Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strawberry Jam Step by Step

Why can? You may ask. Why not? Is what I will say. Its fun for me, kind of like growing a garden. You take something that is one thing and turn it into something completely different. You save the harvest from the summer for those dreary winter months. You make a huge smile on someones face when you share the bounty. I have always been told that my great grandfather ate a half pint of jelly with every meal. Sounds like we would have got along great. Besides, have you looked at the price of jam or jelly with out high fructose corn syrup in it? Its expensive. I can make the same thing at home. The jelly or jam you make in your own kitchen will have fewer ingredients and less pesticides, not to mention a better fresher taste. The tricks to making it easy and run smoothly is to have all your items out and ready to go before you start cooking and have a clean kitchen. I always keep a sink full of hot soapy water too, so I can chunk unused items in it. When the jam or jelly sets up on items its hard to clean. This is going to be going over the water bath method of canning. Here are the items you will need:

1. A water bath canner
2. Jars, lids and rings
3. A large pan, spoon and potato masher
4. A small pan
5. A coffee cup, a canning funnel, a magnet stick, damp rags, and a jar holder
6. Fruit, fresh and firm not rotten or squishy.
7. Sugar
8. Pectin
9. A plate
10. A measuring cup
11. A large bowl
First, clean your jars, even if you are just taking them out of the box for the first time. If you have a dishwasher not only will they be clean, but they will remain hot. If you don't have a dishwasher find a cleaning helper you can fit into the jar.
 Sometimes hands don't fit, and when you rinse them, keep your jars in hot water. As you clean, rub your finger across every jar lid to make sure there are no nicks or cracks, if there are discard that jar.
Get your canner on the stove and fill it about halfway with water and go ahead and turn it on and put the lid on. Get your other pans on the stove too. In the small pan put some water and flat lids in it. It helps if you flip every other one over so they won't stick together so bad. Make sure you have enough water in the pan to cover the lids and always put more lids in than you need, you never know when one will fly out of you hands. Turn this pan on low, make sure it never boils and put it on a back burner.
On the front burner put your larger pan that you intend to cook the jam in. Pour some fruit in it and crush it with the potato masher, then scoop it into the measuring cup and pour it into the large bowl until you get the amount needed. Once it is measured you can pour this back into the pan and wash your bowl and measuring cup.

Then measure out the amount of sugar you need in that bowl. Have your sugar bowl ready and waiting by you. Arrange your plate, cup, funnel, magnet stick, spoon, jar holder, and damp rag by your stove.
Now that you have everything ready to go you can start making jam. First, stir your pectin into your fruit and turn your burner on.
Stirring slowly and constantly until it reaches a full rolling boil, a boil that will not stop when you stir. Then stir in your sugar and continue to stir until it reaches a full rolling boil. Time your rolling boil for one minute, stirring the entire time. It is important to not scrape the sides of the pan when you are stirring. Then turn your burner off.
It will build up foam on top, its normal. You can scoop this off with your spoon after you turn the burner off and the bubbles calm down a bit.
 After you scoop the foam off, using your rag, get a jar from the dishwasher. Set it on your plate and put the funnel in the top. Using your coffee cup scoop out some jam and fill the jar up to the rim. Leaving a 1/4 inch head space, the gap between the lid and the jam.
Wipe the rim with your damp rag, making sure to leave to no particles on the rim. Otherwise it will not make a proper seal.
 Use the magnet stick to get lids out of the hot water and put it on the jar then screw a ring on firmly.
You may need to use your rag wrapped around the jar for this, they are filled with hot jam. Then take your jar holder and place the jar in the water. Continue this process until all jars are filled.
Make sure when you have all of your jars in the canner that they have one to two inches of water over their lids. When you are done, put the lid on the canner and let it come to a boil, then time it for 10 minutes. Ajusting the time for high altitude. When the time is up, turn the burner off and wait for the boiling to stop, carefully remove the lid and using your jar holder pick up the jars one at a time. I put a rag under them so I don't drip hot water on my toes. Put them on a towel or heat friendly place to cool. I leave a few inches around each one.

 I usually clean up and have the next batch ready to start when the ones in the canner are done. You can double up a batch, but it may not set properly. It will also not set properly if you use too much or too little sugar or fruit, use a sugar substitute or don't leave it at a rolling boil long enough. You can always check out the Ball website for more info on canning. I have the Blue Book of Preserving and its like my canning dictionary. Here is the website they have a lot of facts. You can make low sugar or no sugar jam by buying a low, no sugar pectin. You can also not use pectin, which I have never done. Or you can use a high pectin fruit in with it, I have never done this either. To me it is easier to use pectin. Here is a recipe that uses tart apples instead of pectin. Here is a page with lots of info too. Canning is fun for me, I hope it is fun for you too. I figure when it becomes work to me instead of fun I'll quit doing it. If I have missed any steps or it just doesn't sound right to you let me know and I'll fix it.

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