen berries.  I found this to be a really convenient method of preserving the berries!