|Strawberries in Winter|
Recipe by Happy Girl Kitchen
Making strawberry jam is magical. First, there’s the delicious scent of cooking berries that rises from the pot and permeates the kitchen. Second, there’s the way the berries foam up to several times their original volume while cooking, as they release air. How can berries be so full of air in the first place? Then there’s the always-magical gel point, where boiling fruit settles down and becomes jam. Lastly, there’s the magic of opening a jar in the winter and spooning out memories of summertime fields. Now is the time to start preserving!
|Ready to Start Jam Making|
|Strawberries Releasing Air, Beware of Overflow|
|Keep Cooking it Down|
|Starting Change from Foamy to Glossy|
Makes 5 half-pint jars
1 lb. evaporated cane juice (unrefined sugar)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Wash and hull strawberries. Drain very well and/or pat dry. Combine with sugar and lemon juice and cover. Let sit in a dark, cool place overnight. You can let it sit like this for 2 days if you need to, but be sure that the temperature stays cool.
The next day: Put two or three saucers into the freezer. You’ll use these later to test whether the jam has gelled.
Wash jars in hot soapy water and boil for 15 minutes in a pot of water that covers jars by 2 inches. Remove from water bath with jar lifter, and drain upside down on kitchen towel where you’ll be filling jars with jam. Don’t pour out the hot water, you’ll use the same pot to hot water process jars of jam.
Pour boiling water into a bowl and toss in clean lids. Leave the lids in the hot water till you need them. It’s easiest to use a (jam-making specific) magnetic lid lifter to get them out of the water.
Mash the fruit with a potato masher or similar hand-held tool. Put fruit in 8 quart stainless steel or enamel pan. Remember that it will foam up during the cooking process, so don’t use a smaller pot. Bring to boil.
Boil the mixture on a high heat, stirring constantly. Wearing an apron and oven mits helps prevent burns. Lower heat if strawberries foam up to within an inch of the top of the pot. Keep cooking and stirring till foaming lessens. Eventually you’ll only see foam around the edges. Keep stirring, to release the rest of the air (otherwise your jam will be foamy instead of solid). Once all the foam is gone and the mixture looks glossy you can start testing to see if the jam has gelled.
To test for gel point, remove a saucer from the freezer. Put a little blob on a chilled saucer and put it back in the freezer for just a minute or two until it cools. Then tilt the plate and watch how the jam runs. At the gel point it all comes down the plate in a unified blob, rather than small runny drips. View photo of gel point test. The gel point will be reached after approximately 30 minutes of boiling, but bear in mind that this can vary depending upon the amount of air and moisture in the berries.
When gel point is reached, remove from heat. Fill first jar to within ¼ inch of top, using wide-mouth jam funnel and measuring cup or ladle. Wipe the top of the jar with a damp paper towel. Fish a lid from the hot water with lid lifter and shake off water. Place on top of jar. Screw ring onto jar loosely, barely finger-tight. Avoid over-tightening as air must escape from the jar during the hot water processing.
Repeat this process with all jars until all jars are filled. If the last jar is only partially filled, don’t hot water process that one. Store it in the fridge and eat it within a few weeks.
To hot water process: Remove water from the large pot in which you sterilized the jars. Remove approximately the total volume of your jars. Reheat water to full boil. Remove from heat and use jar lifter to place each jar into hot water bath. Check water temperature. You will need to process at 210 degrees F.
Put heat under pot again and bring temperature to 210 degrees. Process for 5 minutes, keeping temperature constant. Remove pot from heat.
Use jar lifter to remove jars from hot water bath. Set each jar on kitchen towel. Don’t set directly on any cool or fragile surface. As soon as jars are cool enough to handle, tighten rings.
Cool for several hours or overnight. Lids must “snap” down to seal. If after cooling you can depress the center of a lid, it is not sealed. You can either refrigerate that jar and eat it within a few weeks or remove the ring and lid, wipe jar top and threads, and reprocess.