Strawberry Jam and Some Canning Tips

My Opa recently brought me some of his homegrown strawberries. He had so many, he needed to share. I was happy to take them off of his hands.

The beauty of homegrown strawberries is that you can let them ripen on the vine, yielding the reddest, sweetest, most strawberriest berries you’ve ever eaten. The problem with conventionally grown strawberries is that they’re often picked before they’re fully ripe, and are left to ripen off the vine. I mean, they’re fine, but their strawberry essence often hasn’t had time to come to fruition.

When life gives you strawberries — you guessed it — you make strawberry jam.

As you may have noticed, I have been trying to only blog my own recipes. However, canning is not a place to get creative and make your own spin on the recipe, unless you’re a master food preserver.

This might sound a little harsh and rigid, but you’ve got to be very careful when preserving your own food. In fact, failing to do so can even be quite dangerous, with prime growing territory for botulism or E. coli.

Do not let this deter you from preserving your own food at home, though. This is how I make sure what I’m preserving isn’t going to get folks sick, and is going to turn out delicious.

1) Use recipes from well-known, well-tested and trusted sources. These can come from canning goods companies such as Ball, or even from knowledgeable bloggers such as Food in Jars. If you’re new to canning, go for more comprehensive recipes, which describe everything in a clear step-by-step form. This will better familiarize you with the process of canning and help ensure that you follow the correct methods.

2) Right before you begin canning, sterilize your jars, bands and lids in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and turn over on a clean towel to dry. Leave them there until you are ready to fill them. This is a super important step to make sure your canning receptacles are free of bacteria that can grow in your preserves. Never re-use lids.

3) Have everything ready before you start the process. This includes your clean and ready jars, lids and bands, funnel, boiling water bath, simmering water for the lids, jar removers and rack. I like to pre-measure out the prepared fruit, sugar, pectin, etc. and have it waiting and ready for the pot. Because the canning process can happen kind of fast once it gets started, this is helpful and reduces errors and stress.

This all might sound like a lot of work and headache, but I promise, once you do it a couple of times, you’ve got it down. It’s pretty much the same process every time. If you’re crazy, you can even can hundreds of jars in one day like I did for our wedding (although I don’t recommend it).

It also might sound expensive. And it is, the first time you do it. If you don’t have any of the supplies, the cost of home preserving is obviously more than just going to the store and buying some pickles or jam. However, once you buy the supplies, you have them for all your future canning endeavors. You can also re-use the jars and bands (provided they’re still in good shape) once you’ve eaten whatever you preserved.

Another tip, and this may seem like an obvious one, but be sure to buy your fruits or vegetables when they are fresh and in season. Out of season produce is expensive and often low-quality. Look for local, peak of season produce to save money and to ensure your canned goods will be as delicious as possible.

So get preserving, and let me know what you tried and how it turned out!

If I can do it, you can do it. Really.

Strawberry Jam
By Ball

Makes about 8 (8 oz.) half pints

5 cups crushed strawberries (about 5 lbs)
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 Tbsp Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin
7 cups granulated sugar
8 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

Combine strawberries and lemon juice in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.

Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

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