You wouldn’t know that I’m new to preserving with the posts I’ve written lately! A part of this summer’s experiments in making our own–including growing our container garden–includes making the most of what we have. So I’ve been sucking it up in the heat and trying my hand at jam-making. Yes, it’s a cruel joke that it must be done when the food is in-season, but it’s worth the time spent slaving over the stove–not just because you can proudly proclaim: “I made this.” Having control over the ingredients means you’re in the driver’s seat, not some big conglomerate that’s located god-knows-where. You decide what goes into your food, making the best choices for you and your family. It’s pretty cool like that.
Sugar is one part of supermarket jam that is a huge downer. It’s needed, to some extent, for preservation, but the quantities used can be ridiculous. Or worse yet, the company adds high fructose corn syrup. Really, there’s no need for HFCS in jam–it’s sweet enough without it. (Then again, I believe there’s no need for HFCS in general, but that’s a post for another day…)
Since I’m a neophyte to preserving, I don’t want to mess too much with what works just yet. Go too crazy and you can mess up the chemistry that keeps the bad stuff from growing in your preserves. So I stuck with Ball’s recommendations on the pectin jar for low-sugar jam. 3 cups of sugar for 6 half-pints of jam still seems high, but it’s better than 5 cups of sugar for the traditional version.
I recently purchased Tart and Sweet by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler for my Nook Color. (My first cookbook for my Nook Color–how exciting!) I’m hoping this will enable me to get a better grasp on where I can experiment and where I cannot. Plus it should help me put up a lot of the veggies from the container garden this year. Pickling cukes will be ready soon–I better get to reading up on this!
I used the majority of the strawberries we picked on Saturday to make this jam. While the berries themselves were just okay, the resulting jam is spectacular. It must be my mad kitchen skills. Or all that sugar. You know, either one. 😉 Give yourself 2-3 hours to get the job done. You don’t want to rush yourself: haste makes waste!
- 4½ cups mashed fresh strawberries**
- 4½ Tbsp Ball RealFruit Classic Pectin
- 1 tsp Kerrygold butter
- 1 vanilla bean, cut in half and then sliced lengthwise
- 3 cups granulated sugar (you can substitute raw/turbinado sugar)
- Clean and sterilize six half-pint jars, lids, and bands in a water bath canner with a jar rack (I use a
- Granite Ware 21.5-qt. Canner with Jar Rack). I sterilized while I was making the jam (boiling the jars for 10 minutes, and the lids for the last 5 minutes of that). Keeping the jars in the pot of hot water will keep them warm, which means they won’t crack when you add the hot jam later. Plus with the water already heated, processing the jam goes all that much quicker.
- Transfer the strawberry mash to a very large stock pot (mine is 12 Qt–you want to be sure that no hot jam boils up onto your skin) and stir in the pectin. Add the Kerrygold butter to reduce foaming, then drop in the vanilla bean (cut in half and sliced lengthwise). Cook on medium heat until bubbly, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant silicone spatula. Once the mixture is at a good boil that isn’t stirred away, add the granulated sugar, stirring thoroughly. Allow the mixture to reach a full rolling boil again and then let it boil for a minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim foam, if necessary. Remove vanilla beans and scrape the insides into the jam as best you can. (You can rinse the beans and save them for another use or discard.)
- Ladle hot jam into jars fitted with a funnel, leaving ⅓″ head space for processing. Rub the rims of the jars with a damp, clean cloth to remove any splatters. Attach lids and return to the water bath canner, making sure the jars don’t touch each other or the bottom of the pot (that’s what the jar rack is for) and that there is at least one inch of water over the tops of the jars. Bring the water bath canner to a full boil and then process the jars appropriately for your altitude (where I live, that means 5 minutes–though I boiled for 5 minutes and then left the jars in the canner for another 5 minutes after I turned off the heat, just to be safe). My source recommends processing for 5 minutes for 1001 to 3000 ft elevation, 10 minutes for 3000-6000 ft elevation, and 15 minutes for 6000-8000 ft elevation.
- Remove jars from water bath canner and set on a wire rack to cool 12-24 hours. At that point, check the lids to make sure there is no give in the center: this lets you know that the jars are sealed. If a jar did not seal, put it in the fridge and use within a month, just to be safe. You can remove the bands for storage, but I leave them on. Stored in a cool, dark place, the jars should be shelf-stable for up to one year. If you seen any signs of spoilage down the road (lid gives in the middle or something just doesn’t look or smell right when you open it), DON’T SAMPLE IT. Throw it away. Your health isn’t worth the risk.