How to Make Strawberry Jam

So as part of my interest in urban homesteading, I like making my own jams and applesauce.

Yes I know I’m hardly being a champion of self-reliance by making jam, but I’m doing what I can!!

Homemade Strawberry Jam

The first time I made jam I went into it 100% obsessed with doing it all “right”. I bought two books, a stater canning set, jars etc. I actually read one of the books, Putting Food By, cover to cover. Yes, it was a little over the top.

But companies in the home presevering industry totally try to freak you out by making it seem like if you make one wrong move while canning you’re going to kill your entire family with Botulinum toxin.  Ya, stressful right?

So now you know why I was a little… cautious.

Obviously, I learned to do something right, because my husband and I have successfully ate our way through strawberry and blueberry jam as well as applesauce without any trips to the ER.

So for those of you interested in trying your hand at canning  I put together this illustrated step by step guide to make the process less mysterious and scary!*

Start with some fresh picked berries

I use the recipe on the Sure-Jell box, it calls for 8 cups of berries. To make washing easier, fill up your (clean) sink with water and add in the berries. Run your hand lightly over the berries to swirl them around.

Now you need to hull all the berries at once. Grab a berry outta the water and using one hand, gently grasp the berry at the bottom. Using a paring knife in the other hand, insert the tip just under the green stem and twirl the berry to cut the stem out.

See!

Note in the background, I set out a bowl to hold the stems.

Lay out baking sheets covered in paper towel (probably need 3), lay the hulled berries on here so excess water will drip off.

Once you’ve cleaned all the berries, you need to clean out the sink and then wash your canning lids, jars and bands in warm soapy water. Drain the sink again, and re-fill it with hot water. The jars need to stay warm until you ladle the cooked jam into it.

Put the lids into a small pot of hot water on the stove on low heat. These also need to stay very warm until the jam is ladled into the jars.

Fill you canning pot with water and turn the heat to high, it’s so large it takes a while to boil. Also set a full teakettle over medium heat too, as the water from the canning pot boils out, you’ll need to replace it with almost boiling water from the kettle.

Clean your work surface and set out ALL THE UTENSILS you need. Cooking jam goes fast, and you need to have everything at your fingertips.

Extra large bowl, pectin, potato masher and tongs are essentials

Measure your sugar, mash your berries and your halfway there 🙂

Cook berries, sugar and pectin together at a full rolling boil (one that doesn’t disappear when you stir it). Watch the berries, but also start setting up your jars.

Sweet bubbling goodness

Once the jam has cooked according to the recipe you’re using (about 10 minutes) ladle into jars, leave some room at the top for the air to expand while it cooks a second time in the canner.

Top the jars with lids, gently screw on the bands, and then get those bad boys in the canner. I use this nifty basket to hold the jars and it makes for easy lifting. Cook the jars in the canner for the amount of time specific in your recipe!!! Yes, this matters.

Once the jars have fully cooled and self sealed (you will hear a pop as the lids compress while the jars cool, that’s how you know its working!) you have beautiful jars of yummy, preservative free jam. Just fruit, sugar and some love. 🙂

Enjoy!

-Erin

Daily Question: What fruit jam is your favorite?

*Note: I do recommend buying Ball’s Blue Book for more detailed recipes, or you can use the recipes on the Sure-Jell box.

Back to the Garden Pt. 2 and Strawberry Picking!

It’s time for a much overdue garden update. I wanted to wait until everything – paths, beds, borders- was weeded, planted and looking fabulous, but that just wasn’t happening.

But I’m pleased with the progress made so far, considering where I was at phase zero.

Check it out, radishes are coming up.

And some rainbow chard is peeking out too.

All my seedlings failed this year because I didn’t replace my grow lights in a timely fashion, oops, so I had to buy pepper and tomato transplants.

I love tomato names, this one is Box Car Willie

Black cherry tomato, Marconi pepper and Box Car Willie

And I got some snazzy new gardening gloves 😀

So after planting and weeding and watering, I met up with a friend to continue my agrarian adventures and go strawberry picking.  Growing up I went blueberry picking every summer with my mom, but we never did strawberries so I was looking forward to trying something new.

The day was really beautiful, not to hot, and it was nice and breezy. We drove to Butler’s Orchard about 25 minutes outside of DC and picked up a couple flats to hold our berries. I was ambitious and grabbed the flat that would hold 10 pounds of berries and we dove right into the strawberry patch.

If you don’t know anything about strawberry patches, I’ll tell you all you need to know and that is the plants grow about 1 foot off the ground.

Fast forward 5 minutes in and I loudly declare “God, I’m glad I’m not a migrant farm worker, this sucks.”

Sooo, ya. Picking berries is backbreaking, literally. Lower back pain aside, I had a lot of fun and with the help of my friend (who is a berry picking machine) I got 10 pounds of beautiful, shiny and sweet smelling berries.

You my pretty, will be made into jam

I think this posts begs the question, why would I seek out and actually enjoy picking my own berries?  I’m not Amish, isn’t that what grocery stores are for?

My friend and I actually chatted about this while we were out in the field, and I think she articulated it the best:

It feels good to work with your hands. To take ownership over something and actually see an immediate outcome. I love the physical effort of gardening, you actually feel connected to the food. I know this might sound crazy to many of my dear readers, and that’s ok.

Simply put, working with my hands, being active and then being creative with how I choose to cook the food that I’ve grown feels awesome. I sit behind a desk all day at a job that doesn’t really allow creative thinking.  This is the perfect outlet for me, and its why I love food, gardening and cooking so damn much.

(steps off soapbox)

Thank you.

Stay tuned for a post about how to make your own strawberry jam, step by step.

– Erin

Daily Question: Do you think knowing where your food came from matters?