Although I have two strong rows of strawberry plants this year (second year), they didn't produce enough all at once to support a jam harvest. So, on Friday my Mother (aka: Grandmama), Sister-in-law Tanya and all of the grand kids gathered for our third annual strawberry picking extravaganza.
Ripley was the chief eater in the group and managed to put about ten strawberries into his basket. The rest went into his belly.
Grandmama continued her custom of helping to fill her grandchildren's baskets ... which promptly get consumed. In years past she's likened the experience the feeding baby birds. "Put one in my basket Grandmama. Put one in mine."
Doesn't Rosalie look adorable in her bonnet?
Reese Bow. Another champion consumer.
Benjamin was a great help and managed to fill up 1/2 of a large basket before he decided he'd had enough. Of course there were plenty of strawberries consumed.
Notice Ripley .... CAUGHT, red handed! Quite literally.
I made three different varieties of jam last year. My favorite by far was a recipe adapted from the book How to be a Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson. It has balsamic vinegar in it, which sounds odd, but trust me, it was the best by far. Love. Love. Love. So, I made a truck load. 14 Pounds of strawberries, already hulled, might I add.
Sugar is a very important ingredient for preserving jam. Initially I thought I'd cut back the sugar content, until I learned that the ratio of fruit to sugar is very important. The exciting thing is that Fannie Farmer says that "honey may be substituted for up to one-half the sugar in the recipe". So, one day when I have honey (if the sun ever stays out long enough) I will be able to use some of that! Exciting!
Here is the recipe:
7 lbs. strawberries, hulled
8 Cups sugar
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
Much to my chagrin, I have a ceramic top stove. If you do any serious cooking, please steer away from these. The clean up aspect may be tempting, but at least my circa 2001 version takes much longer than a traditional coil electric stove to heat water. No contest. It's possible they have improved the technology, however, I actually read a warning on my pressure canner that I purchased last year (granted, it looks like a tank) that the weight of it all, plus heat, could crack the ceramic top. Good grief.
In any case, it takes longer than it would otherwise to reach high temperatures. Fannie Farmer says that the "jelling point" for strawberries is 238 degrees. Reaching this temperature will help you to determine if your jam is "ready". For the life of me I couldn't reach this temperature with my ceramic top. I had tinfoil wrapping the pot, the cover on . . . . the highest I could get was 215 degree. Granted, this was a very large batch of jam. Regardless, come to find out, strawberries have a low pectin level so reaching a very firm texture is impossible unless you add in commercial pectin. I am fine with a jam that is less firm than what you'd see in the grocery store.
Here are my jars -- freshly sterilized.
Put your jars in the pot, cover them with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes.
All done. Yum. Yum. Yum.
I didn't sterilize enough jars for all of the jam I had. I was two jars short. So, that jam went into clean jars that I then put into the refrigerator.