Last Saturday AM we went strawberry picking at Tougas Family Farm with little E’s playgroup friends.
It also took me a while to get the hang of filling the jar up to the required level of headspace (the amount of space you have to leave at the top of the jar when you fill it up; to take into account the expansion of the jar’s contents that occurs while processing for 10 minutes or however long in rapidly boiling water). I realized later that my canning kit had a headspace measurer, which worked better than dangling my tape measure next to the jar to try to get a reading. With each jar, though, the process went much faster. All in all, however, I was busy in the kitchen for about 4 hours.
I think I even heard the seals on the jars forming (the lids seal and become hollowed inwards so you know they are securely sealed, just as the jars you buy in stores only have pop-up lids after you open them). It was funny to be watching TV and hearing little popping sounds from time to time. Though maybe it was just something falling apart elsewhere in the house.
Finally, a few words about the individual recipes:
The Strawberry Jam recipe from the Complete Book of Home Preserving was a great beginner’s recipe. In fact it’s the first recipe in the book and notes that it is an extra-detailed recipe as it’s for beginners. And it did have lots of helpful detail–for example, measuring out all the sugar beforehand so you can dump it in to the bubbling berries all at once (I can imagine it would be hard to keep track of seven cups of sugar as well!). The recipe was simple–just strawberries, pectin, sugar, and lemon juice and the results were great. Of course, this is mainly a function of having good berries. I wondered how similar this would taste to store-bought jam but I really do think it was better. I think the flavor was quite complex, I almost taste an herb/spice quality which surely has to do with the fact that the strawberries were perfectly ripe when harvested and the jam was made immediately after so no flavor was lost. Note I got slightly less than the 8 cup yield, so the last jar went into the fridge to enjoy immediately.
The second recipe was a bit more “gourmet” perhaps. (As is the nature of all the recipes in Well-Preserved. There’s not a lot of recipes in there, but the ones that there are are very elegant). The nice thing was it didn’t use pectin (as I didn’t have any left). Also the use of balsamic vinegar sounded like it would make a rather refined product. Due to the lack of pectin, I think, this recipe was required to be cooked for about 40 minutes before canning. You then add the strawberries to a jar with a slotted spoon, ultimately leaving you with a fair amount of strawberry syrup which you can preserve as well. All in all, I got 2 pint jars of jam and one of syrup. (The recipe was meant to give you 6 cups; and you could use 8 or 16 oz containers. I wonder if I would have had a better yield using smaller jars?)
I’m looking forward to going to more “pick your owns” this summer. Cherries are next, followed by raspberries, blueberries, and pecks of peaches and bushels of apples!