Thursday, June 17, 2010

Let's Jam

Strawberries are in season in many parts of the US. This means that they are cheap, plentiful and wonderful. If you want good produce that is affordable it is best to buy in season. In many cases when fruit is very plentiful you can find it at farm stands, produce markets and farmer's markets at amazing prices. Though if you are looking for a good deal at the farmer's market go towards the end and ask. That will be your best chance for bargain hunting. Last weekend we found some beautiful strawberries 4lbs/$1 and I knew it was time to make more jam. (This was my third batch this year, but it tastes good enough to be worth the work.) If you have never had homemade jam you really should find some to try. If you have had homemade jam you know how good it is, but do you know how easy it is to make your own? Here is a tutorial on the basics of how to make jam and can it using a boiling water bath. You don't even need a giant canning pot for jam, we use our 8qt. stock pot and a small rack that was part of a canning kit. It will fit 4 pint jars or 5 half-pint jelly jars which generally works quite well. This recipe makes 8 cups of strawberry jam and can be found in the pectin package. Hope the pictures help, sorry they aren't better, it was rather late.

You will need:
3-4 lbs. Strawberries
4 c. sugar
1 box no sugar needed pectin (Check the grocery store or near the jars at Walmart. Frequently they have canning stuff in the "food storage" section next to the gladware and such.)

1. Fill your canner (or in this case stockpot) about half full of water and start heating it. Also fill a tea kettle if you have one and heat that water in case you need to top up the water in the canner. You can do the rest of prep while the water heats, but you will want it to be hot before you start cooking the jam. (You can turn off the stove once it has boiled, just leave the lid on to keep the heat in.)

2. Wash, core and mash the strawberries. I do this 1 pound at a time. Keep going until you have 6 cups of mashed strawberries.

3. Measure out your sugar into a bowl. Then pour the pectin into a smaller bowl and take 1/4 c. of the sugar from your big bowl and mix it with the pectin.

4. Wash your jars and then leave them sitting in hot water. Since we will be processing them for more than 10 minutes you don't need to sterilize them. If you are making jelly you will need to sterilize them in boiling water. This is best done in the canning kettle since you will be heating the water anyway.

5. Set-up the stove so that you have everything you need because once you start jam goes really fast. I like to have my canning kettle on the large back burner so it is out of the way and use the large front one for making the jam. I set the sugar, pectin mixture, long handled wooden spoon and a timer on the side next to the jam. I set a wooden cutting board, soup spoon, custard cup, ladle, funnel, rubber scraper, jar bands and canning rack on the side next to the canning kettle.

6. Add the pectin mixture to the fruit, which should be in a 6-8 qt. pot. (I know this seams huge for the amount of fruit, but it makes it a lot easier to avoid burning yourself.) Heat while stirring constantly until it reaches a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. If the bubbles stop when you stir faster it isn't there yet.

7. Add the sugar and stir quickly until it returns to a full boil. Boil for 1 minute and then remove it from the heat.

8. Let it cool a minute or two while stirring and then use the soup spoon to skim the foam. I like to put the foam into a custard cup because once it is cool it is about the consistency of whipped yogurt and makes for a tasty treat. Plus it is easier for me.

9. Remove a jar from the sink, dry the inside (an assistant is really helpful for this part, but I've done it on my own too). Fill the jar 1/8"-1/4" from the top. Wipe the rim with a damp paper towel, set the lid on squarely and tighten the band. Set the jar in the canning rack and repeat until you are out of jam or your rack is full of jars, whichever comes first.

10. Put the canning rack into the canner (big pot) and make sure you have 1"-2" of water above the jars. If you don't have enough water, pour some hot water from the tea kettle in until you get to the right level. Put the lid on and return the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling you can start timing. You will need to boil the jars for 10 minutes if you are at sea level. If you are more than 1,000 ft. above sea level you will need to boil it longer. There is a chart with the pectin, but the general rule of thumb is to add 1-2 minutes per 1,000 ft above sea level. Once they have processed long enough turn off the stove, and pull out the jars. A set of jar tongs is helpful, but if you can pull the rack out without burning yourself you can get the jars from there. (Note, wet potholders WILL NOT do their job. They will conduct the heat straight to your hands and you may burn yourself. Please be careful and don't ask how I know.)

11. Let the jars cool overnight on a wooden cutting board, pot holders or anything else that won't conduct the heat away from them too fast. You don't want a jar breaking after all this work. As they cool you will start to hear popping sounds which is the jars vacuum sealing themselves. Consider every "pop" a pat on the back for a job well done. Leave the jars overnight to cool and by morning they should all be sealed. If any didn't seal (hasn't happened yet, but it is always possible) you will know because the middle part will flex up and down. In this case put it in the fridge and use ASAP. Also, if you wind up with a partial jar just refrigerate it, probably won't seal anyway if your process it and this way you have an excuse to eat it faster.

12. Label the jars (a sharpie works great or you can get fancy with printed stick-on labels) and store in a cool dark place. We normally keep our jars boxes under our bed. Maybe not the prettiest place, but it works well and lets me stock up for winter which is important when you are trying to eat local. Plus, what else are you going to use the space for?

ETA: This post has been linked to Pennywise Platter.


  1. Yum Yum Yum! I'm glad my mom taught you how to can!

  2. I'm glad your mom taught me how to can too. There are so many yummy things that I can make and store now.