I met the most wonderful woman when I lived in Bremerton WA (the second time). It was 2001 and I had just popped out my second little beauty and was working nights at a local retail store. My routine consisted of coming home just in time to take my older daughter to preschool at the local Lutheran church, and then go home and sleep until she needed to be picked up. Generally I needed more sleep than that so both girls went to daycare for a while.
I had noticed a lady that walked to the church, pushing a baby girl in her stroller, to pick up her daughter from preschool. One day we started chatting and she invited me to come over to her house to chat. Being somewhat shy (most of my friends will say this is not true, but it is), I declined and after she asked me three times, I had to say yes. So over we went.
Long story short, or at least less long, she taught me how to make jam. I used a recipe until two years ago. Ha! That first year I entered my jams in the Kitsap County Fair, and lo and behold, won three first place ribbons! Since then I have expanded what I can, beyond jams. Last year, I entered my goods in the Texas State Fair and won 3rd place for my dilly green beans, 2nd place for my corn relish, and 1st place for my whole blackberries and whole blueberries. OK so now that you have my credentials, let’s get to the good stuff!
There are 3 easy ways to make jam (real jam, not freezer jam): 1. Look online for recipes. 2. but the Ball Blue Book of Canning. 3. Use the little fold out inside the pectin box.
If you just want to make good ole’ strawberry jam, just use the booklet inside the pectin. I would recommend the book if you are looking to expand beyond basics, and looking online if you really want to get creative. But there are a few secrets that those sources won’t tell you…
Let’s start simple: Strawberry Jam
- 3 quarts strawberries, hulled and chopped (should be 5 cups)
- 7 cups sugar
- 1 box pectin (I prefer Ball or Kerr, the basic stuff, or all natural)
- 1/8 cup lemon juice
- 1 tsp butter
- soup pot
- big spatula for stirring
- small plate
- metal spoon (like dinner spoon)
- clean jars, and the lids and screw caps
- big BIG pot, half filled with water
- small rack to fit inside the BIG pot (if you have one) so the jars don’t rest on the bottom
- wet washcloth
OK, to prep, put all your stuff out on the counter. Your BIG pot with water is how you’ll seal your jars, so you may want to see how many will fit in there. When the jars are full, you’ll need the water to come an inch over the top of the tallest jar. To the side of the stove, put the towel on the counter and your jars atop the towel. Put your jar tops and screw bands to the side. Put the wet cloth nearby the jars.
Put your strawberries, lemon juice and pectin in the soup pot and turn up the heat. Stir with your big spatula and ensure the pectin dissolves. Add butter (it reduces foam). Once your fruit starts to boil, turn your heat down to minimize foam and stir constantly for about a minute. Begin adding the sugar. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT ADD ALL THE SUGAR AT ONCE! THIS WILL CREATE TONS OF BUBBLES WITHIN YOUR JAM! Either use your ladle or sprinkle it straight in from the bowl, but only add as much as you can stir in. Once it is all incorporated, turn your heat back up and get it to a boil again, continuously stirring. Once it boils constantly, turn the heat down and count to 60. Take the pot off the heat. Use your metal spoon to skim foam off the top and onto your little plate. Go ahead and turn up the heat under your BIG pot of water.
Now, you will want to ladle the jam into the jars, and you can do it all at once or one jar at a time. How do you know when it’s full? Well, you need to leave “headspace” so the vacuum can be created inside your jar, so don’t fill it all the way up. You need to leave about 1/4″ headspace in the jar. If you have a little extra that doesn’t fill a jar, just stick it in the fridge and use it first.
Once you get your jars “full”, use your wet cloth to wipe the rims. They won’t seal if the yummy jam is in the way. Screw on the lid, but not tight, then the air won’t be able to excape to seal the jar. Be careful – your jar will be hot at this point. Repeat this with all your full jars.
Use your tongs (or if you have a jar lifter, even better) to carefully put the jars into the water. Once the water boils, count ten minutes and turn off the heat. Use your tongs again to remove the jars from the water and place them back on the towel. Don’t worry if any water stays on top of the jar. Now comes the hard part. You have to leave the jars alone for 24 hours.
This should get you on your way my friends! Happy canning!