Adventures in canning: Strawberry Jam

Last Saturday AM we went strawberry picking at Tougas Family Farm with little E’s playgroup friends.

Mike Strawberry Picking

Mike and the other dads strawberry picking

Now, little E still refuses to eat strawberries (he does like squeezing them to make bright red juice in an attempt to make the worst stains possible) but he is happy enough to be outside, plus this being  “family” farm it had a playground and such activities for kids.  I, on the other hand, was quite excited about the strawberries themselves and was well-prepared.  Having bought a canning kit a few weeks ago and two canning books, I fully intended to get as many strawberries as possible.  In fact we gathered 9 1/2 pounds, but since the price per pound drops from $2.99 to 2.19 when you pick 10lb or more, we sent Mike back to get a few extra berries.
 
About 10lb of strawberries

About 10lb of strawberries

 
Strawberries closeup
 
Since you should can as freshly as possible, I made the jam the same day (also, those strawberries were getting crushed under their own weight).  I made two batches and we still had strawberries left over (in fact, we still have strawberries left over).  I made two different recipes:  first the basic strawberry jam recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving followed by the strawberry-balsamic jam from Well-Preserved.  (I didn’t set out to make two batches, but there were still so many berries after the first batch I went ahead and made the second).
 
There were a few glitches:  I had to run out and buy different sized jars because canning recipes have to be followed exactly, including the use of pint size jars vs. half pints, etc.  I suppose pint sized jars of jam is a bit big, though I honestly think we could go through it pretty quickly.  I wasn’t sure what was meant by the instruction to “hull” the strawberry, so I cut off the stem end.  Somehow I don’t think I did that right.  (Do strawberry hullers actually work, whatever it is that they do?  Preparing the berries did take some time).  My saucepan wasn’t really big enough for the batch of jam I made (nor could I use my stockpot as I think it smells chicken-y no matter how much it’s cleaned) so there was a bit of bubbling over, though not too bad.  The canner, meanwhile, was so big it nearly took up one half of my stovetop.  I didn’t realize how long  it would take the water to boil and ended up being annoyed as I waited for ages for it to heat up.  (And then was even more annoyed when it turned out I had accidentally turned the burner off).
 
The canning setup
I had rolled my eyes at “low sugar” recipes until I measured out the amount of sugar needed for one batch of jam (that’s about one cup per jar, fyi). 
7 cups of sugar

7 cups of sugar

  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.

Jam cooking

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!

Strawberry jams

Strawberry jam

Strawberry jam

Strawberry basil jam

Strawberry balsamic jam

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19 thoughts on “Adventures in canning: Strawberry Jam

  1. YUM! I use to make jam and preserve vegetables a lot when I was in high school (I grew up in rural CT) but haven’t done it since I made the move to urban living when I was 19. The older I get, the more tempted I am to do so…

  2. As to the stains little E likes to make. Wait for the blueberry season, these stains are much worse!!!!! :o)

    I really like the pattern on your strawberry jam jars. They look so pretty. And both jams look really delicious. I think I’m going to try the balsamic jam, too…

  3. Me again…. I just made a strawberry nectarine vanilla jam. The balsamic jam has to wait cuz I don’t have any balsamic vinegar at hand right now. And you got me frightened with this whole botulism thing so much, that I actually water bathed (is that the right word?) the jars for the first time in my life. I don’t have a preserving canner yet, but it’s possible in the oven, too, I found out. What is a headspace measurer? I know what you need it for, but I have no clue what it looks like. Can you post a picture so I get an imagination? I never ever measure headspace, I just estimate about 1/2 inch.

    • That sounds great. I don’t think botulism is as big a deal with fruit either–I am a bit neurotic about this stuff, honestly. My grandmother used to seal her jam with wax, which I can’t imagine working if you use the waterbath method, I will have to ask her what she did. She now does water-bathing but she’s been making jam for over 50 years so I’m sure however she used to do it is not “approved” now. Sorry for passing on my neuroses. ;-)

      Did you ever order well-preserved?

      • Yes, I did order “Well-Preserved” and I received it a couple days ago. Most of the recipes really DO sound elegant, and there are quite a few I’ll definitely try out like the canned tuna (even though I’ll have to find out who can lend me a pressure canner), canned tomatoes (maybe even from my own backyard: the first tomatoes are growing now!!!!), the marinated red bell peppers… I’m not too happy with the fruit section, though, because almost everything there is canned with alcohol… I know the actual alcohol disappears while cooking but I’m not a fan of serving kids things that taste of alcohol. They shouldn’t associate jam or sweets with alcohol, I think. But still, many of these things will make nice presents, so I’ll try them anyway.

  4. Sara, these strawberries, and this jam, look delicious! What a beautiful post, photos and all. I went over to (my sister) Mel’s house last weekend to find her and her partner boiling a huge vat of berries for jam/canning. We had a bit of a discussion about pectin and sugar… but when you get down to it, I just like the taste. Maybe one day soon I’ll expand my repertoire to canning. Maybe one day soon the sun will come out. Who knows! :)

    • Hmmm…I was like, yay alcohol!

      I was intrigued by the tuna, but over an hour with the pressure canner going? Forget it. I don’t really like canned tuna that much anyway. Nor can I imagine smoking fish indoors, but it’s pretty cool how she explains it, whether you want to do it or not!

      • I like canned tuna, that’s why this recipe is really smiling at me (don’t know if that’s an English expression, but that’s what we say in German when something sounds really intriguing).

    • Hi Virginia, thanks for visiting. I didn’t post the recipes as they are a bit long and also I didn’t want to leave anything out (as there are the “technical” details as well). I found both books quite easily at my local library (though the second has a waiting list as it was recently profiled in the NYT). I think similar recipes should be easy to find in most jam books, including the strawberry-balsamic version. Almost everything is in the Ball book (the first one I mention).

  5. Sooooo, I made the strawberry balsamic jam. I cooked it for like 50 minutes and thought it wouldn’t thicken at all. Then I thouht: who cares, I just pour it into the jars. I filled one jar with the slotted spoon, and this was such a clingy mess that I decided to put it back in the pot and just pour it into the jars. Thus, no syrup! But the weird thing now is: the jam is soooooooooo thick, I don’t wanna imagine how thick it would be if I had done the slotted spoon thingy!!!! It’s REALLY sweet (way too sweet for my taste), but we like it with yogurt, but it’s not possible at all to mix it with the yogurt. So I put it in the microwave for a little while so it heats up and becomes liquid again, and then I can stir it into the yogurt. I’d be interested in hearing about the consistency of your balsamic jam… Btw, I’m into making jam with agar agar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agar) right now so I can add sugar to taste. I add about only 1/3 of the amount you usually need to make jam. Of course, this means, it’s not as durable as conventionally made jam. But we go through quite a lot of jars quite quickly with all the yogurt and breakfast and such, so I don’t really mind.

  6. Hi SBC, i think by hulling all they mean was to pick off the green stem…unless they made a typo and meant culling, meaning to sort and discard those with rotten spots.

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  10. My Question Is, Does The Strawberry Jam Recipe In The Ball Book Call For Pint Jars? I’m Looking To Can Strawberry Jam But Since We Eat So Much Of It I Wanted To MakeInPointSize Hats, BuWantToMakeSureIDoTheRecipeCorrectly.

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