Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Strawberry Season & Freezer Jam

So I've started on my Summer List already (this is the new & improved version of vacation everyone!).  Last week I was driving to a meeting and saw our spot for strawberries had their sign out.  Ohioans, strawberry season has arrived! I'll apologize now for the prolific use of exclamation points in today's post, as local strawberries seem to warrant it.  I mean, just look at these beauties.  How could they not?

Wolf's Berries & Blooms

So, we geared up this morning, drove down to Wolf's Blooms and Berries and grabbed ourselves several quarts of those juicy little gems.  

We got the loot!
Two thumbs up for strawberries! 

I love a good barn.
Can't help it...I love me some barns.

More barn love.
Oooohhhh...this one too!  

Enough with the barns...ready to get down to brass tacks?  It's time to make some jam.

Because it is so important to do this step-by-step, even though it is the "quick and easy" method (aka, freezer jam), I'll walk you through it and post the full recipe at the end.  It is very easy, but you still have to follow the directions.  Let me repeat...follow the directions.  By the letter. Mmmmm kay? Let's begin!

First, assemble all of your ingredients and supplies before you begin.  This will ensure you aren't running to look for, let's say, lemons while your jam is starting to set!  That would be bad (as my sweet boy says).

Get everything ready first.

Come to momma.
These will get rinsed in the sink...explanation to follow.

As you can see, I have placed everything on the counter.  You'll need pectin.  For this exact recipe I use Certo Liquid Pectin.  I follow my mother-in-law's instructions, and she was very specific about this brand.  It worked like a charm.  Also, cane sugar.  Extra fine.  Extra fine people.  You aren't cooking this and want the sugar to dissolve without heat.  Beet sugar (common around the Midwest) won't cut it for this part.  Pony up the pennies and get the best you can get your hands on.  Extra fine.  Lemons are needed for their juice.  Because I said so.  Then you have needed accouterments-measuring devices, cutting boards, etc.  And then....

You need a big bowl. Two big bowls.

You'll need a giant bowl.  Huge.  Two of em actually.  Because after you rinse the berries, they need to go somewhere.  Then you'll need to measure em, crush em, and put that into something else.  Two big uns.  Get yourself some.  Giant ones.  

Clean Jars.

Then you'll need something to put your jam into once you've finished it.  I just use the Ball jars I have for other preserving purposes.  They're pretty, freeze just fine, and are re-usable.  Whatever you choose, it must be freezer safe.  Wash it up first in extra-hot, soapy water.  Then line it all up like little soldiers and admire your work.  Okay, you can skip that part, but I like to do this before I start for fun.  And, have more on hand than you think you'll need.  Just in case the recipe made more, you'll want to preserve it too, right?  At least we don't throw away good jam in this house!

And all chopped.

Now, the strawberries that were all pretty earlier got dumped (gently) into my sink.  I don't mess with a strainer, colander, or other contraptions when I'm washing up this much fruit.  I just turn over the stopper, and rinse right in the sink.  Then I trimmed off the stems/leaves put them in the compost pile and quartered the berries.  Here is my finished work.  See why you need a large bowl?  

Crushed Berries.

Once you've gotten the berries cut up, time to measure and begin the quick and easy part.  The directions say you can crush the berries with a potato masher, but I prefer to use my hands.  It's the kid in me.  Measure your strawberries in a liquid measuring cup.  I just grab handfuls (clean hands!) and squeeze them into the measuring cup.  We like a chunky jam, but crush to your desired consistency.

Ready for jars.

Now, I only have so many hands, and this part goes fast.  But you add in your sugar, lemon juice and pectin mixture and stir away to dissolve everything together.  I forget how quickly it begins to work!  But look at that lovely jam already made.  You could almost taste it on the screen!! 

Momma, is it time to ride bikes yet?
Can I ride my bike yet momma?

I use a wide mouth funnel to fill the jars.  Once filled, wipe the rims with a damp cloth and they're ready to seal.  Since it is freezer jam, there is no need to process at all.  Just let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours until set.  Then refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 12 months.  Voila!  Strawberry Freezer Jam!  The process, start to finish took about three hours, the longest part was cutting the fruit.  And honestly, I made a quadruple batch because we adore this stuff.  When I make blueberry freezer jam, peach freezer jam, and mixed berry freezer jam, the quantity won't be quite so high.  Maybe just double batches?  Someone stop me!  

Finally, the jam is done! Ridin his wheels.
Finally, she's done! Now I can ride my bike! 

Here's the recipe/directions for any interested readers.  Enjoy your local strawberry seasons while you can by supporting local berry farmers.  Make lots of jam, shortcakes, pies and more!  

Strawberry Freezer Jam

1. Wash and rinse containers with tight fitting lids.  Use 1-2 cup size containers.  (Some of mine were 4oz)
2. Prepare fruit as directed.  Crush berries one cup at a time.  Use a potato masher for best results (or clean hands).  If using food processor, pulse to fine chop DO NOT PUREE.
3. Measure exact amount of prepared fruit into large (giant) bowl.
4. Measure exact amount of sugar into separate bowl. (REDUCING SUGAR OF USING SUGAR SUBSTITUTES WILL RESULT IN SET FAILURES)
5. Stir sugar into prepared fruit. Mix well.  Let stand 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
7. Stir pectin mixture into prepared fruit.  Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy. (about 3 minutes...a few crystals may remain)
8. Pour into prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace for expansion during freezing; cover.
9. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours until set.  Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.  Otherwise store in freezer for up to 1 year.  Thaw in refrigerator.

2pt strawberries
1 lemon

Discard stems and crush strawberries.

2 cups crushed strawberries
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 pouch Certo Pectin

Yield 4 cups jam

Happy preservation!

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