Do you remember all these strawberries that we picked at the Berry Patch? As the strawberry juices began to flow, so did the juices in mind. What could we make? Strawberry Pie.... ? Strawberry Ice Cream.....? Strawberry Smoothies....? Strawberry Muffins......? The possibilities seemed endless. So much deliciousness lay ahead. Finally, I decided to start with strawberry jam.
Just as I had never been berry picking before, I have also never made jam before. Somehow, anything related to canning just seemed too scary. I don't know if it's the hot liquid or the tongs or the fact that if something goes wrong I might inadvertently send someone to the hospital with food poisoning, but the images in my mind have always loomed greater than the desire to tackle my fear.
Until now. Until now when I realized that it is possible to make delicious strawberry jam without the canning process!
The first thing one must do is clean all the strawberries. Don't let those big beauties at Costco fool you. Strawberries grow very low to the ground and collect on them lots and lots of dirt! A good soaking in a bowl of water is a great start. I was amazed at how dark the wash water of hand picked strawberries became!
Take the stems off and admire your work as your freshly washed berries glisten in the sun.
Next, get out your grandma's potato masher and mash four cups of berries. It's OK to share the fun.
Leave some chunks for good measure. After all, this is JAM, not JELLY!
Next, add four cups of sugar.
Mix until the sugar dissolves.
Add 5 Tablespoons of Fruit Pectin and the juice of one lemon.
Bring Mixture to a rapid boil for 10 - 15 minutes or until the jam reaches the "Gel" stage.
This is the tricky part. What is a "Gel Stage" anyway?
After a quick call to Aunt Margie, the expert jam maker, I learned that the mixture should stick to the back side of metal spoon. Or, put a spoonful in a chilled bowl and see if it has thickened as desired. Obviously, this is a skill that develops with experience. When in doubt, go with the 15 minutes. Cooked jam will deepen in color and, without canning, should be stored in the fridge.
Easy Strawberry Jam
4 cups cleaned, fresh strawberries
4 cups sugar
5 Tablespoons fruit pectin
Juice of one lemon
Mash the strawberries. Leave some lumps. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add lemon juice and fruit pectin. Boil for 10 - 15 minutes or until the jam reaches the "gel" stage. Pour into five 1/2 pint jars. Refrigerate until ready to use.
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