Strawberry jam is both simple and tricky. This recipe uses just a handful of ingredients: fresh strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, balsamic vinegar and pectin. This was my first attempt at making jam, and even though it wasn't perfect, it was definitely strawberry jam.
Although this was my first attempt at making strawberry jam myself, I grew up in a household where preserving strawberries was a yearly tradition. My mom, dad, older sister and I would go to Prairieville to my cousin Jateaux's farm and pick strawberries. We would have crates and crates full of strawberries, and that evening, after eating all of the fresh strawberries my little girl's body could possibly consume, my parent's stood over large pots in the kitchen, stirring and jarring. And we'd have homemade strawberry preserves that lasted for months. Of course, these preserves were shared with friends and family as well, and my teachers always got a jar during teacher appreciation week, complete with a special cross-stitched picture and message, done by hand by my crafty mother. And once the jars were empty, they'd end up in our kitchen cabinets until the next late spring when strawberries were in season. But parents divorce and family traditions end. It's been over 20 years since I was in a kitchen with strawberries simmering on a stove next to a pot full of simmering glass jars.
Living in New York has made me a fresh fruit hoarder. When I see ripe, gorgeous berries, I buy them. And what I've been seeing is fresh strawberries. Bushels and bushels of fresh strawberries. Living in New York has taught me to appreciate fresh fruit since the fruit-growing season here is so short, and fruit shipped from far away isn't the same as strawberries ripened outside in the Louisiana sun on my now-98-year-old cousin's farm. (I'm pretty sure the fact that he grew pretty much everything he ate, and farmed the land well into his 90s is a significant contributor to his longevity.)
When I found myself with a few pounds of fresh strawberries earlier this week, I decided to reignite a family tradition and make strawberry preserves. As much as I love chunky preserves where I can sink my teeth into the fleshy fruit, I knew I wanted to make something more akin to "jam" so that I could use it as filling for homemade pop tarts, something that has been on my to-make list for quite some time. So, I crushed the heck out of these berries before cooking them with the other ingredients. Plus, I thought balsamic vinegar would be great to add acidity since the happy marriage of strawberries and balsamic vinegar was still on my mind after the strawberry caprese salad I made last week.
So, I will share my experience, but please note that preserving fresh fruit can be tricky. And if you do something incorrectly, your goods may become contaminated and you will get sick. So, do your research and read to make sure that you do this correctly! I recommend you reading this "canning 101" guide.
- 5 cups of crushed strawberries (measure once the strawberries are already crushed and include their liquid)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons powdered pectin
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 6 8-ounce preserving jars with lids and bands
- Wash the lids and bands with warm soapy water and dry thoroughly.
- Prepare the strawberries by hulling them, halving them, and crushing them. Measure out 5 cups of the crushed berries, with their juices.
- Heat jars in a large pot in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. (The glass jars should be very hot when you pour the cooked berries in so that the jars don't break.)
- Place the crushed berries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and stir. Gradually stir in pectin. (If you add the pectin too quickly, it will form clumps.) Increase the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, so high that the boil is undisturbed, even with stirring. Stir constantly.
- Add the sugar all at once and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
- Skim foam from the top. Remove the jars from the simmering water.
- Pour the hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space from the top rim of the jar. Wipe the rim in case any jam got on it. Center the lid on jar. Carefully screw the band on, but don't screw it on too tight.
- Add the jars to the large pot, standing upright. Pour water until the tops of the jars are covered by a couple of inches. Increase heat and boil for 10 minutes.
- Remove jars and carefully tighten the bands. Allow to cool at room temperature for 24 hours.
- *After 24 hours, press the center of the lid. It should not yield to the pressure. If it makes a popping sound, the lid isn't tight and that jar should be stored in the refrigerator and used first.
Recipe adapted from FreshPreserving