We Be Jammin’

Jam Header

words & Images: Catherine Frederick

 

I figure canning must be somewhere in my genetic make-up. My grandma used to can everything under the sun and stack it up on tall, green metal shelves which lined the walls of her laundry room. She’d have row after row of Mason jars with everything from spicy peppers to relish to jams and jellies. What she didn’t can, she bagged up and popped in the deep freeze. That thing was so big she could have fit a whole cow in there. Nothing went to waste.

If you ask me, preserving fruits and vegetables is a dying art. I was sitting outside with a neighbor while I capped strawberries, and there happened to be several girls over for a swim party. They took one look at the berries and thought they were ready to eat. I explained these berries were for canning. A few quizzical looks later, one of the girls said, “You make your own jelly?” “Yes,”I answered. Silence. Then, “Cool.” Cool is right — especially when you know all that goodness was homegrown, handpicked and homemade.

If you didn’t make it out to pick your own berries this year, don’t fret; store-bought berries are just fine. Canning kits are readily available, too. I’m all about making things cute, so I grabbed some jar tags and fabric squares to decorate my jar lids. Don’t be greedy — share your jam with friends and family. I guarantee it will make them happy and it could just make you famous around your neighborhood. What are you waiting for? Start jamming — just don’t forget the butter and biscuits!

Supplies
Large canning pot
Tongs
12 – 8oz. Mason jars with lids and screw rings (I love the quilted jelly jars)
Wide-mouth funnel
Canning rack to go inside the pot

Ingredients
7 cups mashed strawberries (5 pints)
9 cups sugar (more to taste)
6 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained
1 – 49g package fruit pectin

 

Method

Fill canning pot and a saucepan each ¾ full of water and bring both to a simmer. Submerge jars in the canning pot and add center lids to the saucepan. Leave the jars and lids in the water while you prepare the jam. Wash and cap strawberries, then pour them onto a large baking sheet. Mash them with a potato masher, but leave large, visible chunks. Add 7 ½ cups of strawberries to a large pot. Pour in the fresh lemon juice, stir, then bring to a boil over high heat. Add in the fruit pectin, stir, then add your sugar. Taste the mixture and add more sugar if you think it needs it. Bring the mixture to a hard boil — meaning you can’t stir the boiling down. Let the mix remain at a hard boil for about a minute and a half. Turn off the heat and skim the foam off the top, discard. (TIP — add ¼ teaspoon of butter to the mixture to reduce foaming).

Remove jars one at a time from the hot water. Place your funnel in the first jar and use a measuring cup to pour the jam into the jar. Stop when the jam is ¼ inch from the top. Use a damp cloth and wipe off any sticky residue from the jar. Slide a knife around the inside of the jar to remove any air pockets. Place a center lid on top of the jar and screw on a ring. Don’t over-tighten. Repeat until all the jars are full. You may have a little extra jam in the pot — don’t be afraid to scoop up a big ole spoonful and eat it. No one’s looking!

Turn up the heat on the large pot of water. When boiling, add all of the filled jars and let boil for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the jars in the pot for 15 minutes more. Remove the jars and let stand on the counter for 24 hours — you might hear the lids popping — that’s a good thing! After 24 hours, check the jar seals. Remove the rings gently and press your finger in the center of each jar. There should be no give to the center lid when depressed. If any of the jars did not seal, simply store them in your fridge. Refrigerate jam after opening.

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