Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Canning strawberry jam without pectin

When I was first married and we moved out to the "the sticks" (west of Ann Arbor) from "the city" (that would be Detroit), I was eager to try canning strawberry jam. My mother-in-law put up strawberry jam, and everyone raved about it. She always referred to it as "gel", as in "I made some gel this weekend", referring to the cases of strawberry jam that she preserved every year. So I bought myself a Ball Blue Book and a boiling water canner (fancy canning word for a big pot) to make my own gel. Instead, I made 24 jars of strawberry syrup. It made me swear off trying canning again for years. I think if I dug deep in my laundry room pantry, I think I might find a 17 year old jar of strawberry syrup with an inch of dust on it way in the back.

Where did I go wrong? Strawberry jam was supposed to be easy, but truth be told, it isn't easy. First off, I made a quadruple batch, and jams and jellies don't take kindly to doubling. Make one batch at a time. Also, strawberries have notoriously unpredictable amounts of pectin in them. To be generous, sometimes they are called "low pectin" fruit, but consider them to be a "no pectin' fruit. Like life and a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get when it comes to making strawberry jam. Don't leave it to chance!

So I tried making jam with powdered or liquid pectin, and it always came out sweeter and more stiff than I wanted. What to do? I found a great technique in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving which is the one canning book I recommend you have in your kitchen library. To make strawberry jam with natural fruit pectin and less sugar, use apples and citrus. Even though it has apples in it, you won't be able to taste them. Plus, the apples extends the volume of strawberries. This year has been a tough year on strawberries in Michigan, so prices are higher than usual. Plus, this year has been tough on Michigan pocketbooks, so the apples make this strawberry jam even more affordable. Consider apples your own personal "jam stimulus package".


Check out Martha Stewart's lovely jam labels


Natural Strawberry Jam
(makes about 8 8z. jars)

5 tart apples, stems and blossom ends removed and chopped coarsely, cores intact
1 lemons or limes, unpeeled and chopped fine

Boil apples and citrus in enough water to prevent sticking for 20 minutes until soft. Force through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon to make 2 cups puree, or use a food mill if you have one. Now don't go out and buy a food mill - they are expensive and I have never found one worth the money. I snagged the 2 I have at garage sales. A sieve and a spoon works just as well.

Now it's time to add:

8 cups halved and hulled strawberries
5 1/2 cups sugar

to the strained apple/citrus puree in a deep pot. When I say deep pot - I'm not kidding you, because this mixture will tend to foam up pretty high. The last thing you want is a strawberry volcano erupting on your stove top. I'm telling you this because I learned it the hard way! Bring it to a boil and stir frequently over medium heat. Boil for 20 minutes until mixture thickens and mounds up in a spoon. When I tried this recipe with raspberries last year, I stopped boiling it after about 20 minutes. I wasn't sure that I went far enough with the boiling, but I didn't want to overdo it. I didn't see any "mounding up" on the spoon, but the raspberries seemed somewhat set when I ran my finger across the back of the spoon. Earlier in the summer, I boiled a no pectin jam that ended up as tough as fruit leather. But my raspberry jam turned out perfectly.

Recently, I read the book Preserving the Taste by Edon Waycott. Edon makes jams and jellies for restaurants in southern California, including the famous La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles. She descibed making jams and jellies that weren't too sweet and less firm than store bought, which is how I like mine. In her book, she describes the "wrinkle test" Place a spoonful of the jam on a saucer in the freezer for a 5 minutes to cool. Run a finger through the jam: if the surface wrinkles, it's ready. If not, it needs to boil some more. Also, you can measure the temp of the jam - if it is 8 degrees higher than the boiling point of water (at sea level to 1000 ft, that temp is 212 + 8 = 220 F) and that is the "jel point".

Ladle the hot jam into hot jars; leaving 1/4 inch headspace. (that's fancy canning talk for filling the jar 1/4 inch from the top). Wipe off the rim, place a lid on the jar and screw a band on it to finger tight. No need to torque it with all your might. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. (more fancy canning talk - this means to boil the jars in a rack or set upon some canning rings in a pot with the water 1 inch deeper than the top of the jars) Shut off heat on canner and remove lid, and let the jars sit 5 minutes in the water before you take them out. This neat trick prevents the jars from spewing juice out of the lids before they seal like they sometimes do. Remove the jars and let them cool. Make sure the top is sealed by checking to see if you can press down on the top of it. If you can, store that jar in the fridge and not in the pantry.

Looking for a sugar free strawberry preserve?  Check out my recipe for strawberry spoon fruit.   Want to read more about jam making?  Take a look at...

Which fruit jams need added pectin?
Everything you wanted to know about pectin (but were afraid to ask)
Other fruit jams can you make with natural pectin
Other jam making info
All my canning posts can be found here

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41 comments:

bushidoka said...

It is simply not true that jam and jelly batches do not like to be tripled. I'm not sure what you did wrong, but that was certainly not it.

Mom said...

Thanks for your comment, but it is actually true that you should never double james and jellies. Maybe you've had luck with doing so, but it isn't a recommended practice because it can result in jams that don't set. I'm just not that lucky! Here's a reference to back that up:

http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=GH1461

Good luck with your canning exploits!

valereee said...

I've always been leery of the recipes with apples for pectin, but maybe I'll give it a try! I've also heard that putting lemon seeds into a little piece of cheesecloth and boiling them with the berries will provide lots of pectin, too.

Kat said...

First time Jam maker here - I just finished my batch of strawberry jam with berries from the farmers' market.

I can't wait to try it!

How long will this jam keep in the pantry and fridge?

Mom said...

Kat - Glad you're officially a canner! Here's the offical answer from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

Properly canned food stored in a cool, dry place will retain optimum eating quality for at least 1 year. Canned food stored in a warm place near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, or in indirect sunlight may lose some of its eating quality in a few weeks or months, depending on the temperature. Dampness may corrode cans or metal lids and cause leakage so the food will spoil.

The NCHFP is a great online resource you can trust for safe canning tips:

http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/questions/FAQ_canning.html#5

the grocer's daughter said...

Having just made a failed batch of strawberry jam (now renamed "strawberry topping”), I'm very happy to find your post. Next time I’m adding apples. Thanks for the advice!

reb1978 said...

Thanks for the recipe. I just made jam for the first time (actually my first time canning). It turned out well. I look forward to future recipes!!

carolina moon said...

First let me say thanks for the BLOG. I too have made way too many batches of runny strawberry jam and was about to give up on trying strawberry alltogether when I read your post. Now...to my question..I know you said you don't HAVE to use a food mill, & that a seive works just as well, but...I did not have either. In fact...I didn't even know what a food mill was until I googled it after reading your post. I tried googling to see if a food processer would work in lieu of a food mill, but...nothing. Since I love to make jam, I figured I would invest in a food mill. I checked the local thrift store, but they didn't have one. Since I had already cleaned and hulled my strawberries, I didn't want to waste anymore time. I purchased one new (despite your post) and went through the painstaking effort of food milling the apple/citrus mixture. (My arms are still tired). I am not sure if I did it right or not. After about 30 minutes of cranking the food mill, I was left with about a cup and a half of mostly apple peels and some seeds in the basket and a nice "applesauce" looking mixture in the bowl to combine with my strawberries. My husband happened to come home in the midst of my using the food mill and was scoffing at my purchase. We recently acquired a Cuisinart food processor with several blades and he insists that I could have achieved the same results in the food processor without all that cranking and...without spending any extra money on a food mill. My question for you is this...Do you know if you can use a food processor in lieu of a food mill and what is the benefit of using the food mill over a food processor (if any)? Thanks again and I look forward to reading more on your blog.

Jamie said...

@carolina moon

The reason to use the food mill is to get all the "gunk" out of the apples and be left with the good quality stuff. You could have cut them up and then put them in the food processor, but you would have spent all of that extra time cutting up hot apples, and the result would have been less apple-y goodness. ;) If you want to can tomatoes later this summer, that food mill will come in handy again. Plus... think of the exta exercise you're getting in! lol

janine said...

MK, you've inspired me to get into my kitchen since it's supposed to be rainy in Michigan this weekend. I have a food mill, which I use about twice a year, so I echo your sieve sentiment. A colander works well for straining too. I SO wish I could join you in Ann Arbor for your demo!

laundryetc said...

Great post. Hope your canning class goes well. As regards comments about food mills v food processor - a food processor will completely macerate everything including the seeds whilst a food mill will remove these things intact, so long as the mesh (the changeable base of the mill) doesn't have too large holes. Sometimes seeds / peel etc can add bitterness or their own flavours which you might not want. The puree you end up with from a food mill is really excellent but turning the handle can be hard work. You have to do this process a bit at a time and also turn the handle the wrong way now and again to clear the pulp off the mesh. It can be a problem when the fruit has stones or large pips as these get jammed under the metal forcing part! a bit like when you roller skate and suddenly hit upon a small stone under your wheels, it can bring you to a sudden speedy halt! Food mills are in my opinion really great but do require patience and endurance to use. Hope that helps.

Edward Vielmetti said...

Two thoughts on the apple + lemon combo (maybe 3 or 4).

Are there apple varieties that have more or less pectin? I wonder if you could adjust the recipe appropriately to select for the variety that works best.

Apples are completely out of season the very time you would need them for pectin for strawberry jam. Does the apple + lemon puree keep in the freezer, and still work when you need it? Or perhaps you take the strawberries and freeze them whole now, and then make jam with them in the fall when it's apple season and also cooler in the kitchen.

We make an applesauce with half an orange in it. I wonder if this apple + lemon combo would be good as a savory on the side of something, not just as a sweet.

I suspect that a 2x recipe for jam doesn't work mostly because you don't get even heating throughout the pan and thus you can't rely on the whole mixture being at gel temperature. Vigorous stirring should help that.

My memories of homemade strawberry jam (using berries from Skandia) include a special treatment for the foam that you get on the top. Skim the foam off and eat it fresh on bread (yum).

Mom said...

I have a food strainer attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer that I use for big jobs....if you get into canninig big enough that you need a food mill, I'd recommend it!

Mom said...

@Ed Vielmetti...good to see you in person today! What fun to talk to you. Yes, some apples have more pectin that others...sour ones are supposed to have more than sweet, and unripe apples more than ripe. The thing to do is to can yourself some pectin pulp in the winter when lemons are in season and apples are plentiful. Like your idea for the foam!

Anonymous said...

I was looking for pectin free strawberry jam and found your blog. The jam came out beautifully! First time I have ever made jam. :D

AdaKat said...

I plan to use this recipe to make jam this weekend. I was wondering if anyone can tell me about how much it made. I was wondering how many jars I need. Thanks!

Mom said...

@AdaKat - it makes about eiight 8 oz. jars

None said...

Hi, I am interested in canning strawberry jam but was wondering if a substitution of sugar for splenda would work? Thought I would ask before wasting a ton of strawberries.

Thanks,
Jaime

Mom said...

@Jaime No, using Splenda in this recipe wouldn't work, because natural pectins need to use sugar to help thicken the jam. If you wanted to make a jam with Splenda, you'd have to use a pectin like Pomona's or Ball now makes one that can be used without sugar. See this post for more details:

http://motherskitchen.blogspot.com/2010/06/can-jam-berry-jams-without-boxed-pectin.html

None said...

Awesome, thank you so much for your help & your blog. It is really nice to get friendly help...

Jaime

Ben David said...

Greetings from Israel - where we throw citrus peels into the freezer during the winter, and then use them for pectin in the summer.

Most of the pectin is in the white part of the skin - you can peel off the colored surface to remove distinct lemon or orange flavors.

ccsdesign04 said...

Can you freeze this jam in freezer containers instead of jars?

Also can you make the pectin in advance and freeze that for future use?

Thanks!

Deena @ StayatHomeFoodie said...

Thank you for the recipe. I'm going to try it out now! Keeping my fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

I have a recipe for orange pear jam however it does not give canning instructions. can i still can it or is there a reason why it cannot be canned

Mom said...

I couldn't tell you without seeing the recipe....but you could make this recipe http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/apple_marmalade.html which is canning safe and use pears instead of apples.

Anonymous said...

the orange pear jam recipe:
7 c sugar
5 c fresh pears peeled and chopped
1 c crushed pineapple drained
2 tblspn lemon juice
2 pkg orange gelatin
combine sugar,pears, pineapple and lemon juice bring to rolling boil over high heat stirring constantly.simmer 15 min remove from heat and add gelatin. pour into jars cool room temp about hour. cover and let stand until set. refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

Is there a way I can can this recipe

Mom said...

No, because gelatin needs refrigeration to stay firm. If you didn't store this in the fridge, it would turn to liquid.

Valeria said...

Just made 2 batches of jam and it came out beautiful! This is my first try ever at making jam and canning, so I'm very happy with the results.
Thank you so much for posting the recipe!

Madhavi said...

Greetings from India : )

All my earlier attempts at making strawberry jam have ended with a potful of syrup. I love strawberry jam so I am really happy that I found this recipe - I tried it last night and it worked perfectly. You can't taste the apple at all and it's a perfect set, plus uses much less sugar than if I had to use Surejell. Thank you so much!

Mom said...

@Madhavi I am glad it worked for you! Send me some chutney recipes....I love Indian food.

Anonymous said...

Hi...
I really liked your post and will try making the jam this weekend.I just want to ask a couple of things before giving it a go...

I do not have mason jars with rings but only have store bought jars accumulated over a period of time that came with jams and jellies.Can they be reused for canning?

If not, can we store the jam in freezer and for how long will it keep?

I am living in a small town where I could not find the canning jars, any help would be appreciated.

Thanks.
Mariam

Anonymous said...

Hi...
I really liked your post and will try making the jam this weekend.I just want to ask a couple of things before giving it a go...

I do not have mason jars with rings but only have store bought jars accumulated over a period of time that came with jams and jellies.Can they be reused for canning?

If not, can we store the jam in freezer and for how long will it keep?

I am living in a small town where I could not find the canning jars, any help would be appreciated.

Thanks.
Mariam

Cynthia said...

No, they can't be reused for canning - they will break and they won't reseal. I'm sure you could store them in the freezer (but don'
t fill the jars too full). I am not sure how long you could store it.

Joanna.Thorp said...

How many jars is this for and what size?

Cynthia said...

@Joanna it makes about 8 8 oz. jars. I will update my post to reflect that. Happy jamming!

jenn said...

after reading your post iam so excited to make jam this weekend with my girls. i have made strawberry jam when i was a kid but for the life of me i cant remember what recipie i used lol i was going to do the old fashion wax on top bc iam not to filmiler with the whole boiling part but this sounds really easy and for a not so kitchen savey person i think i can do it thank u agian for this awesome recipie

Danielle Windham said...

Hi there! This was so helpful to read! I bookmarked you right away. I have never canned jam before, but would love to give 4oz mason jars full of a couple different kind of jam for my wedding favors. I am of course going to try this out before I get closer to the date, which is November, but I had a couple questions for you. How far in advance can I make the jam and store it safely? I have a fear of canning incorrectly and my jam being all moldy or disgusting (I actually dreamed this the other night!) Do you have any tips for me? Any books I should read up on before embarking on this journey? Thanks!
Danielle

Cynthia said...

Danielle - I just wrote a whole blog post to answer your question...http://motherskitchen.blogspot.com/2012/06/do-we-wait-anymore-for-postman-to-bring.html

Anonymous said...

Ok I made the strawberry syrup last night. Was suppose to be jam. Now what. Can I open the jars and add more pectin? Or apples? I was going to use for gifts at Christmas. I am a teacher have to get a jump on gifts.

Cynthia said...

Oh dear! Yes, you can fix it, but wait a week or so and make sure it doesn't set up. Sometimes it might do it after a while. If it doesn't, and assuming you used tart apples and lemons, just empty the jars back into the pot and heat it to 8 degrees higher than the boiling point of water wherever you are (less than 1000 ft altitude is 212 + 8 = 220 F). Or you can add store bought pectin as described here. good luck http://www.pickyourown.org/how_to_fix_runny_jam.htm

Cynthia said...

Also, I should say that if you doubled the batch that can cause a problem, too, so cook them in separate batches.