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Strawberry Jam Making

May 7, 2012
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my helpers: Grace and Carl

Last Friday we made our first batches of strawberry jam for the season. Now there are 16 jars ready to share and enjoy. Grace helped me make the jam this year, but Carl sneaked into the picture.

I don’t make special jam, just your regular run-of-the-mill jam with packaged pectin.

Making jam is so easy that anyone can do it.

Most of the equipment you need is probably already in your cupboard too.

Here is a short list:

  • Canning jars with lids and rings (I prefer to use the 12 or 16 oz. wide-mouth jars.)
  • Potato masher to crush the berries – The ones with the metal grid work well.
  • Large pot to cook the jam. It will need to hold 3-4 quarts.
  • Wide mouth funnel and ladle are great for filling jars.
  • A jar lifter is handy for lifting the jars out of the boiling water.
  • A large canning kettle or something big enough to hold your jars and cover them with 1-2 inches of water.

I always use the recipe that comes in the box of purchased pectin. I can make 4 batches of jam with 6 quarts of berries. Well, if I zealously guard my berries from hungry little mouths, I can. 🙂

getting washed and ready

The process is simple. Wash and top the berries. Removing any moldy berries and cut out any bruise that has started to decay. Since you are going to crush the fruit anyway using the imperfect berries for jam is a great way to enjoy them.

I cut the berries in halves or quarters to make crushing them easier. Place them in a single layer in a 9 X 13 pan and use a potato masher to crush to a uniform size.

General directions for jam making will be something like this: add pectin to the crushed berries and bring to a full rolling boil – one that cannot be stirred away. Pour all the sugar in at once. Bring it back to a full rolling boil and boil for one minute.

Let the boiling stop and then skim the foam from the top of the jam with a metal spoon. I call this the “dirt” because my mom called it that. The kids usually have bread toasting and are trying to be the first to have the fresh “dirt” …. This is just one of those weird family traditions. 🙂

Now fill your clean and hot jars. ( I just keep my jars in a sink full of hot water while I cook my jam. ) Fill the jars leaving only 1/4 to 1/2 inch at the top of the jar (this is called the head space.)

filling the jars

Carefully wipe the rims with a clean, moistened paper towel and pace a new lid on the jar. It is good to warm your lids in a pan of simmering water to soften the rubber sealing material. Now tighten the rings and place the jars in a canner and cover with water to at least one inch and remember that some will boil off as steam.

Bring your canner full of jars up to a gentle boil and keep it boiling for 15 minutes – for Colorado’s elevation. Ten minutes should be fine if you are below 3,000 feet in elevation. You can check with your local extension agent to exact recommendations on processing times at your elevation.

If I can win an award, it is not that hard.

While the jars are bubbling away in the canner, you can check out the dates and times to drop your award-winning jam off at the county fair later this summer.

After the boiling time has ended, remove the jars and place in an area free of drafts for them to cool. You should start hearing the “ping” of jar lids as they seal. when fully cool check the seal by pushing down in the middle of the lid. You don’t want to be any “give” there. Label the jars with their contents and date. The Jam will be good for several years… but it won’t last that long.  🙂

It won’t be long before the apricots are ripe and ready to be canned and made into jam or fruit leather, I might even dry some this year.

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