The strawberries from our local farmers market had been incredible, and I decided it would be great to make jam out of them like my mom used to do with my brother and I when we were younger. I remembered the incredible smell of sweet strawberries and licking the sticky syrup off my fingers when we were all done. It turns out making jam is a lot more work than I remembered, but it was absolutely worth it. I can't wait to make toast in the morning and then drizzle some of the jam over some soy ice cream after dinner. Yum.
16 cups cleaned, hulled, halved (or cut down more if larger) strawberries
6 cups granulated organic sugar (if sour and unripe, if ripe and sweet, use 4 cups or less)
8 tablespoons powdered fruit pectin
1/2 cup organic lemon juice
1. Prepare your strawberries (also, don't forget to wear dark colors or an apron throughout the entire process. Making jam is messy and will easily stain all clothing and towels you use.)
2. Combine the strawberries and 2 cups of sugar in the pot you will cook them in or in a large container that can store in the fridge. Ideally, let the mixture sit for 15 to 30 minutes and then place in the refrigerator overnight. The sugar will pull the liquid out of the berries and help them to start breaking down (the process is called maceration). I didn't have time for this so I let them sit for for more than hour.
Once the sugar has completely disappeared and there is juice in bottom of the pot, the berries have broken down enough to start making jam. The longer they can soak in the sugar, the better.
Sixteen cups is a lot of strawberries (an entire flat worth), so when you are ready to start cooking the jam, be sure you use a pot with PLENTY of room. I originally thought this pot was ginormous and WAY too big for my jam, but I almost boiled over it (you can see how much this jam foams and grows in later pictures). Trust me on this one, go big.
3. When you are ready to start cooking the jam, place jars into a large pot and bring to a boil. I followed these instructions for how to prepare my jars. If you do not do this you can make someone really sick and your jam will only last a week or two. This is incredibly important!
4. Combine all of the ingredients with the strawberries in a nonreactive pot and be prepared to be camped in front of the stove for about an hour. The upside, you get a great arm workout and a little facial in the process.
5. Turn up the heat to high and start stirring. It seems almost impossible in the beginning, but the heat quickly breaks the berries down and this gets so much easier.
6. Keep stirring and watching the soon to be jam carefully. Once it comes to a boil continue to cook it on high heat stirring regularly.
Watch out, this is when it really foams up. My jam foamed to nearly twice its size! This is why a huge pot is a must!
If the foaming gets out of hand, turn down the heat a bit and stir faster. Once I did this my jam went back down and it was more manageable and less terror inducing.
Meanwhile my jars and ladle were being sanitized and prepared for my tasty jam.
7. Once your jam has taken on a thick, syrup consistency, use an immersion blender to remove some of the larger chunks. You can also place 1/3 in a regular blender and then add it back into the pot. I accidentally overdid this part and my jam is basically completely smooth. Blend less than you think you need to. It's hard to see how many chunks you really have under the thick liquid and the foam, so take it slowly.
8. Turn the heat back on and let it boil vigorously until it reaches 220 F (105 C). If you don't have a candy thermometer (which I would highly recommend, it's great for a lot of baking applications). You can tell it's ready to be canned when the bubbles look thick and syrupy, and when you dip a spoon into the liquid it runs together and forms a a sheet (if instead it falls in drips singly and are very liquidy, it's not ready and it needs to keep cooking).
9. Remove the pot from the heat, grab your ladle, and jam it into your jars. Be careful, your jam and your jars are super hot! Use towels to handle the jars (being careful not to touch the inside since it has been recently sanitized, and keep in mind that the jam will stain, so use rags or something red). Fill it almost to the top, leaving a 1/4 inch space at the top.
10. Wipe your jars completely clean around the top before placing your lids on or they will not seal properly.
11. Put on the lids and place the full jars back into the boiling water for 10 minutes.
12. Pull out your jars and let them cool on the counter. Be sure none of the jars are touching and that they are in a draft free place.
13. Be sure your jars have sealed properly by pushing down on the lids. If they are tight and have buckled in a little bit you have a proper seal. If your lids still pop when you push down on them, they did not seal and you need to store your jam in the fridge and consume within two weeks (or carefully freeze it).
If your lids set properly, store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
One batch can easily last you up to a year (unless you are like me and practically drink the stuff). It is way cheaper than buying organic strawberry jam. It also makes great gifts (just be careful not to eat it all before Christmas). Mine will be divided up between my neighbors and my family.
Speaking of all of this jam, I think it's time for some toast.