Sunday, May 20, 2007

Making strawberry jam

Nothing beats homemade jam for both flavor and color. I'd been meaning for years to make some strawberry jam. This year I finally got around to doing it again.

Yesterday morning I went to the farmers market to pick the strawberries. I had good intentions of picking them myself, but I figured it was more efficient and less messy to buy them. The weather has been surprisingly cool so the strawberries are especially sweet and red because they stay on the vines longer.

Making jam does require equipment. Most supermarkets sell the jars with lids. I called several hardware stores to find the water bath canner which is a very large covered pot with a rack in it for holding the glass jars. Once I bought the canner, I knew I was committed and not just for making jam once. The thing takes up so much space and cost $25 so it's not a one time only expense. Now I am determined to make peach jam, cherry jam and maybe some tomato sauce.

Here is how to make strawberry jam:

8oz jam jars w/ lids (lids should always be new but the jars can be reused)
Jar tongs, kitchen tongs, or a silicon mit for removing the hot jars from canner
Potato masher
9x13 dish
6 quart cooking pot (or larger)

2 quarts of strawberries
7 c. sugar
1/2t. butter (to reduce foaming)
1 box SureJell

Put the jam jars and lids in the dishwasher to wash and dry. While this is happening, prepare the berries by removing the stem and in batches put them in a single layer in a 9x13 dish. Mash with a potato masher and measure 5 cups and put in 6 quart pot.

Fill the canner with enough water to cover the bottom 1 inch of the rack.

Meanwhile, wait to do the next step until the jars are dry and hot from the dishwasher drying cycle. Wipe of any remaining moisture from the lids and jar. Line up the jars and lids on a towl near the stove.

Add SureJell and butter to the pot of berries. Bring to rolling boil and add 7 cups of sugar. Bring to rolling boil again and boil for 1 minute.

With the help of the funnel and a large ladle, spoon the jam into each jar reserving 1/8 inch of space at the top of the jar. Using a paper towl, wipe down the jars, especially the top where the lid fits. Put the two piece lid on each jar and screw tightly.

Place the jars in the canner rack, cover with the lid, and bring to a gentle boiled for 15 minutes.

Remove the jars from the rack using either tongs or a silicon mit. There is special type of tongs made especially for jars but I couldn't find on so I used my silicon mit. Just be very careful not to burn yourself or drop the jars.

Put the jars upright on a towl and allow to cool completely. The goal of canning is to preserve the food and seal it airtight. You might hear a popping sound as the seals form while the jars cool. When thoroughly cool, test the jars to make sure they've sealed properly by pressing on the center of the lid. If the lid pops up, it is not sealed so put the jar in the fridge.

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