Anyone who’s eaten homemade jams, jellies and preserves has made that face! And perhaps even a maniacal laugh erupts from within you…don’t deny it! Oh yeah, nothing compares to jar of Mom’s homemade strawberry preserves that’s not overly sweet and has a full strawberry flavor…no artificial flavor here. For me, forget the bread…gimme a spoon, hand over the jar and no one will get hurt!!
Tuesday night and Thursday night Mom and I set out to make two batches of homemade strawberry preserves with the berries we purchased from Maggie Valley Berry Patch and Gardens…the best strawberries we’ve ever purchased! We don’t have a secret family recipe for said preserves, we just use the recipe in the Sure-Jell box.
Now this isn’t the exact recipe we use, I just loved the picture! But hey give it a try, making this is so easy! If you’ve never made homemade jam there’s nothing to fear (trust me, I was in your shoes a couple of years ago).
Be prepared is my first piece of advice. If you don’t want your fingers to be stained as you’re handling the strawberries wear gloves. I use blue Nitrile gloves, they are so handy and help keep your hands clean longer without running to the sink constantly. Second thing, sanitize your jars, lids, and rings. Wash and rinse everything and be sure to place your jars on a sheet pan in a 225 degree oven for 15 minutes; turn oven off and leave jars inside oven. Lids will go in a pot of water that has been brought to a boil and then turned off. Rings need to be laid out close by on a clean towel. Measure out the sugar into a bowl and set aside.
Once you get that ready, your water bath canner is heating up it’s time to process the berries! Don on a glove, grab a knife and get ready to remove the tops of the strawberries.
Keep a large strainer nearby, in the picture is a 5–quart metal strainer. After you remove the tops, dump them into a large bowl filled with cold water to rinse them well to remove any debris and general dirt. The next step is easy and depends on how chunky you like your jams/preserves. You can mash the berries or use a food processor to chop up the berries to your desired preference.
We like it a tad chunky but spreadable, anything that’s too big gets removed or eaten (nothing goes to waste). But don’t worry, this will cook and the pieces will soften up! After measuring out the strawberry mush add it to a big pot, trust me you’re going to need a big one. We used a small stock pot and at first you’re going to think that 5 cups of strawberries is going to be lost in the pot but trust me–magic will take place in that pot….
Add the Sure-Jell powder, that’s the white stuff on top. Turn on the heat and get to stirring. Oh, by the way, there’s a lot of stirring! Pull up a kitchen stool and be prepared to be there for a bit. You’re going to want to bring this to a hard boil, that just means it’s a boil that can’t be stirred down. At that point pour in the sugar and stir some more (this is my least favorite part). You’ll notice your hard boil is gone–poof! missing; vaporized; vanished; no longer relevant. Adding sugar will do that. So now you have to bring it back up to another hard boil. Just keep stirring!
Just when you think your hand is going to die, arm is going to fall off, and you have a permanent imprint of the kitchen stool on your backside something “magical” begins to happen…..wait for it….FOAM! That’s right, you will start noticing lovely foam forming on the surface. (You can add a tiny bit of butter to reduce foaming, but we didn’t.) Don’t stop stirring, once you get it back to the hard boil hit the kitchen timer for 1 minute and don’t freak out when you notice that the foam is rising–higher–higher–and still higher. If you’re using a large enough pot (8qt. recommended) it won’t spill over. Once the timer goes off immediately turn off the heat and stop stirring. Now comes the fun part…skimming the foam off the surface!
Keep a paper bowl nearby to put the foam in as you are skimming. This isn’t tasty stuff, but my kid thinks it’s awesome! Boys…go figure. Now comes the REALLY fun part, dispensing into the jars. Here’s how my Mom does it:
Lay down a clean towel on counter top. Lay out the following: damp paper towel, folded dry paper towel, measuring cup to hold funnel and ladle, jar lifter, rings, and magnetic lid lifter. (Click here to purchase your own home canning kit.) Remove the lid from the water bath canner and set aside.
With the folded paper towel remove one jar from the oven. Set it on the toweled surface, place the funnel in the jar and begin ladling the very hot strawberry jam/preserve.
Leaving an 1/8 of an inch space at the top, take the damp paper towel and wipe clean the jar rim. With the magnetic lid lifter snag a lid from the hot water and place it on the jar. Screw on the ring, firmly but don’t wrench it down (keep helpful men away from the kitchen). Be careful! The jar is extremely hot now so be sure to protect your other hand. Mom uses the folded up paper towel to hold the jar as she is adding the jar ring.
Now it’s ready for the water bath canner! Place each jar, as prepared, into the canner.
My traditional canner only holds 7 jars, and you’ll probably have a partial jar extra. Looking forward to having a stainless steel canner in the future. Just put a ring and lid on it and set it in the frig. Once the water in the canner is gently boiling, lower the jars down, cover with lid and set kitchen timer for 10 minutes. Once the time is up, turn off the fire under the canner, lift the jars our using the jar lifter and place them on another toweled surface. PING! No kidding you’ll begin hearing a ping sound, that means your jars are sealed! That means that the center of the lid has been sucked down, creating a vacuum inside the jar. If one hasn’t pinged by the next day, just put it in the frig for immediate use. We get excited with every ping, so don’t feel awkward shouting for joy! It just means you did the process correctly and it’s a time to rejoice! Let them sit overnight on the counter, label the lid with name of contents and date. Store in a cool place. You’ve just made strawberry preserves hon, how do you feel?!
Yeah, I felt the same way 😀 Now you and your family can enjoy strawberry jam any time through out the year and know that it’s chemical free, no dyes, no HFCS, no artificial flavors…nothing but pure goodness!
The idea in our house to limit the family to one jar a month…HA! That’s why it’s only an idea 🙂 All joking aside, we hope you enjoy your strawberry jam and will share your experience with us in the comments below! Tootle-pip!
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