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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