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. :)
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).
I didn't have to heat the rings, but I didn't realize that at the time.
Now for the mashing of the strawberries:
My potato masher looks like it's from Mars...but it did the job.
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.
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.
|My hot water bath at work|
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. :)
|Aren't they beautiful?|
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 out...it was perfectly sweet.
Here are some cute labels that I've used for my jars of jam: Free Canning Labels from Marnie MacLean.
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