Oh, yum…..fresh strawberry jam slathered on a nice warm, buttery, lemon buttermilk scone. Delicious!!
Strawberries are one of my very favorite fruits and I am so thankful that they are available all year. I remember when we could only have fresh strawberries in the summertime, that is unheard of in today’s food technology. There have been many changes since those days…it is called progress I guess.
This recipe if for fresh strawberry jam but frozen strawberries can also be used, although I confess that I have only used fresh strawberries. But, whether using fresh or frozen strawberries, don’t be tempted to double the batch. That is something my mom taught me and which I had to prove to myself. She was right. Again. It was a flop and we had a lot of pancake syrup and ice cream topping instead.
If you have never attempted making jam or any other food preservation you might want to look at the National Center For Home Food Preservation that will provide up-to-date information.
I have been making fresh strawberry jam the same way for years using the recipe on the flyer inside the yellow Sure-Jell box and it always sets up nicely and tastes wonderful. It is rather easy to make fresh strawberry jam but there is some prep time involved and a little equipment. For instance a canner pot with a removable jar rack inside, canning tongs, to handle hot sterilized jars, a jar lifter to lift and move the hot jars of jam, a canning funnel and ladle to fill the jam into the jars, and of course the lids and jars.
From experience I have learned to gather everything I need together on a section of the counter away from my immediate work space. I wash my jars in hot soapy water, rinse them well and sanitize them by putting them inside a 200°F preheated oven, directly on the rack. Alternatively you can put them on the sanitize cycle of the dishwasher but I like the oven method best.
The lids need to be sterilized also and I use a saucepan to bring two or three cups of water to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and add the lids. Do not allow the water to boil with the lids in as it will soften up the rubber seal. Let the lids sterilize in the simmering water while preparing the jam. You want hot jars and hot lids when the hot jam is funneled into the jars.
Next, fill the canner about two-thirds full with water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat while preparing the strawberries. Place the rack to the canner near the workspace that you will be using to fill the jars and as you fill a jar place it into the rack and when the rack is full, into the hot water for processing.
So, let’s make some strawberry jam!
Filling the jars
- 8 cups strawberries, (about 2-1/4 pounds fresh un-hulled strawberries)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed or bottled
- 1 box Sure-Jell, 1.75 ounce size, in the yellow box
- 7 cups granulated sugar
- Prepare your strawberries, you will need eight cups of strawberries, which according to my measurements is equal to two and one-quarter pounds. Wash the strawberries in cold water, remove the hulls and slice into a bowl. Using a potato masher or your hands, mash the strawberries to release some of their juices.
- Measure five (5) cups exactly, of crushed strawberries to a large heavy-bottomed pan, I like to use my dutch oven. Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, the bottled stuff is fine.
- Stir the contents of one package of Sure-Jell (in the yellow box) into the prepared fruit, stirring to combine it thoroughly. Some recipes say to add some butter to keep the foam down but I omit the butter and skim off the foam at the end of the cooking process.
- Over high heat, bring the strawberry mixture to a full, rolling boil, stirring constantly. When it has reached the 'rolling boil' add the reserved 7 cups of sugar to the pan, stirring to combine. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil and, stirring constantly, boil the mixture exactly one minute. Over-cooking will cause the pectin to relax and the jam will not set properly, so the one-minute rule is really important.
- After one minute, remove the pot from the heat and with a large spoon or ladle, skim off and discard the foam from the top.
- With hot pads or tongs, and working with one jar at a time, carefully, remove a jar from the oven and set in on a plate in your workspace, put the funnel on and ladle the jam to one-quarter inch from the top. Wipe the rim and threads of the jar with a damp paper towel to remove any jam spills, add a hot lid and a lid band. Tighten the band slightly but do not use force to tighten. Place the jar of jam in the rack and proceed with filling each jar with jam.
- When all the jars have been filled, carefully lower the rack with the jam jars into the boiling water in the canner. Add additional boiling water to ensure the jars are covered with at least one-inch of water. Process the jars for ten minutes in the boiling water, or according to the altitude chart listed in the Sure Jell instructions.
- Remove the jars and place them on a towel in a draft-free area and allow to cool for 24 hours. Check the lids by pressing the center of each one. If it springs back it is not sealed and should be refrigerated. Tighten the rings of each sealed jar and store in a cool, dry space for up to one year.
The pectin you buy is made from natural apple pectin, but it is more concentrated. Using pectin dramatically reduces the cooking time, which helps to preserve the vitamins and flavor of the fruit, and uses much less added sugar. Pectin enables you to achieve perfectly set jam every time. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.