At the grocery store you’ll pay $3.00 to $4.00 for a 8 oz. jar of strawberry jam. Go to a gourmet store and that same jar will cost upwards of $6.00. How to make strawberry jam is a simple question to answer. It’s fruit and sugar cooked until the natural pectin in the fruit causes it to jell. A homemade jar of strawberry jam costs about $1 to $1.50 and provides a taste of summer.
These days most cooks don’t have the time to stand over a foaming pot of jam stirring for an hour or two. That’s exactly what my grandmother did when I spent the summers with her growing up. My best friend Carol and I would help pick the strawberries, probably eating as many straight off the bush as we put in our baskets.
Mimi, or Meemaw, as my grandfather called her, also made jam out of peaches, elderberries, even fresh ripe tomatoes. Washing the fruit and peeling it in the case of peaches and plums was done right before the jam making began.
Today I have tried making jam without commercial pectin and it can be done, but I cheat a little and go ahead and use the pectin most of the time. It only costs $1.50 to $2.50 and makes the jam making process much easier and faster. The recipe below is for dry pectin. Liquid pectin has a slightly different process and the ration of sugar and fruit differs a bit. Follow the instructions on the package to the letter.
6 cups strawberries, mashed
6 cups sugar
1 box pectin
7 pint jars with flat tops and screw bands, sterilized by boiling the jars in water for 10 minutes and pouring boiling water over the tops and bands.
Use the freshest reddest strawberries. Slice the fruit and mash with a potato masher or fork. Do NOT put in a food processor. You want chunks of fruit.
Measure exactly the amount of sugar called for in a bowl so it is ready. Measure the fruit into a nonreactive saucepan that’s twice the capacity of the fruit and sugar. The mixture will foam up as it cools. Sticky burnt sugar all over the stove is a mess to clean up and could result in serious burns.
Add the powdered pectin to the fruit. Stir constantly over high heat until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil. That means the bubbles can’t be stirred down. Boil for one minute — no longer. Use a watch with a second hand to time it.
Add the sugar all at once. Stir constantly until the mixture comes back to a full rolling boil. Boil for one minute, again timing with the second hand of a watch. Remove from the heat.
Let the jam set in the pot for five minutes. Stirring every 20-30 seconds. This helps the fruit stay suspended in the jam instead of floating to the top.
Ladle into clean sterilized jars. Wipe the top of the jar with a wet paper towel to remove any jam that might interfere with the seal.
Place the flat lid on the jar and screw the screw band firmly down over the flat lid and onto the jar. Tighten the lid but not as hard as you can.
Place the jars in a pot large enough to cover the tops of the jars by 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Truth be told my grandmother never did this and I don’t either. She poured melted hot paraffin wax over the jelly to seal it. I just put on the lid and screw top and turn the jars upside down for five minutes. When they’re right side up again, they’re vacuumed sealed. The USDA recommends the water bath method even for jams and jellies.
You know the jars are sealed when you press down on the lid and it either doesn’t give or it stays down when you push it down. Store any unsealed jars in the fridge for up to six months.