A ‘Stick to your ribs’ Strawberry Jam!
I have the ambition of creating a line of specialty jams. My goal is to have them ready to go next summer – off to the Farmer’s Market! And beyond, the idea of small tea shop is loitering in my brain – with Afternoon Tea served, of course.
There is one snafu in that I am not an experienced jam-maker. But that’s semi-easily overcome with practice and patience. And so the journey begins with this basic Strawberry Jam.
I wanted to begin with something very minimal without any fancy business in the way of added fruit, herbs, liqueur etc.
So, the other day I went to the library and checked out four books on canning. I went through each, along with the ones I own. All of them had a basic Strawberry Jam recipe, and each was similar. I decided to go with the ‘small batch’ recipe.
My reason for this was threefold
One, there are only two people in our house most of the time. Two, it can get expensive buying a bunch of fruit and liquid pectin (which is what this recipe called for, more later). And three – because I’m experimenting. Meaning, I’m going to screw up a bit. Why make jars and jars of something when you’re not sure it’s going to turn out?
Strawberry Jam – Was it a success?
Well, it tasted pretty good.
It had the concentrated sweetness of those fruit roll-ups that you probably had when you were a kid. At the same time, it tasted strongly of the berries.
But – my god, it was THICK.
I think the recipe called for too much pectin. Liquid pectin was used, as opposed to powdered or natural, and as I was putting it in, it seemed excessive.
I went back and read the recipes that were included in the Certo Pectin package; for the same sugar ratio etc, they were instructing the use of only half of what my recipe called for. I don’t know if I mis-understood the way the recipe was written or if it was mistake. Either way – it was thiiiiiiick. I actually had to re-heat it a bit to make it spreadable on toast.
If you take a look at the first photo with the jam hanging off the spoon, you’ll see how thick it is. I actually moved that spoon and jam jar (with the jam on it) to several spots around my kitchen to get the best light. After 10 minutes, it still hadn’t dropped from its perch.
In case you’re wondering why the the jam is in a recycled Bonne Maman jar, it’s because I bottled some of the jam, rather than canned it, to save on jars.
Other than being way too dense, I didn’t have a lot of issues. I have canned a bit before, so I didn’t have the first time jitters of hot water processing.
The key to canning, in my relatively ‘new to the scene’ opinion, is organization. Having equipment at the ready – utensils, funnel, jars, etc – sterilized or in the process of. So, when your jam is ready, it’s as easy as filling the jars, screwing the lids on, and putting them in the water to process.
But I did have two little issues.
One, and this is pretty embarrassing, I used the wrong end of the jar tongs to retrieve the jars. I mean, I got one out, but it was slipping. You really don’t want to have a jar drop back into a vat of boiling water and splash up. I turned to my husband and I was like, “I think it’s because I’m too short and I don’t have a good bird’s eye view into the pot.”
My husband who has zero experience canning, gave me an eye roll.
“You’re using them upside down,” he said.
And then he proceeded to school me on the way of the jam tong.
However, his smug attitude was cut short when he picked them up the right way, and burnt his fingers. After all, that end had just been in boiling water. It looked like it kinda hurt so I didn’t laugh, but I wanted to.
The other issue also had to do with basic canning tools.
It was the jar rack. It took me five minutes of viewing hard-to-see images of canning racks beneath boiling water to realize you just set it on the bottom and leave it. For some reason, I thought it folded up to create a little stand.
Lesson: Don’t overthink things.
In the end, I bottled two jars and stuck them in the fridge to be used in the next week for various recipes, and the others I processed via the hot water bath.
The Sweet Sound of the ‘Ping’!
Once the ten-minute timer went off, signifying the end of the boiling, I removed them and screwed the lids on. Within thirty minutes I heard the ‘ping’ that tells you they’re sealing. I left them to talk amongst themselves for the next 12 hours, as the recipe directed. The next day, I did a final check by unscrewing the outer ring, and holding the jar by the lid rim.
Success. The jars did not drop out from beneath; and very neatly sealed they were!
So, that was the day. The End. Well, almost.
This week I’ll be using the jam in various recipes….because you know – Jam, it’s not just for toast.
But I’ll leave this post with one final image…
The result of hulling berries…pruned fingers.
Until next time….