I am still rather new to canning, but have discovered over the last 2 years that making your own jam is totally simple and something that everyone can do. The hardest part is the patience it takes to make it. I am going to give a quick over view and include some links to websites that I have found really helpful for this process. I am going to go over the three basic areas of making and canning your own jam which are sterilizing the jars, cooking the jam and canning the jam.
The first thing you want to do is get the best looking strawberries you can find. Here in CT, strawberries are in season right now and are so incredibly delicious. My daughters and I picked 11 pounds of strawberries last week and made some delicious jam.
Next wash the strawberries really well and remove the stems and half or quarter the fruit depending on the size. Next you want to mash the fruit up a bit. I usually put it on a sheet pan and use a potato masher to break the fruit down a bit. Another option is to give it a few pulses in the food processor, but do NOT puree. You want it to be pretty chunky.
Next bring a huge pot of water to a boil and then turn back the heat and keep it just below boiling. At this point I add my clean jars to the pot and leave them there until I am ready to use them. I recommend using pint or half pint size for jam. The lids can be kept in a bowl of hot water to keep them warm and ready to use.
Next add the strawberry mush to a pot. Stir in the recommended amount of pectin and sugar. This information can also be found on the directions that come in the box of pectin. I like to make low sugar jam, but learned over the weekend that an extra tbsp. or two of pectin will really help the jam jell up a bit more. Here is absic strawberry jam recipe (full sugar) and here is a low sugar recipe. I prefer the low sugar over the sugar free as the sugar free can be a bit runny and not as flavorful as the low sugar.
Once the jam is at a hard boil (a hard boil means that you are not able to stir down the boil) add the sugar and boil the jam for 3 minutes. After three minutes remove from heat and check for readiness. I think the eaiest way to check is to put a tsp. of jam on a cold plate and wait to see if it jells. Put a plate in the freezer when you start making jam and it will be nice and cold when you get to this step. If the jam is the consistency that you like, then you are ready to can your jam.
Carefully remove your hot jars from the pot of hot water and drain them on a clean kitchen towel. Fill each jar to about 1/4 inch from the top. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp paper towel to remove any drips. Then place the warmed top on the jar and secure with the jar ring. Repeat this process with each of your jars. While you are doing this, bring the pot of water back up to a boil. Once boiling, place the jars in the pot. Do not place the jars directly on the bottom of the pot. Either put a metal rack in the bottom or lay several butter knives across the bottom to keep the jars off the bottom. The knives work great in a pinch. My friend Jen gave me this tip and it is awesome. Thanks Jen! Finally, boil the cans for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes remove jars from the water and leave out to cool 24 -48 hours. It may take this long for the pectin to set up. This is just a quick overview of the process. You will want to read the link above on caning if you are going to give this a try.
Finally store your jam in a cool pantry and enjoy. Remember to refrigerate after opening. The jars and bands can be used over and over, but the lids need to be replaced each time you make new jam. Luckily they are inexpensive and easy to find. You can buy them at most grocery stores. Happy Canning!
Have you made your own jam before? How did it turn out? What is your favorite type of jam?
Here are two great websites that gives lots of great jam recipes and tips