On Saturday, we went on a strawberry-picking journey that included one U-Pick business that looked like it had suffered the zombie apocalypse (no strawberries to be had there), a bout of car sickness (thanks, Annie), and a few tense moments between the co-pilots. In the end, though, we found a good place that was selling the lovely, organic berries you see above.
I ate as much as I could hold on Saturday. Probably more.
On Sunday, I decided to dabble in jam-making. Gazing upon a flat of berries one’s picked oneself inspires all sorts of romantic notions of Little House on the Prairie-style “putting up” for winter. I imagined ruby-red jars neatly lined up in the cupboard, awaiting winter toast. Plus, my mother-in-law makes jam all the time and she always says how easy it is… so, how hard could it be?
It took a while to settle on a recipe. (Now that I think of it, I’m not sure why I didn’t just call my mother-in-law, but it could have something to do with my inexorable drive to do research. A career in librarianship is a good fit for me.) I kept reading mentions of Helen Witty’s strawberry jam recipe, which uses no pectin (a natural fruit-derived setting agent). Pectin, I’d read, tended to make jams “rubbery,” and I had a vague memory of my mother-in-law, again, declaring that she no longer used it.
Yesterday, I washed, drained, and hulled the berries, and then mixed them with two cups of sugar and the juice of a lemon. With this recipe, unlike other jam recipes, the fruit/sugar mixture is to be left alone for several hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge so a syrup can form (just be warned: any 6-year-olds in the vicinity will need to do several taste-tests). Today, I separated the berries from the syrup, boiled the syrup, added the berries back in, and then brought the entire concoction to a lovely, frothy, bubbling mass. I stirred. And stirred. And stirred some more, probably much longer than I should have, because I was afraid of the whole thing not thickening properly. When I finally deemed it ready, I carefully spooned it into the sterilized jars, sealed them with the sterilized tops, and stood back to admire my handywork.
Ta da! Three-and-a-half jars.
Now, that was about half what I was expecting. One of the full jars didn’t pop, and went into the fridge with the half-jar. So, two ruby-red jars are lined up on my shelf. Notwithstanding Nuala’s taste-tests, I used the amount of fruit called for in the recipe, so should have yielded at least six 8-ounce jars. I may have reduced the syrup and fruit by too much, and therefore have canned a very concentrated version of strawberry jam. Which may not be a bad thing.
Will I do it again? Yes. Will I use the same recipe? Probably not. I’d like to try making jam with honey, instead of sugar, and I’d also like to try making it with the pectin (not being one for slaving over steaming pots).
I’ve come across a very helpful, comprehensive guide to canning, which you can find here.
The recipe I used can be found here.