Sunday, June 15

Strawberry Freezer Jam--Just Do It!

This is a project that I've been excited about for a while now.  I spent hours over the winter poring over recipes and instructions for strawberry jam, imagining warm weather and sweet strawberry scents lingering in the air.  I was probably obsessed.

It helped me get through the winter, I tell you.

I originally decided to make a batch of water-bath processed jam and a batch of freezer jam, with the intention of giving some of these away.  I also wanted to see which I liked better--freezer or processed.  However, when I got down my enameled water bath canning pot, I saw, right there on the label, that it said "Not for use on glass/ceramic cooktops".  I wasn't sure why, but after a quick search online, I found the answer--and there were a couple of reasons.  One, the glass cooktops tend to have sensors in the burners that keep them from heating the cooktop surface up too much, which prevents the glass from cracking.  Because of this, the burners will not keep a consistent temperature needed to properly kill any bacteria in the jars.  Second, the enamel pot did not have a smooth, flat bottom--it had concentric inverted rings that extended into the inside bottom of the pot.  Having less surface contact meant an uneven heat, and that's a no-no.  So, sadly, not having all of the equipment to substitute another pot for the enamel one, I decided to just make freezer jam.  Besides, it sounded easier!

After a fun trip to Suter's, the nearest u-pick strawberry patch, I had all of the strawberries I could ever want or need. 
My hubby and I spent a beautiful 70 degree morning picking about 14 pounds of strawberries. 
I really wasn't sure how much to get, and how much jam it would make, so we just picked and picked.  It was a great morning for being outside, and I always love the u-pick fields for fresh fruit.  It's exciting finding the little red berries shining in the sun--like being on a treasure hunt and finding the mother lode. 
They look so good, like little rubies poking out from underneath the leaves. 
I couldn't help but give thanks to God for the beauty of His creation, and the opportunity to enjoy and partake in what He's provided for us to eat.

Once we got our pails home, I gathered my supplies and then I began the tedious task of washing and hulling every. single. strawberry. known. to. man. 
Although, as I was washing them and slicing them, I realized that no two berries were the same, and couldn't help but enjoy the different sizes and shapes.  They were like snowflakes. 

There were tiny ones, uber ones, odd-shaped ones, and ones that looked like several berries had all grown together.  I even found a heart-shaped one.  They all smelled the same, though--delicious!

To my husband--I heart you berry much!

I crushed the berries, a layer at a time, with a potato masher.  It leaves larger chunks of strawberries, but still mashes them well.  I also tried a pastry blender, but didn't like the results quite as much. 

After I accumulated four cups of crushed berries and juice, I added two tablespoons of lemon juice. 
Then I added the 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 3 1/2 tablespoons of instant jam pectin that I had mixed well in a separate bowl, and stirred the mixture constantly for three minutes.  Then it was time for the jars!

After washing the jars, rings and lids, I lined them all up on wax paper on the table (just to protect the table, no other reason for the paper).  Then, using a canning funnel and ladle, I scooped the jam into the jars up to the bottom edge of the funnel.  I consistently got 6 half pint jars with each batch.  I let them sit, uncovered, for 30 minutes to thicken.

After 30 minutes, I couldn't help it--I had to taste my creation.  I loved it!  I spent the rest of the afternoon eating spoonfuls of the jam out of the tester jar while I prepared a total of two dozen half pints of freezer jam.  Easiest jam I ever made!  I already gave three jars to our neighbors.  I hope they like it!

I used one full bucket of berries to get the two dozen jars of jam.  And this is still what was left!
I'm going to try and freeze some of the remaining berries in a syrup mixture which I'll share in another post.  We also plan on eating some berries fresh from the field, too.
What a great day.

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