This British-American Life in the Kitchen: Strawberry Jam

The Boffin and I don’t do things in half measures.

I said in the past that we have a backyard farm, and we have to preserve the goodness that comes our way.  Our fortune came from our strawberry patch this year.

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This was just 5 pounds worth out of the 20 we used to make our strawberry jam.   I have 47 eight ounce jars sitting on my dining room table.  Do we eat all of that jam? Of course not, every year around the holidays, our friends and family get packages containing our homemade jams, marmalades, herb and spice mixes, and candies. We spend all year using seasonal fruit to can things at the proper time and try to grow or locally source what we need to get the jobs done. We call our enterprise Dynglebury Farm because our senses of humor haven’t evolved beyond a 12-year-old child’s.

Having a garden, sometimes things don’t always go to plan. Last year, grubs attacked our strawberries, but we were able to locally source some organic ones to save the year. Even though he is a chemical engineer, the Boffin’s philosophy when it comes to gardening is to use the least invasive measure to solve the problem. When he researched the grub issue, he understood that grubs sometimes like to set up shop in strawberry patches, and that does not mean they will be back the next year. Lo and behold, this year, we were grub-free without the addition of anything. If you are keen on gardening and want to know more about what he does, the Boffin just started his own blog called Yardinage.

My role is more harvesting and cooking, and I am here to show you how to make and can your own strawberry jam.  You don’t have to grow your own to do this, nor do you have to make the crazy person quantities that we do.  Strawberries are a great fruit to use for your first jam making experience because you don’t have get seeds out of them, and most people like strawberries, if they are not allergic.  Strawberry jam was my first canning recipe too, so I admit I am biased.

What you need:

8 oz of strawberries per 8 oz jar of jam

Canning jars, rings, and lids

I use the Ball’s Low-Sugar or No Sugar Setting Mix with Pectin (Can be ordered on Amazon.co.uk)

Granulated or Turbinado Sugar

Potato Masher

Canning equipment
OK, a lot of people think you have to invest in a huge amount of special equipment to do this. You don’t. Let me tell you what you need.

A nice hefty spoon for putting the jam in the in the jar
A canning funnel
A jar lifter
A magnetic lid lifter

(All of which you can buy at Amazon or your local box/hardware store.)

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From top to bottom, deep spoon for filling jars, jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter
Canning funnel and jar.
Canning funnel and jar.

Now, I bet you are asking, where is that huge pressure cooker thingy, i.e. the canner, that you have to use to process the jars? Nobody expects you to shell out for a huge canner if you are new to this, just want to make small quantities, or if you don’t have the space to store the canner. Here is what you can do. You can use a non-reactive stockpot that is tall enough to cover the top of your jars with at least one inch of water without overflowing when boiling and when a rack is put underneath. You can use a small cake rack to put at the bottom of the pot. Or you can makeshift a rack using cooking twine and canning rings. Just be sure you put the side with the smaller openings up, like so.

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Years of watching Blue Peter paid off for the Boffin.

How It’s Done

1.  Wash and sterilize the jars.  There are a few ways you can do this.  Some people just run them through the sterilize cycle in their dishwasher.  Others boil them in their canner.  I prefer to heat them on a cookie sheet in a 130°C/250°F/Gas Mark 1/2 oven, and I just keep them in there until I am ready to fill them because I am not using the oven for any other part of the process.

2.  Wash, hull, and cut the berries in halves or quarters.  There are also some little things you can do.  Put some dessert spoons in the freezer.  Boil some water then get your canning lids soaking.  Get your the water in your canner/stockpot on to boil.  Be sure you have your above mentioned canning tools ready.

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My work station because cutting and hulling strawberries gets boring.

3.  Place the berries in a nonreactive pot (stainless steel is good) and make sure you have lots of headroom because the mixture will foam and rise when heated.  Mash the berries with a potato masher.  You can keep doing this as the jam heats up because it is easier to mash when the berries are softer.

4.  Mix the pectin with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar and add to the fruit.  (The sugar helps distribute the pectin evenly)  So how much pectin do you need?  Count on about 2/3 tbsp of pectin per 8 oz of strawberries.  Now it may be a different formulation depending on what kind of pectin you use, so I would look at the directions, if you have to get a different brand or different variety of Ball pectin.

5.  Put the mixture on medium heat, and stir until the sugar and pectin is dissolved and distributed.  Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally so the jam doesn’t burn.  When the jam is boiling, add your sugar.  How much?  I can’t tell you because you may want to make a lower-sugar jam.  You may want your teeth to rot out.  Put some in, dissolve it, and taste test when the jam is lukewarm.

6.  When the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture to a boil, and let it boil for one minute.  Immediately remove from heat, and test the jam. How do you do that? Remember when I told you to put a bunch of dessert spoons in the freezer? Get two from the freezer.  Grab a third spoon and spoon some jam out from the pot and place on a cold spoon.  Then transfer back and forth to get the jam to quickly set.  You want to be able to hold the spoon over your head and not have the jam fall off.  If the jam hasn’t set, don’t worry.  Add more pectin, the amount depending on your batch size (1 tbsp per 3 lbs of fruit), bring the mixture back to a boil, and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat, and retest.

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Here I am risking jam falling on my camera lens. Karen Nehilla: Living on the Edge.

7.  Skim the foam.  You will notice that you will have a huge amount of foam on top of the pot.  You will have to skim this off, but don’t worry.  I highly recommend just grabbing a spoon and just eating this or mixing it with whipped cream.  Must not waste.

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Foam is your friend.

8.  We are at the filling the jar phase.  Make sure you have everything you need on hand including: the funnel, the lids, the jar lifter,  a wet clean cloth, a narrow rubber scraper, and a couple of extra teaspoons.  I highly recommend having a 5-finger oven glove, if you sterilize the jars the oven way.  Grabbing the jars with your less dominant hand makes the process more efficient.

Minnie Mouse at a murder scene.
Minnie Mouse at a murder scene.

a. Place the funnel in the jar.
b. Fill the jar leaving 1/4″ headspace.
c. If there are air bubbles, use the narrow spatula to scrape down the sides of the jar to remove them.
d. If you overfill the jar, use the teaspoon while the funnel is in the jar to remove the excess jam.
e. Wipe the rim with the wet clean cloth, so any residual jam does not compromise the seal of the lid.
f. Place the lid on the jar using the magnetic lid lifter.
g. Screw and tighten the ring on the jar, and set aside.

9. Now, the easiest part…the processing. The water in your canner/stockpot should be boiling away happily with a rack at the bottom. Place your jars in the canner/stockpot using the jar lifter and bring the water back to the boil. Process for 10 minutes with the lid covered, and do not remove the lid. Be sure there is at least 1″ of water covering the jars. We want that bacteria dead, and this is the part that does it.

10. Remove the jars from the water, and listen for the happy popping sound that means that the jars are sealing. Sometimes, it can take overnight to get a proper seal, so be patient and leave the jars be. Most of the time, the jars seal within a couple of hours. If it is not working, you can either just bung the jar in the fridge, and enjoy your jam on toast. Or you can reheat the jam, and reprocess with a new lid. The recommendation is not to move the jars for 24 hours after processing. The idea behind that is to ensure that the jars have cooled, and the seals have set. The jars cannot handle knocks during the cooling process. There is some leeway within the 24-hour period, but I would not play around with that until you have more of a feel with what you are doing.

11. Be sure you label the jars with the contents and the date you made the goodies. No use going into your cabinet, and finding a science project that you cannot identify.

I realize that I just threw a lot of information at you, but it does get simpler once you actually do the work in the kitchen yourself. Just let me share some good resources with you to help you along. Please contact me too, if you have any questions. After making thousands of jars of things, the Boffin and I know what we are doing.

Pick Your Own – This is where it all started for me.  I taught myself how to make jam here, but it also contains other great canning recipes.  I directed you straight to the strawberry jam with pectin page, but feel free to explore the rest of the site.  For the Americans, it has a state-by-state guide of where to pick your own fruit and vegetables.

Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year Round by Marisa McClellan – The title explains it all.  Great for person who does not have a lot of freezer space or just wants to get his or her feet wet with canning.

The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving – The classic guide to American canning.    The book is usually sold with the canning supplies at the hardware/box stores.  I also want to switch the words “ball” and “blue”.  Remember, 12-year-old.

I certainly hope, if you decide to give it a go, that you get as much enjoyment out of canning as we do.  As fun as it is to make, I would say the best part about it is the sharing with our friends and family.  If somebody else gets the same addictive bug from this post, all the better.

17 thoughts on “This British-American Life in the Kitchen: Strawberry Jam

  1. I’m impressed. One year I tried strawberries. What that means is that I got suckered into buying one of those pots preplanted with a handful of plants. You know the ones–you’ve seen pictures of them loaded with fruit that’s been glued on just before the photographer arrived. I harvested two berries–or what was left of them after the ants got to them. The next year I gave the pot away and stuck to lettuces and rhubarb, which grows itself, and a few other hardy things.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We never had luck with potted strawberries. We have 2 huge beds that go feral and have to be cut back. 30 lbs was the grand total this year. We would have gotten more, if it weren’t so rainy.

      You describe lettuce as hardy. I take it you were in England at this point? Because lettuce would have to wear a Patagonia jacket to be hardy over here, especially in Minnesota.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i couldn’t grow lettuce in Minnesota–it came out bitter–but I grew fantastic tomatoes. Here, no tomatoes but great lettuce. Wherever I am, I can grow half a salad. But I do miss the tomatoes.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. It hasn’t been that warm locally, and I didn’t try, so no luck there. The people who do best with them grow them in greenhouses or polytunnels. Wild Thing claims they like warm nights, which we can’t provide.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. yum. My mum makes jam and all through my childhood i have spent time preparing fruit. blackcurrants, redcurrants , gooseberries and strawberries. I loved this post. I hope to grow gooseberries at the allotment as it’s my favourite jam 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How wonderful to have those memories! Good luck with your gooseberries!

      Jam making is a family affair here too. Later this month, it’s off to Michigan to pick blueberries because our bushes haven’t established themselves yet. Our black currants are just ripening. We are so happy to finally have them here in Illinois, considering you need a special license to grow them in Massachusetts. We also have raspberries settling in too. This is what happens when an Englishman gets an American-sized yard. 🙂

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      1. That sounds great! We have raspberries here and possibly at the allotment (they seem a few weeks behind the garden and as they were already in the allotment I’m not sure if they are raspberries or loganberries. Soft fruit costs a lot here so growing your own is the way to go. I must check out your husbands blog to see the american sized yard.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I should totally get one of those, but, being Techless Dana, I can’t order online. Do you think they have those at Mariano’s?

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