We Be Jammin’… Strawberry Jammin, that is!
Woo Hoo! It’s strawberry season!
Now we be Jammin’!
Down to the basement I went and rummaged around until I found the large box with my canning things in it. Up the stairs and into the sink it all went to be cleaned and readied for the strawberries that I had macerating in the fridge.
“But, wait”, you say,” Isn’t making jam and canning difficult?”.
No, not at all! Messy, Yes!, but hard, No! In fact, Jam isn’t like its persnickety cousin, jelly, and is forgiving, and that makes it a very good place top begin a journey into jammin’!
Besides, I love using fresh, seasonal fruit and preserving it at its very best for later on in the year when the price goes up and the quality, and especially the flavor!, goes way down! That’s thrifty, healthy, and just plain tasty!
My recipe uses just the basics… Strawberries, lemon juice and sugar… That’s it! Plus, it uses less than half the sugar of a regular strawberry jam recipe. After all, they really are sweet enough as it is! Here’s how to do it….
Remove their tops, cut them into pieces, and place them in a non-reactive container, like a plastic storage container. Add 2 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Stir it up. Place this in the refrigerator overnight. While you sleep, strawberry magic is happening… The berries become redder and the sugar will melt into a wonderful strawberry juice!
When oyu are ready, the next day, to begin making jam, dump the strawberries into a colander under which you have put a pot. Set the berries aside and cook the ruby red juice for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let this cool to room temp. All of this is simply encouraging the acid in the lemon juice to play nicely with the sugar and form pectin, which will thicken up the jam!
(Now is a good time to fire up your canning pot and get your jars sterilized and ready to go.)
Once it is cool, turn the heat back on and bring the juice to a simmer. Meanwhile, decide if you want to leave the berries as they are, or want a thicker jam. For a thicker jam, you[ll need to mash the berries to your desired state. Once they are as you wish, add them to the bubbling juices and cook for 5 minutes. ( BE CAREFUL here! If this boils over, it will be like cleaning up after My. Vesuvius! Keep an eye on it!).
Now, simply fill the jars to within about 1/2″ of the top, lid, gently tighten the ring and put them into your canner.
I process mine for about 10 minutes. As soon as I took them out, I heard the “Shhhhhhhwhump!” and I knew they were going to be well sealed.
Let your jars sit until they are completely room temp cooled and then even for 24 hours before you decide that they are sealed. If a few don’t seal well, you can either re-process them, or eat them! And then take the rings off the jars before you store them. I know they look prettier with their rings on, and you can always put them back on if you are giving them as a gift, but it is much easier to tell if anything ever goes awry without the rings. The lids will just pop right off! That is also why we do not stack jars upon jars in storage. I actually keep the boxes that the canning jars come in and put the filled and labeled! jars right back into them.
I love canning as a way of helping us to prevent waste too! For instance, I bought these four apples to pack in with the hubby’s lunch. He thought they were a bit mealy. I should have know, they were out of season… wishful thinking I guess! What to do? I used the three remaining ones to make a mini batch of applesauce… just peel, bubble and add whatever you like! I added honey, cinnamon and a little homemade raspberry sauce that I had leftover. I tasted it.. Yum! The texture is less of an issue with applesauce, so I canned them right along with the strawberry jam, and Viola! two lovely jars of homemade applesauce.
The other reason I love canning is that I learned a valuable lesson last year when we tangled with hurricane Sandy. I had frozen tons of stuff. I mean the freezer was jam packed. And it might have been OK, as we only lost power for a few days from the hurricane, but less than a week later a freak snowstorm hit that knocked out the 21 century for a week, and everything in my freezer turned to gross mush! I’ll be doing a lot more canning and dehydrating this year….
Speaking of which, I have another two pounds of strawberries that I plan on cutting up into smaller pieces to dehydrate today. They will be absolutely delicious in muffins and things later on in the year!