Day 107–Balsamic Strawberry Jam

Garden Strawberry

Success!! Having learned some lessons from my first round of jam making, I purchased more beautiful berries from the farmers market and gave it another go. Much better! I made two rounds of quick jam using pectin (this time Pomona’s Universal Pectin) and my results were more “jammy” with no fruit float. Also, Pomona Pectin allows you to make low sugar jam, which is terrific.

I also put up 3 quarts of frozen berries, which will last about 15 minutes in my house, so I better get moving! This Saturday (depending on the weather) is berry picking day for us, so we should have more berries on the way!

Deciding to do something a little fancier, I made 3 half pints of regular strawberry jam and 3 of a balsamic strawberry jam. I had just enough 17 year balsamic vinegar (a gift from my mom) to make it work. The taste is richer and more complex than the regular jam. Not for pb&j, but would be great on roast pork, pound cake or ice cream!

Here is the recipe I used from “Put ‘Em Up” by Sherri Brooks Vinton. I added 1/2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter to the mix. This wasn’t in the recipe, but was recommended as a way to reduce the amount of foam produced during cooking. It worked very well.

Quick Strawberry Jam (for Strawberry Balsamic, sub 4 Tbsp. lemon juice with 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)

1c. Sugar
1 tsp. Pomona’s Universal Pectin
4 c. Strawberries, hulled
1tsp. Calcium water (included in the Pomona’s box)
4 Tbsp. Bottled lemon juice (or 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)

1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (optional)

  1. First, get out all your ingredients and make the calcium water (mix powder w/water and set aside).
  2. Combine the sugar and pectin in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Put the berries in a non-reactive pot and mash well with a potato masher. Slowly bring berries to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Add butter, if using.
  4. Stir in the calcium water and lemon juice or vinegar/lemon juice.
  5. Slowly add the sugar/pectin mix and stir to dissolve.
  6. Return the mixture to a boil, stirring to ensure that the mixture is heated thoroughly.
  7. Remove from heat and let it rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam.
  8. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or can by using the following instructions.
  9. Ladle mixture into clean, hot half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace. Release any trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
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Day 72–Learning to Can-Can

Preserved food in Mason jars

When I was in my mid-twenties, and had vast stretches of free time, I learned to make apple butter. I liked it, but that’s about as far into canning as I ventured. I think a trip to the mountains of North Carolina spurred that experiment. Faced with an abundance of apples that were brought back as tasty souvenirs, I decided to do something constructive with them. Along the way, I stopped canning apple butter and moved on to other things.

At the Dig In! conference last weekend, Ellie and I took a class on home canning and I was reminded of how satisfying it was to can my own creations. Now we are inspired to make the most of our spring strawberries and summer tomatoes and–the most fun part–we will be doing it together as a mother/daughter project. Hopefully this will help us make the most of our local produce and eliminate our need to purchase preserves (although the preserves we currently purchase are all locally made).

According to our instructor, beginning canners should heed a few rules:

  • Cook from well-tested recipes to start
  • Use real canning jars (not other recycled jars from home)
  • Buy canning tongs–do not remove hot jars with your hands (from the chuckles around the room, this is apparently more common than I would have thought)
  • Use the hot water bath method, not the inverted jar method of sealing jars as it is more reliable and consistent
  • Make your own pectin or cook the old-fashioned way (cook your food longer) so that you don’t need it. Commercial pectin has very suspicious origins that involve slaughterhouse by-products.

The first two points were very useful, the third and fourth had never occurred to me and the fifth was just gross.

I also learned that, at least in NC, food stamp (EBT) recipients can use their grocery funds to purchase vegetable or fruit plants. I had no idea! There is a movement afoot to get this information out to folks so they will have the opportunity to have, for example, tomatoes all summer for the same price as a few tomatoes. And if folks can preserve their food, that extends the quality and availability of local, sustainable foods for people in food desert areas.

Do any of you can your own produce? What works well for you? We won’t have any strawberries to start with until next month, so in the meantime we will be reading up on the process and on interesting recipes!