July 8, 2012

Making and Canning Strawberry Jam

**Here’s what I’ve learned through the years about canning jam (still learning)...you can always google it to help you prepare (I visited many sites over the years to help me prepare).  It is a little overwhelming at first, but it becomes second nature and is very manageable, especially if you have multiple people helping out.  The first year, I definitely felt like it was a little much--the past two years have been a lot smoother so don’t give up!  :)
Canning Needs:
Water Bath Canner
Canning tools kit (his tools like a funnel, headspace measurer, tongs to transport hot jars to and from water bath, magnetic stick to pick up lids so you do not touch--touching can cause bacteria to be inside the jar)
Half pint jam/jelly jars
Lids and rings for the jars (you can reuse the rings, but lids must be brand new and not reused--this is what seals the jars.  Most jars also come with labels for when you are finished.
Hot, clean rag to wipe the rim of the jar once it is fill.  You want to wipe around the rim several times after you fill the jar with jam and before placing the lid on the top--this helps it seal. 
Fresh strawberries that are in season--waiting too long after you have picked them will not make for good jam.
NOTE: To can, all jars must be sterilized in hot water--preferably run through the dishwasher and then just keep in the dishwasher until you are going to fill them and then process them in the water bath.  You do not want to fill jars that are not hot/warm.  Same with the lids.  We usually have a small pot of hot water on very low with the lids soaking in them so they stay sterilized and hot for when you are ready to use them.  The rings do not need to be sterilized--they just keep the lid on and make the jar look nice.  The tools above are a lifesaver, so I highly recommend buying them.  Walmart is your best bet for all of the supplies.  They usually have a canning section.  When in doubt, be overly concerned with cleanliness so that you don’t get bacteria in your jam.
Here’s the recipe:
--2 Quarts strawberries--crush 1 layer at a time (if you have a food processor, just pulse several times depending on how chunky you want the jam--very simple!)
--7 cups of sugar
*NOTE--we started weighing the strawberries and sugar and have figured that it takes equal parts strawberries and sugar if you want to go that route.  Weighing has been much easier for us.  If you want to use the recipe by weight, it takes 3 lb. 4 oz of strawberries and 3 lb. 4 oz. of sugar.
--1 package of powdered pectin (we have tried the liquid pectin and DID NOT like the results)
--1/4 cup of lemon juice
  1. Combine strawberries, powdered pectin, and lemon juice in a large stock pot.  DO NOT ADD SUGAR YET :)  We use a deep, stock pot because when you do add the sugar, the mixture can really rise fast and you risk it spilling over the sides.
  2. Bring the mixture to a good boil, stirring occasionally.  Then, add sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Return to a rolling boil.  
  3. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from heat.  Skim the foam off of the top.  
  5. Ladle the hot jam into hot jars (the funnel really comes in handy here), leaving a 1/4 inch headspace (measure using the tool in your kit).
  6. Wipe the rim of the jar several times with a clean, hot rag.
  7. Use the magnetic stick to grab a lid from your pot of hot water and place lid on top.  Adjust ring around the jar.
  8. Use your tongs from the kit to transport the jars to the boiling water canner (make sure the water is boiling before you start timing).  Process jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.  We can usually fit around 7 of the half pint jars in the canner at a time.  Make sure the jars do not touch each other and are on the rack that comes with the canner so they do not sit on the bottom in the canner and make sure there is plenty of water above the jars (as you continue, you may need to add more water to the water bath so that this is possible).  You want the boiling water to be able to circulate all around the jars. 
  9. When the 10 minutes are up, use the tongs to carefully lift jars out of water and unto a steady, flat surface.  We put down a bath towel for the jars to sit on.  After a little bit of time, you should hear the jars start to “PING.”  This means the jars have sealed.  You may not hear the ping for all of the jars.  A way to test if the jars sealed is to push down on the center of the lid.  If it doesn’t pop up, you know it sealed properly.  If it does make a pop sound, you can still use the jam, but it must be refrigerated and used sooner.  Jars that are sealed can be stored on a shelf and then refrigerated after opening. 
  10. TIP--collect the extra bit of syrup from each batch in a bowl to use later over the top of ice cream or to blend with ice cream and milk for a to-die-for strawberry shake.  This won’t be canned, so you just have to refrigerate it and need to use it within a week.
RECIPE YIELDS ABOUT 8 HALF PINT JARS (for us, slightly more for some reason).  We also like to fill the cute, little jars to give as gifts.

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