Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fresh Strawberry Jam

Strawberries are by far my favorite summer fruit. I guess that is why I have worked so very hard over the last ten years to keep a productive strawberry patch in my yard. I need me my summer strawberry shortcake.

Also, there is nothing better for starting my day then a bowl of fresh-picked berries on a summer morning.

I've been making strawberry jam pretty much all my life. I started canning fruits and making jams as a young wife of nineteen. In the olden days I made jam with the only pectin available- Sure Jell- which required pounds and pounds of sugar to be added to the fruit for it to set into jam. The only way to avoid using so much sugar and consequently muting the fresh taste of the fruit was to make freezer jam.

Years ago I discovered another pectin product at a health food store. I have used it exclusively since then and love to tell everyone about it. It is by far the best pectin for making the most delicious jams and jellies. It is called Pomona's Univeral Pectin and since I first found it, it has become more widely available. Let me count the ways that Pomona's is the best pectin in the universe.

*One box of pectin, though costing slightly more than a box of that "other brand" will make at least four batches of jam, which makes it actually less expensive then one batch boxes of the other stuff.

*Pomona's is a natural citrus pectin and I really like that!

*With Pomona's Universal Pectin, I can use little or no sugar in my jam. An all-fruit jam tastes like....fruit!...fresh from the garden and is healthier for my family. I can also opt to use honey or other sweeteners then cane sugar.

*Pomona's is so easy to use and completely fool proof. I can easily quadruple my batch of jam and play with the recipe all I want and it will always come out right. I've never had a jam not set.

Lately, I've been so busy baking cakes and cookies that I really don't have time to make jam and mess up my kitchen with pots and kettles and measuring cups of sticky strawberry juice. Now that I have Pomona's in my life, I can make one huge batch of jam and get it done in less than an hour. Here's how I did it recently-

I started by using my food processor to puree the strawberries and measure them into a kettle. I used sixteen cups of pureed berries which was a quadruple recipe.

(Here I must extend an apology for the following photographs. My camera was not focusing properly but of course, I did not know that until I looked at them on the computer today. I guess I will have to employ my son to do all the photography for this blog. Right Kris?)
I added four teaspoons of calcium water to the berries in the pot. This is included with the pectin and facilitates the jelling of the jam.

This is the Pomona's Pectin. I bought a 1/2 pound bulk box two years ago and I'm still using it. It lasts forever. I measured the proper amount of pectin in the sugar. For the sixteen cups of berries I used all of two cups of sugar! I could have used more or less and it wouldn't change the outcome of the setting of the jam. As I recall, when I used Sure-Jell back in the day, I was always appalled that I would have to use most of a five pound bag of sugar for this much jam. If I altered the recipe at all, using less sugar, the jam would not set.

I always add a dollop of butter to my jam pot. It keeps the jam from foaming on top. I never skim my jam anymore because there won't be much to skim with the butter and- because I'm lazy.

After the berries come to a boil I add the sugar/pectin mixture.

I bring it back to a boil and then the jam is done!
I ladle the jam into jars that I sterilize in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes.

I also boil the caps for the jars which not only sterilizes them but softens the rubber on the caps so that they will seal readily.

Processing the jars to seal them only requires five minutes in a boiling water bath. Since I didn't want to haul out the canner and boil all that water for one batch of jam, I have found that I can accomplish the same thing this way. Using hot jars, hot lids and hot jam, I can flip the jars over for five to ten minutes on the countertop. After turning them back upright, the lids will seal just as if they had been in a water bath. This method can only be used for high acid products that require little sealing time like jams, jellies and juices.

Now I can enjoy the fresh taste of my summer strawberries in the dead of a gloomy dark Oregon winter.

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