More than a year ago, my friend was engaged (now married) decided that she and I were going to make jam for her wedding favors. Neither of us had ever made jam, nor did we know where to start. It just happened to be around the time my cousin started her wonderful blog sharing traditional skills. She gave me a simple recipe with advice based on her own experiences. Then my friend decided we would do cupcakes in jars instead. Sooooo…..I kind of put canning out of my mind.
Until yesterday. I just woke up and decided, “Today is the day!” I went out and scooped up a few supplies.
Then I just followed my cousin’s simple instructions.
8 cups strawberries (4 lbs)
6 cups sugar
3 tsp cinnamon (my secret ingredient)
01. Sanitize jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher. Keep the dishwasher closed until it’s time to fill so they stay warm. Otherwise the hot jam will cause the cold jar to crack.
02. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved. Keep stirring regularly until mixture thickens. This could take up to an hour.
03. Using a candy thermometer, watch the mixture until it reaches 220 F. Keep heat on medium, it’ll get there.
04. Fill jars to below the threads. One recipe I found said 1/4 in below.
05. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a damp towel, and place the warm lids and rings on snugly.
06. Bring water to a boil in a water bath canner or large stock pot.
07. Once boiling, place jars on rack in the water canner or on kitchen towels (make sure these are level) with a jar holder so the jars are not touching each other with the water level about 2 in. above the tops of the jars.
08. Bring water back to a boil. Once the water is boiling again, leave jars for as long as the recipe instructs (mine said 10 mins, it varies depending on your elevation).
09. My cousin suggests turning the heat off and taking the lid off the pot and leaving the jars for 5-10 mins before removing them to avoid the jam rushing out of the jars. Gotta love life experience.
10. Let the jars cool completely somewhere without a draft.
11. Do NOT press the lids down. While they are cooling, you will hear little pings when the cool jam pulls the lid down, thus sealing the jar.
I bought a water bath canning kit, which ran me about $25. It came with the pot, rack, funnel, rim cleaner (dirrty), jar grabber, and magnetic lid picker upper. These are all technical terms I made up because walking to the recycle bin is too much work. My grocery store and some big box stores carry a pretty good selection of canning supplies. For something that doesn’t require a huge start-up cost, I’m surprised more people don’t do this. Canning isn’t limited to jams. You can make your own pasta sauce, pickles, pie fillings. Basically anything you can find in a can can be canned (lo siento if that was confusing).
By making these things yourself, you can save money. You can avoid preservatives and fake dyes and generally the crap that’s in processed foods that you would be smart to avoid. You can have a real choice in the quality of foods that go into your canning. Not to mention that what you can will stay unrefrigerated for up to year unopened. (Maybe something to have on hand as a part of being prepared for an emergency)
Please do not think this was all sunshine and roses. I did it right…sorta. When I finished the jam and it had cooled it was very runny. In my disappointment, I posted a status on Facebook about how I had failed at jam and my cousin told me that this recipe isn’t supposed to set like I was expecting. Basically I just have to cook it down to a thicker consistency. She told me this after I had already reprocessed the jam with store-bought pectin. Which didn’t work like I expected either. Anyway, I’m lucky to have someone so knowledgeable who can explain to me how/what/why I did wrong (or sorta right) and she has some great tips. Seriously, check her blog out. Seriously inspirational. Seriously.
So tonight I’ll be cooking the jam down again. I might also try another flavor because I like to torture myself.