It’s strawberry season! This is probably going to sound crazy to most of you, but I have only recently started liking strawberries. I couldn’t stand them as a kid. When I got older I only ate them in ‘have to’ situations- like when someone puts one on your plate and you feel obligated to eat it. But I would eat them like I was taking medicine- trying not to breathe or taste it too much. Actually, I thought strawberries tasted okay, but to me it always felt like sand in my teeth.
So the fact that I am writing a blog on strawberry jam is very ironic. But nevertheless, here I am. I suppose I can thank IvyJo because it was during her pregnancy that I started craving sugared strawberries. I have been hooked ever since. But strawberries, like most fruits and berries, taste best at the peak of season- which is right now! So grab some local berries. Pop a few in your mouth. Bake a cobbler. Make strawberry shortcake. And preserve some, so you can enjoy fresh strawberries all year with simple strawberry jam 2 ways!
Preserving food at the peak of freshness is one of the greatest lessons we can learn from generations past. There is something so satisfying about growing or picking something fresh and then saving it to be used throughout the year. Whether you are canning, fermenting, pickling, dehydrating, or freezing, having a hand in where your food comes from is better for your family and the planet.
If you are new to the world of preserving, start small. I’ve been trying to reflect on my initial start with preserving. I want to tell you it was canning blackberry jam and forcing my mom to come over and watch me in case I missed a step or nearly blew the house up. I want to tell you the story of that experience because it turned out perfect in the end. But strangely enough I remembered that wasn’t my first attempt, I think my first experience was with freezing cranberries. (I had blocked this story from my memories until now..)
It was my first Thanksgiving as a wife. Wives (in my mind) were prim and proper. They didn’t bring that weird canned gel, they brought real cranberry sauce-made from scratch. They walked in arm and arm with their new husband, proud of their homemade goods- their husband proud of them. I have since learned to never romanticize this stuff in my head, it always ends in disaster.
I don’t think I read a recipe before I went I just knew, from an episode of The Kitchen, it had cranberries and orange zest in it, so I bought cranberries. Like all the cranberries. Like 8 bags of cranberries!
Practicing Zero Waste
When you are newly married at like 20 years old with an infant, you don’t have a lot of money. Rather than returning all the bags after making my beautiful homemade cranberry sauce, (Which was awful by the way, even worse than the canned jello sauce..) I decided to preserve them. I don’t know why. Perhaps it just seemed like the wifely thing to do, at the time.
I had clearly discovered I didn’t like cranberries, but I cooked them down to attempt cranberry applesauce. I poured the thick red sauce into jars, piping hot, and then I immediately shoved them into the freezer door.
And that is where they ruptured, busted the jar, oozed out and down the door and froze to everything!
The first thing I said when I opened the door was “What happened?!”
I really don’t think I knew for a couple days when it finally dawned on me that you shouldn’t put boiling substances into glass jars and then into the freezer!
I almost can’t believe how far I have come since then. I’ve had some failures still, but many successes. And with each passing year I find myself eager to do more, to try more. I long to fill freezers, pantries, and shelves so adequately that we only go to Wal Mart for fun- but I am far from achieving that.
So if you are new to canning, freezer jam is a great start.
Strawberry Freezer Jam
Strawberry freezer jam is exactly what it sounds like. It requires no water baths, special equipment, or intense boiling. In fact is is a no heat required recipe. Which means you can stick in the freezer as soon as you are done and it won’t explode. Learn from my mistakes there.
We picked strawberries on a local farm in our area and brought home just over two gallons. The day we went was a little gloomy, but the day before had been a complete wash out so no one had picked berries and they were ripe! Some of them were almost too ripe. I tried to gather about equal parts super ripe and not quite so ripe, but I had a lot of little helpers so who knows how that ratio actually turned out.
With the ripest berries, I made freezer jam that same day, and with the ‘not quite ready’ ones I waited a couple days for my batch of canned jam. (Strawberries ripen only on the strawberry plant, but they will soften and be easier to mash after a day or two.) It is better to only do one preserving method a day, in my opinion.
In fact, if you are doing any kind of preserving- take it slow. Do not get stressed out. Stress and canning do not go together. There is only room for one pressure canner in the kitchen at a time.
3 Simple Ingredients
When you look up jam all you are going to see is this, “No sugar, Low sugar, No pectin, Made using only fruit, Made using only Honey,” on and on and on it goes.
You see jam is simple. It only takes 3 ingredients most of the time- fruit, something to sweeten the fruit, and something to make it gel. That’s it- that’s jam.
For the fruit, regardless of what kind of jam or jelly you are making- start with something fresh and good quality. It can be homegrown, farm picked, farmer’s market fresh, or store bought. I do try to buy organic at the store if it is for canning.
For your gelling (is that a word?) substance, you can use pectin, low sugar pectin, powdered pectin, liquid pectin, apples, lemons, whatever you want. In my freezer jam I used a no cook, freezer jam pectin.
For the sweetner, this is completely based on preference. Your pectin (if used) should specify an amount of sugar needed. But whether you use low sugar, tons of sugar, or a sugar substitute is entirely up to you. I used plain white table sugar, sometimes keeping it simple is best.
Now for Canning Jam
I think canning can feel so empowering. That may sound silly but I love laying out food that is entirely made by my hands, even if it is something simple. I think God just made us this way. Canning is not hard, but it can seem so intimidating the first time.
Canning equipment recommendations and resources can be found at the end of this blog post to help get you started.
Simple Strawberry Jam
- 1 gallon fresh strawberries
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sugar
- 1 box low sugar pectin
- 1 tbsp store bought lemon juice
- If you plan to can this jam, make sure your jars, lids, and rings are washed well in warm soapy water. Then place jars into a slightly warmed oven. or dishwasher until you are ready to fill them. Boil lids and rings in water to sterilize.
- Begin by washing your strawberries. You can either rinse them well or pour them into a sink with cool water and a splash of vinegar. I did a little of both for mine simply because we picked on a rainy day and some were quite muddy.
- Remove the green tops with a paring knife, leaving as much of the berry in tact as possible. Then, add to a stand mixer, food processor, or simply use a potato masher- I have used all three methods. For less chunks, use the food processor. For a chunkier jam, the stand mixer or potato masher. (If using the stand mixer, add berries a few at a time to prevent one being catapulted back out at you.) Your crushed berries should yield about 8 cups.
- After, the berries are mashed to your desired consistency, add them to your large pot with a full box of low sugar pectin and a tbsp of lemon juice. (The store bought kind, not fresh lemon juice.) You can use normal pectin, but you will need to add more sugar. (your pectin box should give you a ratio.) Cook over high heat, until you reach a rapid boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir Constantly. (Note: You want to use high heat, the quicker you achieve a rapid boil, the better your jam will cook down and set.)
- Once jam is at a rapid boil, add in your sugar. I used about 1 1/2 cups of sugar. You can use upwards of 4 with low sugar pectin. My berries were very ripe and sweet to begin with though. Once sugar is added return to a rapid boil that cannot be stirred down. Allow to cook for about 1-2 minutes. Stirring constantly to avoid burning to the bottom. (Jam is a hands on process.) Remove from heat.
- If you do not wish to can this, allow it to cool at room temperature for about 24 hours before putting it in the fridge. Refrigerated jam should last between 5-7 days.
- If you plan to can, pull a clean jar from your oven or dishwasher, ladle hot jam into jars fitted with funnel to 1/4 inch headspace. (1/4 inch left at the top between jam and lid) Insert your lid lifter or the opposite end of a spoon or fork a couple times into the jar to remove any bubbles. Wipe the rim with white vinegar to remove any jam on the edges that may prevent your lid. from sealing.
- Fit with a hot lid and ring (this is where the magnetic lid lifter comes in handy). Twist lid to finger tight, then place into the rack for the water bath canner.
- Once the rack is full lower into water bath canner of boiling water. The water should cover the jars by an inch. Process in the water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the rack from canner and allow jars to sit at room temperature for 24 hours. You should be hearing some lids popping during that time!
- After 24 hours, check your seals. I always remove the rings from mine and store them with the lids only. The button on the lid should be popped downward. If you flick the lid and it moves, that jar is not sealed. (Just put it in the fridge, and eat it within the week!) (Note: when storing cans do not stack them. This can pop a seal and actually create a breeding ground for bacteria.)
In the mood for a little more spring cooking, check out our blog: 4 Simple Spring Dinnertime Ideas (and a dessert)
My number one goal with this blog is to encourage mamas. (Because we ALL need that!) I used to watch YouTube videos of these moms who had ten kids and filled pantries of homemade canned goods. They ground their own flour and made everything from scratch. I wanted so badly to be like that. I wanted to give my family the best. But it looked so impossible from where I was sitting.
I have since realized that you don’t get there in an afternoon. Those YouTube moms didn’t get there that quickly either. If you want a more natural lifestyle, pick one thing a month to replace. If you want to grow a garden, you don’t have to plow up 3 acres- start with a pot of herbs on your porch. And if you want a filled pantry of things you made, start small. Make some jam and adorn your shelves with it. Learn the canning process. Master water bath canning, and then move on to pressure canning. Before long you’ll be canning beef stew for simple meals on Wednesday nights.
Dream Big and Start Small
If you have a dream to give your family better than they have. If you dream of an all natural lifestyle and food from scratch- just take the first step. You don’t have to throw out everything you own and start again. Buy a diffuser, make an all purpose cleaner or a loaf of bread from scratch. Every little step along the path is taking you closer to that dream.
And if you are intimidated to learn something new, watch some videos or read a couple blogs and just try it. You may explode cranberry applesauce all over your freezer, but you’ll learn from that experience. And before long, you may just be sharing your own recipe for jam online. What a crazy world we live in!
Dream big, and start small.
Click here for a great deal on the right equipment to get you started.
Click here for Canning 101.
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Leave us a comment about some of your big dreams, and the steps you are taking now!
Did you try this recipe? Let us know how you liked it!