Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fresh Homemade Strawberry Jam

Because we live in Florida, strawberry season begins in December and runs through March.  We have a favorite u pick strawberry farm we visit each year, and we love to bring them home and immediately process into jam to share with friends for Valentine's Day, and eat throughout the year.
  I've had many friends ask me to teach them how to make this jam.  Ultimately, for quantities, you have to follow the recipe on your pectin.  That's rule number 1.  The rest, you learn as a kitchen slave to your mother and grandmother, year after year, in the middle of summer in a burning hot kitchen and wonder why anyone would be crazy enough to want to do this (until you taste the final product of course) :)  

Here's a general recipe that will yield between 8-10 half pints: 
3.75 - 4 cups strawberries
7 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package liquid pectin
1 teaspoon butter
8-10 half pint jelly jars, lids and rings
tongs & jar lifters

Keep the following in mind:   
It will take time. More berries = more time, but it depends on how much you are making, and finding your groove. At low altitude, one batch can be done in less than 30 minutes.
It will be messy (but not too bad).
Never EVER double the recipe. EVER. Unless you enjoy failure. I've done it - against better advice. 
Don't do it. Enough said.
It will be totally worth it.

Make sure you have paper towels on hand, lots of kitchen cloths, and an electric kettle comes in super handy. Jar lifters are a great tool also - I've dropped some jars just with tongs, and had some mishaps. Jar lifters are awesome - a $5-$10 investment that is worth it.
Find the ripest, freshest strawberries (or other fruit) around. 
At home, fill a large bowl or pot with water, and allow berries to sit for 10-15 minutes.  This helps remove soil - it drops to the bottom of the bowl.  
Pare off any bad spots, as well as stem and leaves. 
Place berries into another bowl.

Make sure that jam jars are washed (sterilized - they can stay in dishwasher on dry cycle to keep warm)
Place lids inside of rust free undamaged jar rings and submerge in boiling water.  Keep submerged, and keep water at a low boil constantly.  

Use the hot pack recipe found in the pectin box. Using a food processor or high powered blender, blend berries.  Pour into a pan, and add sugar and lemon juice as directed. Cook as directed until it comes to a boil. 

In the meantime...we multi-task
While fruit mixture is coming to a boil, line counter with clean dishcloths, and place 8-10 sterilized jam jars about an inch apart on dishcloths (this allows you to pour more quickly).
Still multi-tasking...
Heat a deep pot of water to boiling on stove. 
Make sure that the jars can fit into the canning pot (depth), and still have 1-2 inches of water cover them, boiling (electric kettles come in handy here with boiling water in just a few minutes, the microwave works too, but because boiling water evaporates, it is needed for lids and for the canning).     

Once fruit mixture boils, add 1 teaspoon butter - this will reduce the foaming later on. 

Add pectin as directed on package, and cook as needed. Usually a minute or two more after it comes to another rolling boil. 

Working quickly, remove from heat. 

Use a metal spoon and skim the foam from the top of the fruit mixture, depositing it into a bowl. This won't be processed, so you can eat it as soon as you want!  

Pour jam into the ready jars on the countertop. 
Use a clean rag (or dampened paper towel), and clean off the rim of each jar, removing any sugar or jam so that a proper seal can be achieved.  

Using tongs, remove rings and lids from boiling water (they need to boil a minimum of 10 minutes to soften the gum that will help them seal), and quickly place on lids.  Only tighten rings finger tight.

Place in boiling pot of water, and process as directed on pectin instructions - making adjustments for altitude. 

Remove from water - no need to dry lids, they are so hot, the water will evaporate. 
Place on dishtowels on countertop and do not disturb for 24 hours.  
If the jars have sealed, you will hear a "pop", and the center of the jar lid will be pulled down in a vacuum.  

After 24 hours, jars may be wiped with soapy water, or a rag with vinegar to make them shine and remove any residue on top of lid from evaporated water.  

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