Friday, August 19, 2011

Strawberry Jam (no pectin)

Strawberry jam, isn't it everyone's favorite?  

I love jam, but have never liked the really thick, "hard" jams and jellies with too much pectin in them.  While pectin is a naturally occuring substance, I just don't like it. I prefer to make my jam without it.  Not using pectin has given me some issues though, because some fruits have very little 'jelling' ability without the added pectin.  Strawberries are one of those fruits, but I found this great article online that explained how to get around this without cooking your jam to death.  Here's the original article in Cincinnati Locavore. I changed a couple things, because I felt that the ratio of sugar to fruit should not be equal and the end product would end up too sweet.  One important thing I learned from the article is that strawberries with some green on them actually have the naturally occuring pectin that will help it to jell up and thicken, so go ahead and chose some berries with a little green bits. It can be a bit of an extra step to strain your berries out of the jam part way through, but it really wasn't that bad. I also think the jam has a nicer color and fresher "realer" taste than so many jams.

I bought my strawberries at Costco in a 4lb pack for $5.99.  I thought that was a pretty good deal to make 8 jars of jam, even adding in the price of 6 cups of sugar and the lemon.  If you buy that nasty jam at the supermarket, it is actually pretty darn expensive, so do yourself a favor and make some jam this year.  Even if you invest in a canning 'set' which includes the jar tongs (very helpful) and the filling funnel, it is worthwhile, and satisfying, to make your own jam.

About 8 8-oz jars of preserves

8-9 cups of Strawberries, a few slightly unripe, slightly mashed (approx 4 lbs.)
6 cups sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of one lemon

Fill canning kettle with water to cover 1/2-pint jars by 2 inches, cover, bring to a boil, and keep it there.

Set 1/2 pint (8-oz) jars and lids into a pan of hot water over lowest heat. You'll need 1 jar per cup of mashed berries.

Wash and hull strawberries.  You actually want berries that have some green on them,  those berries still have natural pectin in them!

Mash about half the berries, leaving some in slices in an extra large heavy non-aluminum pot. Add sugar to the partially mashed berries and bring to a full rolling boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the sugar from sticking and burning. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve into a bowl, allowing syrup to drip through sieve for a few minutes.  Be SO careful it is hot and sticky and will give you a painful burn if it splashes on you.

Set the sieve aside, return syrup to pot, add lemon juice and zest, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly and boiling on high heat until candy thermometer reads between 220 and 222.  You need to stay right there and stir and watch, do not leave unattended.

You can see that I should have used a deeper pot, this mixture almost went over the top... which would have been a major mess!

Return contents of sieve to pot and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and ladle into hot 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/2" headroom. Wipe jar rims with damp cloth, cover with hot lids and screw on lid rims without tightening. (The lid rims are only there to hold the lids in place during processing; tightening them can both interfere with processing and cause you to dislodge the lids when removing the lid rims before storing your preserves.) Set jars into canning rack and drop into boiling water in kettle. Cover kettle and process 10 minutes, remove from water, and set on rack to cool. Once cool, check seals (press gently in the center of the lid -- if you feel a slight pop and the center flexes down and then back up again, the lid didn't form a seal and that jar should be refrigerated and used within six months), remove lid rims and label.

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