As a child, summer was by far my favorite time of year. Summer vacation, lightening bugs, swimming, fireworks…the list goes on. As an adult, I feel much the same. Then as well as now, my all time favorite thing about summer: THE FOOD. BBQ and corn-on-the-cob, ice cream and burgers from the grill. And of course, the best being all the fresh fruit you can eat. Strawberries, blackberries, watermelon, and peaches, to name a few.
A trip to a “pick your own” farm was a regular pastime in my childhood days, and the strongest of these memories is sitting in the strawberry patch with my paternal grandmother. Every late spring/early summer my grandparents would pick pounds and pounds of strawberries to freeze or make into jam for the whole year, and they would often bring me along. These trips were not about play, however, I was supposed to be helping. But of course after a while I would get hot, or tire out, or may have picked one too many under-ripe berries for my grandma’s preference, and I would be given the very important task of finding a four-leaf clover from the patches amidst the berry rows. I honestly can’t remember if I was ever victorious in my quest, however my grandma was certainly successful at getting an impatient child to settle down.
This weekend we visited a local farm to pick strawberries, and my grandma will be happy to know that my strawberry-picking skills have greatly improved. Sparing just a few moments to capture some photos, we picked nearly 8 pounds in less than an hour.A quick note on strawberry picking: strawberries will NOT ripen after picking, so it’s best to only pick berries that are fully red. Unfortunately if it’s late in the season, or even just late in the day, it may be hard to find an abundance of ripe red berries. So if you’re in a pinch, you can cut off any green or yellow parts from berries that are just a tad under ripe. The fruit might not be quite as juicy and flavorful, but it will be fine. A quick shot of our haul and immediately to processing. Strawberries do not have a long shelf life, and it’s best to set aside time for canning, jam, freezing, etc. the same day you pick. So as soon as we got home, we washed the berries and cut off the tops and any bad or under-ripe spots. Confession time, I don’t hull my strawberries. There, I feel much better having said that. To hull a strawberry is to remove the conical, white remnant of the stem. You can do this by using your fingers, a paring knife, or one of those cutesy hulling tools that looks like a strawberry itself. Or you can be lazy like me and leave them. Don’t judge. If I haven’t completely disgraced myself in your eyes with the state of my un-hulled berries, then let’s continue!I set aside 8 cups of berries for jam, and then sliced, sugared, and froze the rest to be used for ice cream, baking, snacking, whatever.
Strawberry Jam Ingredient List
- 8 cups fresh strawberries, washed and trimmed
- 6 cups granulated sugar
- 1.75 ounce packet of pectin
- Canning jars, rings, and seals (if you plan to can!)
Crush the berries in a large pot. I used an old potato masher that I believe was acquired from aforementioned grandma. It worked beautifully. Stir in your pectin. Bring the mix to a rolling boil on high heat and stir in the sugar.
Oh, and the strawberry stems look something like this. Don’t worry, most of ’em end up breaking down anyway. Bring the jam back up to a hard boil for a minute while stirring constantly. I use a wooden spoon because metal gets too hot, but be forewarned, it will get stained. A light pink foam will form on the top of the jam – that’s ok. And your kitchen will smell wonderful. Once you’re satisfied with the consistency of your jam, remove from heat.Skim off the pink foam; don’t worry if you don’t get it all. Just try to get most of it.Have jars at the ready to fill immediately. Since I mostly used small 4 oz. jars, I used a quarter measuring cup to ladle jam without making much of a mess (I don’t have a funnel). Leave 1/4 inch of headspace in each jar.
On canning equipment: once upon a time, people thought boiling your jars, lids, and rings was necessary to ensure everything was sterile. But we know now that this is unnecessary. Wash everything in hot, soapy water and dry your rings and lids with a clean towel. Make sure your workspace is clean as well. Place your jars into a pot of water and simmer to keep them hot – this is not for sterilization, but rather to keep them from breaking when you fill with hot food. Inspect your lids and rings for any rust or defects, and always use new lids each time you can. Rings are ok to reuse as long as they are in good condition. Never boil your lids or rings. As long as you’ve washed them, processing in a water bath canner for at least 10 minutes will adequately sterilize. For more canning specifics from the experts, check out Ball’s Water Bath Canning Guide.
Wipe the top and sides of your jars with a wet cloth and top with lids. See that little button in the middle of each lid? Make sure that is not pushed in. More on that later. Screw on rings tightly.Into the water bath canner and boil for 15 minutes. Be sure to have at least 1 to 2 inches of water covering the jars. Yes, I need a new rack. This one was my mom’s, along with the water bath canner. But ol’ rusty will do for now!Time’s up! Remove carefully using a jar lifter.Set on a cutting board to cool. Don’t stack them like they are in this photo – these were cool by the time I took this picture. Ok now for the slightly stressful part. Remember that little button in the center of each lid? As the jars cool, you should hear a loud, metallic pop. That is the sound of each lid depressing. Run your finger over the lid to be sure, but be careful not to accidentally push in a lid that has not yet depressed. If you hear a pop and the lid is depressed, congratulations, your jar has properly processed! If not, you can try a few things: 1. try processing in the water bath again 2. remove rings and seals, replace with new ones, and then process, or 3. just put that jar in the fridge and eat first! Refrigerated jam will keep for a while. Gorgeous. All in all this recipe made about 54 ounces (give or take) of jam, which is just under two quarts. I had enough for eight 4 ounce jars, one 6 ounce jar, one 8 ounce jar, and some extra jam to store in the fridge for immediate consumption.
We had our first sampling on hot croissants with butter. Unfortunately they just didn’t last long enough to take a photo!