Monday, June 13, 2011

Strawberry Jam... Forever

Strawberry season is in full swing on Long Island.  Last week when the gang was here, we went picking.  I'm not sure if the harsh winter took its toll on the strawberry plants, or the heavy rain and extreme heat this spring was just too much, but the berries just didn't pack the same punch as they had  in  previous years.  Nevertheless, we picked.  We picked about 10 quarts in all and needless to say, we ate a lot of strawberries.  I wanted to make a small batch of jam, but we were just too busy, and it got so darn hot, and quite frankly, the berries weren't that great.  I felt sort of bad...I've always made jam after a day of picking.
My picking team:  Mike, Melissa, Matt, Lauren and Paul in the back row
Lauren, the Strawberry Princess
So now it's a week later.  The Sunday morning Rockville Centre Farmer's Market opened last week and it was on my list of "things to do" this weekend.  Heaven knows I don't need any spring vegetables since I have a bounty of my own growing in my backyard.  I wanted to see Casey the fish man.  Yes, we have fish at our farmer's market...a benefit of living on an island.  I got in my car at 8:00AM and turned the radio on....Strawberry Fields Forever.....   Suddenly, I had jam on my mind (and the Beatles).  It's cool I thought, only 58 degrees.  Perfect weather for standing over a pot of boiling jam.   I thought of this photo that I love.  Melissa took it few weeks ago while riding her bike through Central Park in Strawberry Fields...
The song, the photograph, Sunday morning with the Beatles, cool weather....its a sign.   I must make some jam.  Although I didn't pick them, I found some beautiful, delicious berries.
Last year I made Strawberry Balsamic Jam, but Paul found it objectionable.  When he saw me taking out my canning gear...he pleaded  that I not add any "stuff" to the jam.  He's a purest at heart.  So, I made some plain, old fashioned jam.  Since the berries were ever so slightly under ripe and I was adding lemon,  I  did not use pectin.  I used a bit more sugar than usual because the berries were a bit tart. You can adjust sugar to taste.   It turned out great and just I hope I don't regret only making a small batch.  Please see my previous post to learn more about the ins and outs of canning.  Now a days I like to make jam in 1/2  pint jars.  When my kids were little and I made a lot of PB and J's, I used pint or even quart jars.  You can double the recipe, but you will need a HUGE pot.  You have to allow it to boil hard and believe me, you do not want this to boil over!  Once you've made this simple jam, I swear you will never buy strawberry jam in a grocery store again.

Makes 5 half pint jars

  • 3 quarts strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into chunks - about 7 cups
  • 4 cups sugar
  • the juice and zest of 1 lemon
Prepare 5 or 6 half pint jars.
Measure out 2 cups of cut strawberries and set aside.
Mash remaining strawberries in a flat bottomed bowl, about 1 cup at a time until you have 4 cups of mashed berries.
Place the 4 cups of mashed and 2 cups of chunked berries into a large (oversized and heavy) pot.
Add 4 cups sugar.
Add zest and juice of 1 lemon.
Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
Turn up heat to medium high and bring to a boil.  Continue to boil hard stirring often.
Skim off foam as it appears.
Boil hard (spitting hard) until the temperature of the jam reaches 220 degrees F. (about 30-40 minutes)
Check to see if jam is ready by dripping a spoonful of jam onto a cold plate.  Let cool.  Jam is done if it sets, forms a skin and wrinkles when touched.
Spoon jam into sterilized jars, leaving a 1/2 inch of headroom.  Clean off rim, cover and screw on ring.
Process in boiling water bath for 10 - 15 minutes.
Remove from water bath and allow to cool.  Lids should make a ping noise in just a few minutes sealing the jar.
Allow to sit undisturbed for 12 hours.  Store in a cool dark place.  Unopened jam should keep for about a year.

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