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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Strawberry Jam


Well, goodness, it has been a long time! I've got no excuses; I just have been doing other things. But I still cook and I still love developing new recipes. Some day, I'll start posting all the wonderful concoctions I've come up with in the last couple years. 

One of the things I have been working on for years now is strawberry jam. I can't tell you how many batches I have made that I was so unhappy with I couldn't hardly even eat them. Firstly, I am a hardcore strawberry jam snob. I do not care for the taste of overly cooked strawberries, and most strawberry jams just don't taste fresh. They have a very dull color and are just not that tasty. You would almost have to pay me to eat store bought strawberry jam, for instance. I've mostly stuck with strawberry freezer jam in the last decade, but it's not great for gift giving, honestly. 

So I've been fiddling. My biggest hurdles were: color, fresh taste, and floating fruit. I am so excited to report that I have finally achieved success in all three categories. This jam is perfect. Absolutely perfect. And so easy to make. I use Pomona's pectin which means that I can scale it up or down to use the exact amount of strawberries I have on hand. If you are unfamiliar with Pomona's pectin, I highly recommend it! Since I discovered it last year, it has revolutionized my jam making. But, it's a bit different than traditional pectin, so if you aren't familiar with it, I urge you to read through my first Pomona pectin post which was for Peach Pie Jam.

The trick for keeping the fruit evenly distributed in the jam is to macerate the mashed strawberries in some of the sugar overnight. This allows the water in the strawberries to be partially replaced by sugar, making them a little closer in density to the syrupy jam they'll be sitting in. Look at these jars! The fruit is evenly distributed all the way to the bottom!! Yay!!



The benefit to taking care of the floating fruit problem before the fruit ever hits the pot is that you can cook the jam really fast and maintain that color and flavor quite well! I am suddenly sad that I only made a small batch. I think I might have to go back out to the strawberry fields this week!!

Strawberry Jam
Yield: approx 5 1/2-pints

4 cups hulled, finely chopped, and hand mashed strawberries
4 cups sugar, divided into 1/2, 1/2 c, and 3 c amounts
2 tsp Pomona's pectin (available on amazon and elsewhere)
2 tsp Calcium water (included with the Pomona's pectin)
1/4 tsp butter, as needed

Prepare your water bath canning gear. If you need instructions on this process, consult my Canning 101 page. Combine the strawberries and 1/2 cup of the sugar, stirring to mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight, up to two days. When ready to make jam, add the strawberries to a minimum 3 qt pot. Add the calcium water and stir. Combine the pectin and 1/2 cup of the sugar; set aside. Bring the strawberries to a boil. Add the pectin/sugar mixture all at once and stir until the jam returns to a boil. Stir for another two minutes to allow all the pectin to dissolve. Add the butter as needed to reduce foaming. Add the last 3 cups of sugar and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Skim and foam and immediately ladle into prepared 1/2-pint jars. Allow 1/4 inch head space. Process for 8 minutes. Allow to sit in the water bath off the heat for five minutes after processing to prevent oozing. Let cool to room temperature before removing bands to dry them for storage.

NOTE 1: Here's another thing I love about Pomona's. Would you rather have a jam that has even less sugar? You can leave out any and all of the last 3 cups of sugar and this recipe should work great. The nice thing about adding it at the end like you do is that you can actually add a bit at a time until you get it to the sweetness you want. Just remember, the longer this jam cooks, the less red and fresh it will end up being.

NOTE 2 (added 5/18/17): I am so in love with this jam that I went and picked another bucket of strawberries and made another batch. These strawberries must have been more ripe as the jam came out a bit cloyingly sweet. It's good, but not quite eat-by-the-spoonful good, so think I'm going to actually reprocess them after adding a little acid. The moral of the story here is to make sure and taste your jam and adjust tartness as necessary. If it comes out too cloying (even in this reduced sugar jam compared to standard pectin jam), just add a little lemon juice or citric acid to taste. 

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