Taste, like all of our senses, has the ability to bring us back to a certain time and place. We often strongly associate memories with food, and that is how strawberry jam is with me. My childhood summers tasted like sweet strawberry jam up until the point where my grandparents moved away from their northern Michigan lake home to reside full-time in Arizona, when I was about thirteen. There was nothing better than digging into one of my grandma’s recycled margarine containers filled with the jam she made from the local u-pick strawberry fields.
When our present-day strawberry patch starting yielding more berries than the two of us could reasonably eat in a season, we knew it was time to attempt our own jam-making. No family secrets were harmed in the writing of this blog, as we discovered that Grandma’s Strawberry Jam was most likely made from the freezer jam recipe on the Sure-Jell package! We were thrilled with how easy it was. It made several jam-jars full, and we still have a couple in our freezer from last year. The only disappointment was that it didn’t set up very firmly. While it was the perfect consistency to top ice cream, French toast or pancakes, it was a wee bit drippy to put on toast with butter or to make a PB&J.
So, this year we decided to try a new recipe, which involved a longer cooking process and the possibility of canning. Having never canned before, we headed to Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up some supplies. We got an enormous water bath canning pot with a jar rack for about $25.00 and a nice little kit containing a jar lifter, a magnetic thingie to lift the lids out of the water, a wide-mouth jar funnel, and a contraption to get the bubbles out and measure the head space in the jars. That whole kit was about $10.00. We were expecting to spend twice that for the supplies, so we were pleasantly surprised. We already had plenty of jars and lids on hand, so it was time to experiment. Our division of labor consisted of Bill doing a lot of stirring, while I dealt with the water bath canning and conducting tests on the jam to see if it was set enough to can. Both the freezer jam recipe and the link to the cooked jam recipe are printed below, along with a link to a video showing the canning process we followed.
After conducting a taste test on the finished products, I still prefer the fresh, sugary taste of the freezer jam—possibly for nostalgic reasons. The cooked jam has much more of a subtle, store-bought taste. We perhaps left the cooked jam boiling for a minute or two too long, because it ended up a slight bit thicker than expected. Both are delicious, though, so try them for yourself and see which you prefer. I highly recommend tasting them on some homemade strawberry bread, which is shown in the picture above. I’ll be posting that recipe soon!
COOKED STRAWBERRY JAM: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/strawberry-jam/detail.aspx
Note: Based on reviews from others at the allrecipes site, we cut down the sugar to about 3 cups. Using 6 cups of halved strawberries, we filled 3 ½ small jam jars. Next time, I will collect more strawberries to make a bigger batch.
STRAWBERRY FREEZER JAM (The Sure-Jell method)
Note: Sure-Jell claims that using less-ripe fruit makes for a firmer set, which I intend to try next year. They emphasize using the exact amounts of fruit and sugar called for in the recipe. Makes 5 cups of jam.
- 2 cups cored and crushed strawberries (about 2 pints of picked strawberries)
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 box Sure-Jell pectin
- ¾ cup water
- Stir sugar into crushed strawberries. Mix well. Let stand 10 minutes; stir occasionally.
- Stir 1 box pectin and ¾ cup water in a small saucepan (pectin may start out lumpy). Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
- Stir pectin into strawberry/sugar mixture. Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes.
- Pour into clean/sterilized containers, leaving ½ inch space at the top for expansion during freezing; cover. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours until set. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to a year. Thaw/store in refrigerator.
Click STRAWBERRY FREEZER JAM for a printable PDF of this recipe.
Here is a link to a YouTube video explaining the water bath canning process: http://youtu.be/V1jpyXPdCRE