Day 102–Strawberry Jam

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In my daughter’s world, the phrase “epic fail” sums up a good intention gone terribly wrong. My first attempt at making strawberry jam wasn’t quite to that level, but it was far from a raving success. Maybe mini fail??

I purchased my first strawberries at the farmer’s market Saturday and at the last minute (never good), decided to dive into jam making. Got all my supplies out, washed and cut the fruit and found a Ball recipe for quick jam using pectin. Which I did not have. So, one trip to the grocery later, I was set to start.

The process was easy enough when I read the instructions, but once I started, I had a million questions. Like, when you measure the fruit, do you measure it whole or cut up? How mashed should you mash the berries? Why does the recipe call for so much dang sugar? What should the finished jam look like? Is some foam on the jam ok or do you need to skim off every bit? Clearly, I needed a visual tutorial.

I soldiered on without one, though, and took my best guess. The resulting jam mixture looked thin, with lots of fruit chunks, but it tasted good. I carefully ladled the mix into my hot jars, processed them according to the directions and waited…

What emerged from the bath was still not very thick and the fruit chunks were floating at the top of the jars (answer–mash the berries up well). After a slight freak out, I consulted my books and found that this is appropriately called “fruit float,” that it is only an aesthetic problem, and it is caused by excess air in the fruit cells releasing and pushing the fruit up. Whew!

My concerns about the thickness of the jam were addressed the next morning, when I found that all the jars had sealed and that the jam, once cooled, was thicker and more jam-like. We tried some on our toast and it was very nice. A good mix with a spoon brought the berries back in with the jam and fixed the float problem.

I’ve given a couple of jars to neighbors, although I felt compelled to explain why the berries were at the top (I’m not sure they would have noticed if I hadn’t obsessively pointed it out).

Overall, I felt very insecure doing something so foreign. But, I am determined to move forward, and plan to make a second batch this weekend. Here is what I will do differently:

Choose my recipe BEFORE I go shopping (insightful, no?).

Use a different pectin. I used Sure Jel, which is all our nearby grocer had, but I understand that with Pomona Pectin, you can use a lot less sugar.

I will not plan to cook anything else (like Easter supper) while I am trying to can. I am not that good at multitasking.

I will share my bounty only if I can do so without a 10 minute explanation of what I did wrong and how my preserves will probably not kill you.

Clearly, I still have a lot of learning to do, but this is a nice challenge that is stretching me in new ways!

Maybe I’ll report next week of an “epic success”!

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8 Comments

  1. It sure looks delicious to me! The jam I made didn’t use any pectin. If I remember correctly, lemon juice can be substituted for pectin. My cherry batch came out thicker than I wanted it to. I didn’t have a candy thermometer, so I tried the spoon method (coat the back of a spoon and if it doesn’t drip & it gels, it’s done). It still tasted good, but I’m armed with a thermometer for another batch!

    Reply
    • You are exactly right–pectin is used for faster gelling. You can make jams and jellies without it, you just need a longer attention span than I had. The cherry preserves sound amazing!!!

      Reply
  2. I have never canned, jammed, or jellied anything. Deanna I think it turned out great! And fruit float actually looks very rustic and fancy. I would have thought that was on purpose 🙂

    Reply
  3. Paula

     /  April 14, 2012

    We loved the jam!!! It is a process

    Reply
  4. This jam looks delicious – considering how much I love strawberries it may be dangerous for me 😉

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    Reply

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