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.

Day 102–Strawberry Jam


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”!