Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Which I Can My 1st Jar of Jam {Try New Adventures Thursday!}

Our local u-pick strawberry field opened last week. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself and made a trip to the field the very day they opened.

Strawberry field

Andrew watched Squishy, and I had some quiet moments alone, picking the ruby berries. My first time strawberry picking (and #8 is now crossed off of my 27 in my 27th list!).


I picked 14 lbs in around 30 minutes. :)

Fresh-picked Strawberries (March 22)

They were sweet and delicious. And HUGE.

I have been waiting eagerly for strawberry season. To the point that I had stopped buying strawberry jam until I could make my own (is it just me, or does good jam rarely go on sale?). I've been eager to can my own jam because:

1) I have limited freezer space, so jam that could be stored in the cabinet would be helpful.
2) Have you looked at the ingredients in store-bought jam lately? Many of them contain high fructose corn syrup. Our favorite store-brand jam is Smucker's Low Sugar, because it actually contains real sugar, but not as much as normal jam (I think the low sugar jam tastes better!).
3) Canning sounds cool and old-fashioned and I was curious to see if I could pull it off.

The Pioneer Woman walked me through the process with her two awesome tutorials on canning--Canning 101 and Strawberry Jam and Strawberry Jam Part II. I love the Pioneer Woman. I used the Ball recipe for low sugar jam instead of Ree's recipe (which called for 7 cups of sugar...holy cow!), but her posts walked me through the technical steps, which was so helpful.

Also, I bought all of my supplies at Wal-Mart. A large canning pot with a rack, a package of no/low sugar pectin, a package of canning utensils (tongs, magnetic wand, head-space measurer-thingy), and 12 8 oz canning jars.

Want to see how it went for me? 

1st, I washed, hulled, and sliced the strawberries (around 5 cups worth, 4 cups once it was mashed).

Then I heated the water and my freshly washed Ball jars in my newly purchased canning pot. The lids I heated in a separate pot. Just to a slight simmer, not boiling (which could mess up the sealing part of the lids).

Heating the jars

Heating the lids

I didn't have to heat the rings, but I didn't realize that at the time.

Now for the mashing of the strawberries:

Mashing strawberries

My potato masher looks like it's from Mars...but it did the job.

Mashed strawberries

Looking at these pictures is making me hungry for strawberries.

Now it's time to get cooking! I dumped the 4 cups of mashed strawberries into a large pot on the stove, and mixed in the package of pectin. I used Ball No Sugar Pectin (which can also be used for low sugar jam, which is what I'm going for). After whisking together the strawberries and the pectin, I also added a TBSP of lemon juice and a small pat of butter (to reduce the foam that occurs when you boil the strawberries).


After this point, things started going more quickly, and I neglected to get pictures of each step. It was my 1st time and I didn't want to mess it up!

After bringing the strawberry/pectin mixture to a rolling boil, it's time to add the sugar. For my 4 cups of mashed berries, I added 2 cups of sugar.

Making the Jam

Then I brought the jam to a rolling boil once more and stirred it as it boiled for just over a minute. Then I turned off the heat.

I skimmed the foam off the top of the jam (there wasn't much!). Then I proceeded to lift one jar at a time out of the hot water bath--emptying it of water and using a wide-mouthed funnel to fill it with jam (with 1/4 inch of headspace at the top).

Then you have to wipe the top of the jar with a clean, damp cloth--making sure there's no stray jam along the rim that would prevent the lids from sealing properly (a very important point!). It pays to be meticulous here.

Then twist on the ring part of the lid, until you just begin to feel resistance (don't tighten it all the way!). Repeat this process with each of your jars (I filled 5 8 oz jars).

Using my tongs, I then placed each jar in the almost-boiling hot water bath. There should be 1-2 inches of water covering the jars. Place the lid on top, and boil (a strong boil!) for 10-11 minutes.

The Hot Water Bath At Work
My hot water bath at work
After 10-11 minutes, remove the lid and turn the heat off. Leave the jars in the hot water for an additional five minutes. This helps equalize the pressure in the jars (or so I'm told).

Then, ever so carefully, lift each jar out of the water and set them gently on the countertop. Leave the jars undisturbed for the next 24 hours. In the next few minutes (or hours) the jars will start to seal and you will hear this lovely popping sound that means you have been successful in your canning endeavor. :)

Waiting for the "pop"
Aren't they beautiful?
I must say, waiting for the jars to seal was extremely difficult for my impatient self. And in fact, I only heard one lid seal with my 1st batch...but after 12 hours or so, I could tell that all five jars had sealed. After 24 hours, you can press on the lid--If it has properly sealed you shouldn't feel any give.

The next day, I did another batch of 5 jars, and 2 of them did not seal. If any of your jars don't seal, you can either reprocess them (change out the lid and boil in the hot water bath again) or simply stick the jar in the fridge and eat it. :) I reprocessed my 2 wayward jars, and they both sealed promptly moments after I pulled them out of the hot water.

My conclusion about canning? Canning is not difficult, it just takes time and some precision. And it makes lots of dirty dishes. But I love it! Now I'm scheming about all the wonderful things I can preserve....blueberry season is not far away.

When I get a moment (it's taken me forever to write this post), I'm going to add the written recipe for the strawberry jam and a printable version.

Oh, and did I mention that the jam tastes AWESOME!? We definitely did not miss the 5 cups of sugar I left was perfectly sweet.

Here are some cute labels that I've used for my jars of jam:  Free Canning Labels from Marnie MacLean.

I would love to hear from you--do you have experience canning? Do you have any awesome recipes to share with me? Does anyone in your family can (no one in mine does!)?

It's Try New New Adventures Thursday, so link up your adventure-ful blog post below, link back to Alicia's Homemaking, and visit some other blogger's links! :) Our hashtag on twitter is #TryNewAdventures.

Linked to Tasty Tuesday and Homemaking Link-Up.


  1. Oh, yum! I've always wanted to make jam and can. I have plenty of freezer space, so I always assumed I'd make freezer jam because canning seemed so complex. Now I think I'll try canning. It seems so classically domestic! Congrats on crossing one more off your 27 list!

  2. I'm so glad to hear that you can can low sugar jam. I guess I've never tasted low sugar canned, so I might like it after all :P After having your homemade, you probably won't want to go back to store-bought! I think my favorite part of canning is seeing the sealed jars and clean and sparkly and PRETTY! The labor part is not my favorite by far, but the benefits FAR outweigh the cost!!

  3. So proud of you for trying this! It is such an overwhelming process before you start, but once you get going at it and learn how to do it, it really isn't that bad (except for all the dishes, I totally agree there). I wish I had the time to can items and would love to make strawberry jam this summer. Plus it was fun to see your pictures of the strawberry patch. We still have a lot of snow on the ground in WI so my small backyard patch is still covered with the snow but I can hardly contain my excitement for when I see the first blossoms!

  4. That looks SO good! I may have to try this myself.

  5. Is it wrong that I'm a little jealous? ;) I mean, mostly jealous that I want canning supplies, not that you have them. Where did you get all your supplies?

    I love strawberry u-picks! My mom, sister and I went to one when I was in jr high, and then canned all our goodies. I took Julia to one before Hannah was born and she was like a kid in a candy store {because she was allowed to eat as many as she wanted - not sure the owner realized how much she could eat when he told her that!}.

  6. Sarah, I got all of my supplies at Wal-Mart...sorry I forgot to mention that...I just added it into my post. It cost around $35, which seems like a lot, but from now on, all I'll have to buy is the pectin, strawberries, and new lids. :) So I'd say it's a good investment. :)

  7. Those strawberries look amazing and the field and time alone sounds DELIGHTFUL! I haven't picked strawberries since I was a child, but I have made jam out of the figs in our backyard using the same process as you.

  8. Wow, way to go Alicia this sounds so fun and tasty. I'm worried I wouldn't have the patience or persistance to follow through. But the reward just might lead me to try during blackberry season!

    Also, these photos are amazing!

  9. I am going to have to do this! I am always so conservative when it comes to trying new things. Our son is allergic to corn so it makes it difficult to find things at the grocery and this would be just perfect for him! I just made my first homemade apple pie, lol! Great job!

  10. Autumn, that's AWESOME! Wow...isn't it amazing how much stuff has corn in it at the grocery store? I have a friend whose husband is allergic to corn, so she pretty much makes everything at home because of it.

    Katie....ooooh, blackberries! *exciting*

    Messy Mom--we used to have a fig tree in our back yard!

    Miriam--yes! Low sugar jam is where it's at. :)

  11. I love canning applesauce in the fall. We go to a local orchard and then spend the next few days making homemade applesauce that lasts us all year! Plus, I do it with my "granny-in-law" so it's a bonding experience. I wrote about it here,

  12. I forgot to say that we made apple jelly (really easy!) and apple pie fillings, too.

  13. Your jam looks awesome. I bet it is so delicious. I have been making jam for about 10 years now and there is just no comparison in flavor! I use way less sugar also. You are so right you can't even tell especially using such sweet ripe berries.We have a pear tree close by and I tried my hand at making pear jam and butter this past year. They turned out great and look forward to making more this year.Would love for you to drop by my blog sometime.

  14. What a fun adventure! Love strawberries!

  15. You are living my dream! The kids and I have been strawberry picking once. Hopefully we can do it again this year, but it can't happen until the berries here grow and ripen in June.

    Did you take Squishy along? I would be surprised if you managed to pick 14 pounds with a toddler in tow...

  16. Oops, on my first scroll down I guessed I missed where you said Andrew watched Squishy. =) Glad you had a chance to focus on those beautiful berries!

  17. I canned for the first time last summer and can hardly wait to start canning again! Blackberry jam was my first jam and then I made lots of salsa. I'm hoping to do both again, and can some applesauce. Congrats to you on your first canning success!

  18. LOVED this post! I loved seeing how it was made, and your pictures are amazing!!

  19. My mom used to can peaches, apricots, applesauce and sometimes salmon (we grew up on the west coast). It was great to have available however we used to spend weeks in the summer doing all the monotonous prep work while my mom did the canning. It totally turned me off ever doing it and I've avoided it like the plague however my sister cans quite often and enjoys it.

  20. It's fun isn't it! I canned jam for the first time last year. Although I canned every summer with my mother growing up. I have a couple tips if you don't mind. I never heard about letting the jar sit another five minutes after processing, but when you pull the jars out tighten your lids and then cover with a towel. That will help to seal better and faster. Place a towel over the jars so they cool down slowly, you can remove it in about 20 minutes. I made blackberry, raspberry and strawberry last year and I am sad to say I am on the last jar - come on berry season (Ohio).

  21. I love canning homemade jam!! I don't think I did it right though. I used mason jars but didn't do the whole process to make them airtight. That would probably be better next time!! I will have to try this summer!

  22. Alicia - I just had my first u-pick strawberry experience this week, (pictures on my blog and just received my canning kit in the mail as well! :-) (I had to buy a smaller one that fits in a regular stockpot b/c I have a glasstop stove that can't support the weight of a full regular canner.) I'm looking forward to doing a small batch of strawberry jam later this week, I think, and posting about it on my blog sometime shortly thereafter, if I can dig out from under the laundry pile! :) Thanks for sharing your experience, and I'll head over to PW to check out her process as well.

  23. Looks delicious! When we got married 2 1/2 years ago, I asked for a pressure canner...and received one. But it has remained in its box ever since. This summer we are growing a large garden and I can't wait to try it out- though I'm totally scared!

  24. Boy those strawberries look good! I'll be trying my hand at canning this year to, thanks for the encouragement that it's not that difficult at all.

  25. I am a canner too! Strawberries aren't quite ready here yet, but when they are it is quite fun!! I love doing new combos like strawberry lemon and strawberry lavender! Cheers to your new skill!

  26. I love love LOVE homemade jam! I usually do freezer jam but I don't really have the freezer space for that either so it's a pretty big treat!

  27. Hi Alicia! Thanks for making canning seem possible! I have several fruit trees in my yard and I hope to giving canning a try later this summer. I will refer back to this post for sure. Great info with yummy looking results!

  28. SO stinkin' jealous of your strawberries!!!!! I want some. :)

  29. Mmmmm! These pictures are good enough to eat! I bet you get more than a person or two to try this :).

    (Just home from a day out since I last tweeted, stumbling your yummy post RIGHT NOW!! So glad you shared it!!)



I love your comments. :) I know your time is precious, so I appreciate the time you spend reading and giving feedback.

Please be respectful of others and kind with your words.