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I picked about 2 flats of strawberries two weeks ago with the intention to can my own strawberry jam.  Ian and I get some pretty amazing jam from our favorite spot at the farmer’s market.  Raspberry is our favorite, but strawberry is a close second.  But its $6.50 for a small jar that we easily go through in a week.  I like PB&J’s for a quick lunch, and he likes J’s for his lunch.  I also swirl it in my homemade yogurt for a sweetener (with homemade granola- YUM!).

I thought this year it was time to make our own.  I figured it out, and it cost me about $1.50 per jar, and next year I won’t even need to buy the jar, so it will be half that.  And I’m able to make it with WAY less sugar, and since the strawberries are fresh they are sweet enough to not need it!  I tried two batches, one the traditional way with LOTS of sugar, and one with no-sugar pectin, and 1/3 of the traditional recipe, and they tasted the same to me.  When I get raspberries next week, I’m going to try the no sugar kind, sweetened perhaps with honey. This is a very kid friendly activity, but I’m afraid I didn’t get kid involvement this time.  My first batch was late at night, and my second time they had better things to do. I did my canning research on these great sites, and compiled them into the following recipe that worked for me.  Feel free to do the same.

The Pioneer Woman, www.pickyourown.org, ball canning

Everyone recommends the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving as the canning bible.  I don’t have it, so I can’t speak to it.  But that sounds like a good reference for us newbies to home preserving. I am not going to go into the ins and outs of canning here.  See the sights I’ve referenced for more details on which type of canning to use, and why.  I’m just giving you a brief description of my first foray into canning.  I’ve heard strawberry jam is the best place to start, and since it is such a delicious one, I thought it a good place to begin.

Here is where Will began…

To begin, you will need:

  • Strawberries
  • Powdered Fruit Pectin (this is sold in the canning aisle of supermarkets)
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Small mason jars with lids
  • Large canning pot
  • Rack to fit inside pot (the pot and rack are usually sold together.
  • Jar lifter (to lift hot jars out of the water)
  • Large tongs
  • Magnetic wand (optional; to remove lids from simmering water)
  • Mason jars and screw-on bands can be reused. The center lid (the part that creates the airtight seal) is the only thing that has to be new each time.

Start by washing 8 small mason jars (8oz) in the dishwasher on your hottest cycle, to sanitize them.  Add a few spoons, tongs, and whatever utensils you will be using to the load.  You do not want any bacteria to get in the jars while canning, so try to keep everything sanitized. Fill your giant canning pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a simmer.  Place jars in water (place jar lifting tray in first) and leave in simmering water to keep warm.  This helps prevent them from breaking when the hot jam is placed in later.

Now its time for the strawberries… Wash, hull and place on a rimmed cookie sheet. Now get out your potato masher and go crazy.  Mash the crap out of those things. You could let your kids do this part, but I find it to be very therapeutic and did it myself. Measure 6 cups of mashed berries into a large pot (not the canning one!).  Add the juice from one lemon. Now add the package of powdered pectin. Stir it in and add a half a Tablespoon of butter.  This one I got from the Pioneer Woman. It is supposed to cut down on the foam created later.  And it actually works.  My second batch I forgot this step, and there was a TON more foam. Bring it to a boil gently, stirring the strawberries occasionally. Now its time to add your sugar.  My first batch I used 7 cups.  My second, I used 2.5.  And honestly, they tasted the same to me.  If you are doing less than 7 though, you need to use the low or no sugar pectin as it won’t set right with regular pectin. Now crank up the heat, and stir occasionally until it comes to a VIOLENT boil.  Two tips- don’t forget to stir (I burned the second batch- although it still tasted good), and make sure it is a violent boil, and not a simmer.  A hard boil is when you can’t decrease the boil by stirring it.  Now let it boil for 1-2 minutes. Now its time to take it off the heat and skim that foam off. I toasted a piece of bread and ate the foam on toast about 5 minutes later, and it was amazing!

One place I read said to keep a spoon in ice water, and at this point to scoop a bit of jelly, give it a minute, and see if it is the consistency you want.  If not, add a bit more pectin, and boil for another minute.  I ended up doing this for my first batch, and it turned out perfect for me.

Now its time to can these beauties! Pull out a jar with your tongs and place it on a plate.  Put the wide mouthed funnel on top, and scoop jam into the jar, filling to within a 1/4 inch of the top, wipe any spilled jam from the threads on the top, place the lid on top, and screw on the band lightly. Set aside and continue until all the jars are full, or the jam is gone- whichever comes first.

Now its time to put them all in the water, being sure they are covered by at least 2 inches of water.  Boil at a rolling boil (canning is all about violence) for 8 minutes. Some recipes said 5, some 10, so I went with 8.  It was probably 10 by the time they were all out, so it sounded fair to me.  So far, no spoilage, no dark jam, and no runny jam- so we seem to be OK.  Now allow them another 5 minutes to rest in the water.

Use your trusty tongs to pull them out of the water, and allow them to cool on the counter or windowsill in an out of the way, not too drafty spot.  They need to sit for 24 hours before you store them.

Take a few minutes to marvel at the huge mess you made while you listen to the glorious symphony of lids popping.  They are sealing when you hear that sound.  It is music to the ears!  After 24 hours, check that all the lids have sealed by feeling the center.  It shouldn’t pop down when you press the center.  If it does, just put it in the fridge and enjoy it in the next couple of weeks.

Now sit back and enjoy a piece of toast with warm, gooey, sweet, fresh, delicious jam… I think I need to go get some right now!

Here are some adorable, strawberry lovin’ baby pictures to enjoy while I’m gone…

This is the sixth installment in the Week of the Strawberry.  Follow me on Facebook, or via email to be notified when the next recipe is posted.  You can also check out my “strawberries” board on Pinterest to see more.

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