Today was no cooler than yesterday, so I decided to stop putting off making jam. Schools are getting out early due to the heat wave all over the state, so my dismissal at 12 worked well with my jam plans. I’m going to try to explain step-by-step how I make jam, but let me say that I use Joy of Cooking: All About Canning and Preserving because it does a really good job explaining how to can food safely.
1. Get your equipment. Choose ripe berries. You’ll need 4 pounds to make 6 half-pint jars. Remember, “a pint’s a pound the world around” and you’ll know that you need 4 pints, or two quarts.
You’ll also need 5 cups of sugar, a large pot to process the jars, jars, lids, and rings, a large pot to cook the jam in, tongs, canning tongs (rubberized that fit perfectly around a can), a wooden spoon, a few small plates waiting in the freezer, a ladel, a canning funnel, and some other various kitchen equipment. I bought most of my equipment about 5 years ago, and it will last forever.
2. Wash jars, lids and rings in soapy hot water, then sterilize jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Place lids in a large bowl, and pour simmering water over top of them. Some people use the dishwasher method, but the Biologist in me is uncomfortable with that. You can also recycle the water when you process the jam. By the way, any large pot will do. You need at least 1 inch of water over the jars. I use my corn-boiling pot.
3. Combine the hulled strawberries and sugar in another large pot. I use my dutch oven. You can half the recipe, but if you want to double it, do it in two batches. When boiling, it bubbles up so high that it will boil over. When in doubt, do it in batches. I’ve had maple syrup boil over when making maple sugar candy (all over my mom’s glass cook top), and boiling hot sugar is no fun to try to avoid and then clean up…
4. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Don’t turn your back on it or walk away, because it will bubble up fast.
5. Stir constantly until it reaches the jell point. The mixture will suddenly lose a lot of the foam and drop to lower bubbles.
6. There are lots of ways to test for jell, but I like the frozen plate method. Remember those small plates you put in the freezer? Drip a little bit of jam onto one of them. Swipe your finger through, and if it leaves a clean line without seeping back, it’s at the jell point. If you’re in doubt, you can always use commercial pectin. I prefer to go the old fashined route and skip it.
7. Turn off the heat on the jam. Carefully lift the sterilized jars out of the simmering water. I like to place them on a thick wooden cutting board.
8. Place the funnel in the top of the jar, and carefully ladel in the jam. Fill it to 1/2 inch from the top. Repeat the process until all the jars are full. If you have a half-full jar, don’t bother processing it and instead you can use it right away.
9. Using tongs, place the lids on the top and then screw on the top until you feel resistance. You don’t have to tighten it as tight as possible.
10. Return all the jars to the hot water you used to sterilize them. Bring it back up to a boil, and process jars for 10 minutes. (I like to use this time to start cleaning up…)
11. Remove the jars from the boiling water, and set on the cutting board to cool. You should hear the “pop!” of the jars sealing. If any do not seal, keep them in the fridge and use right away, or store them in the freezer. Allow the jars to cool completely.
There you have it! Strawberry jam! It get’s much easier over time, when you know what you’re doing.
I’m also making strawberry preserves this year, which is a 3 day process the way I make it. I’m on day 2, so tomorrow is the big finish. More on that tomorrow!