August 15, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Jam

In the last couple of months I have been making an effort to try to cook as many things from scratch as possible. My whole family does better when we stick to homemade foods, so to keep my family's budget down and for our health I have been making as many things as I can. This year I have had a number of very nice friends give me an abundance of garden veggies, so I have been canning up a storm. I now have a large shelf full of pickles, which makes my two sons very happy. Besides canned vegetables, canned homemade fruit is delicious and making and preserving  it can save a lot of money during the winter. One of my favorite canned fruit products is homemade strawberry jam, which is easy enough that a cook with minimal canning experience can be completely comfortable.

Making homemade strawberry jam is very easy to make. It only takes three ingredients, sugar, pectin and fresh strawberries. I use classic pectin because it has a great flavor and sets the jam quickly. I find the full sugar jam to be a little too sweet for my tastes, so I follow the reduced sugar directions. For every two half-pint jars you will need the following:
  • 1 1/3 cups prepared fruit (hull and crush the strawberries with a potato masher)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp classic pectin
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
In order to make homemade jam you need a water bath canner. I purchased a new one this year and it was less than 20 dollars. You will also need canning jars, rings and lids (don't re-use lids). I boil my jars for 10 minutes in boiling water since I don't have a dishwasher. Make sure to keep the jars warm while preparing the jam, or the jars will crack. Combine the fruit and pectin in a saucepan, I add a 1/4 tsp of butter to reduce foaming, but it isn't necessary and can be left out if preferred. Bring to a roiling boil, then add sugar and bring to a roiling boil once again and boil hard for one minute. I use a thermometer, once it reaches 220 degrees (if your at sea level) it's at the jelling point. If you don't have a candy thermometer you can also use a metal spoon, dip it into the boiling mixture. If the mixture is done two drops will hang off the edge, then run together in a sheet.  Skim foam if present and pour into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head-space. Wipe tops and place lids and bands on jars. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Make sure there is at least an inch of water covering the top of the jars. Remove jars from heat and let cool. After 24 hours check jars and make sure that they have sealed. Don't use any jam that the seal has not sealed. It can take as long as three weeks for the jam to fully set.

Homemade jam is a great way to enjoy fruit throughout the year and is much cheaper than store-bought. Leaning to can well only takes a little effort and its a great way to save money. If the water bath canning scares you there are also fresh jams, which is the same recipe except without the water-bath, they just go straight into the fridge and have to be used within 3 weeks. Water-bathed canned jam can last up to a year, so when strawberries go down to a dollar, I make a bunch at one time. One of my favorite things is homemade jam with fresh bread, a delicious combination!

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