I was thrilled to find strawberries for $.98/lb this year and have it be at a time when I had room in my schedule for a couple of jam sessions. If you looked at my schedule you wouldn’t think I had room, but a recruited all of my helpers and made time. With prices rising on packaged and processed foods (like jam!), I wanted to take advantage of the awesome seasonal produce prices to process my own food (without any weird ingredients or high fructose corn syrup).
I’m a “go big or go home” kind of person when it comes to a lot of things, including making messes in the kitchen. I’m not going to get all of the canning and jam-making supplies out and just make a couple of jars of jam. Instead I wanted to make enough jam to last us six months to a year (hopefully a year, but it’s really good so I’m afraid it will go faster than that).
In two jam session I made 44 quarts and 5 pints of strawberry jam.
Are the strawberry prices great in your area right now or do you have strawberries stashed in your freezer? Let’s make some jam! I will walk you through the process of making and canning strawberry jam even if it’s your first time doing either! You can do this!!
You will need:
For one batch (see yield below) you will need the following ingredients. I’ll talk more in detail about each further on in the tutorial.
- Strawberries– 5 cups crushed strawberries (about 2 lbs of strawberries)
- Sugar- 7 cups white sugar (about 3 lbs)
- Pectin– 1/3 cup or a1.75 oz box
- Butter (optional)- 1 Tablespoon to help cut down on the amount of foam
For this recipe, I use pectin purchased in bulk because it is waaay cheaper that the yellow box of SureJell pectin. I found the best price HERE where you can get as little as 1 pound ($6.99/lb) or get a 25 lb box ($4.99/lb). For price reference, the best price on bulk pectin on Amazon is this 6 lb bag at $8.33/lb.
For reference 1 pound of bulk pectin is equivalent to more than 9 boxes of SureJell (each box of SureJell pectin is 1.75 oz or about 1/3 cup). If you’ve bought pectin before, you can probably already tell that this is going to be a major money saver. I bought this 25-lb box of pectin and put it into quart jars so I always have it on hand when I’m ready to make jam.
You will get 8-9 cups of jam per batch. We like to can jam in quart jars for our own use (because we go through it so fast), but I also use pint jars to give away. Each batch will make 2 quarts or 4 pints, with a little extra to put in the fridge to use now.
- Canning jars and rings– You can use quarts, pints, or smaller jam jars. Any decent grocery store or big box store should have them. As long as the rims aren’t chipped you can reuse the jars so you can always look on craigslist or ask your grandma!
- Flat lids— While canning jars and screw-on rings can be reused, flat lids must be new. You can get them anywhere you can get canning jars. The cheapest place I know of is at an Amish bulk foods store if you’re lucky enough to have one near.
- Canning Utensils–– You could probably make-do without them, but they are really handy.
- Water Bath Canner or Steam Canner— You can actually just use a heavy pot with a lid as long as you can have an inch of boiling water cover the jars. You will want something in the bottom for the jars to sit on so they aren’t in direct contact with the bottom of the pan. You could line the bottom of the pot with the metal rings for canning jars, for example.
Preparing your strawberries is pretty straight-forward. Remove all stem and leaves and wash your berries. Mash or puree berries, depending on how chunky you want your jam.
You can mash them with a potato masher or pastry cutter if you want more chunks in your jam, but chunks often float to the top in strawberry jam because they are less dense than the jam itself. That’s not a problem, just purely aesthetic. If berries are floating just stir your jam when you open it.
For a more homogenous jam you’ll want to use a blender. A blender is also waaay faster if you’re doing lots of batches like we were. I gave them a few seconds in the Blendtec and they were ready to go.
You can use frozen berries as well. I often wash, hull, and freeze strawberries when I find a good deal on them. I set them out to thaw the morning that I plan to make jam.
I make jam in bulk, meaning I do several batches in one canning episode. It’s important to do each batch separately though. I often have two batches going simultaneously (but at different stages) in separate pans.
Measure (or weigh) out 7 cups (or 3 lb) of sugar into a bowl and set it aside. When it’s time to add the sugar, you will need to add it quickly and won’t have time to measure it out a cup at a time. Pus, you’ll need your other hand to stir in the sugar. Make sure to use the correct amount. Reducing the amount of sugar keeps the jam from setting properly.
Mix Berries with Pectin
Measure 5 cups of strawberry puree into a large sauce pan or pot. If you don’t quite have 5 cups of crushed berries you can top them off with a little water to bring the total to 5 cups of fruit puree. Stir in 1/3 cup bulk pectin (or one 1.75 oz box of pectin) making sure to smash any powder lumps.
Bring to Boil
Stir regularly as you bring the berry and pectin mixture to a full rolling boil. If you can’t stir down the boil, then you’re there.
Add Sugar and Stir
Quickly add in sugar and stir well. Continue stirring.
Bring to Rolling Boil
Bring the jam back to a rolling boil that can’t be stirred down easily. When you reach a rolling boil, set a timer for 1 minute. After 1 minute, turn off the heat and get ready to ladle the jam into hot jars!
Homemade strawberry jam is notorious for producing lots of foam, which is essentially just jam with lots of air bubbles. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s mostly just an aesthetic thing– it’s doesn’t look as pretty in jars as smooth, clear jam. Use a spatula or shallow ladle to skim off the foam once you have removed the jam from the heat. I like to put the foam in a separate bowl or jar and eat it on fresh bread or put it on ice cream.
You will want to start some of these steps before or during the jam-making process so that you have hot, sterile jars ready when your jam is done.
Prepare Jars and Flat Lids
Clean your jars in the dishwasher or hot, soapy water even if they already look clean. Turn warm (not cold) jars upside down in an inch or two of boiling water to sterilize the jar and make sure they’re as hot as boiling jam. Adding boiling jam to a cold jar is bad news– trust me!
I either use the bottom of my steam canner (first picture) or just use a regular pan (second picture) to heat my jars.
Put your flat lids in the boiling water as well. Heating them helps soften the rubber seal and sterilizes them. The flat lids should be new, not re-used. Glass canning jars and metal rings can be used for generations, but you should always use new flat lids.
Using the funnel from your canning tool kit and a regular ladle to pour the jam into your jars or if your pan has sturdy handles you can just pour the jam through the funnel. Leave about 1/8 inch headspace (empty space at top of jar), which is nearly full.
Clean Rim, Put on Flat Lids and Rings
Make sure the rim of the jar is clean and free of chips or cracks. Use a wet cloth to wipe off any jam from the rim. Grab a flat lid from the boiling water with the handy magnetic lid lifter from your canning utensils (or try using a fork) and place it on a jar.
Screw a metal band on firmly, but not overly tight. The jar will be too hot to touch, but there’s a tool for that in every kit (see red thingamajig in picture below).
|Jar Size||0 – 1,000 ft||1,001 – 3,000 ft||3,001 – 6,000 ft||6,000-8,000 ft|
|Pints (or smaller)||10 min||15 min||20 min||25 min|
Side note: Can you can quarts of jam?
Well I mentioned earlier that I can jam in quart jars. Nowadays, they never give a processing time for quarts of jam, but you can find times in older books. My mother-in-law has always done jam in quart jars without a problem, so that’s what I’ve always done and I am perfectly fine with it. I process quarts for about 5 minutes longer than listed above for pints.
To put it into perspective, when our grandmas canned jam, they didn’t even process it. At all. Just having the hot jam in the jar will make the lid seal, so that was that. My grandma still just turns the jam jars upside down to make they seal. The USDA says that it is effective, there is just more room for error if the jam cools down too much before you get the lid screwed on, so to be safe you should process the jars. For jam, the only real risk is mold, which is easy to detect and not nearly as scary as the potential for botulism if tomatoes or green beans are not processed properly.
If processing quarts makes you nervous, just do pints. [end of side note]
I prefer using a steam canner since it takes less water and is not so big and bulky. In a steam canner, you start timing once the steam coming out the hole is at least the length of a quart jar. New steam canners (like the one I linked to) actually have a temperature gauge on them so you know when to start timing. You can turn the heat down (so it doesn’t steam like crazy) as long as you still have a steady stream of steam (say that three times fast!). When the time is up, turn the stove off. Remove the lid by lifting it away from you so you don’t get a face full of steam.
In a water bath canner, water should cover jars by at least an inch. Start timing when the water reaches a vigorous boil. You can turn heat down slightly as long as at least a steady, gentle boil continues throughout the processing time. Keep the canner covered the entire time.
Cool Jars, Remove Rings, Wash Jars
Using the jar lifter from your canning tools (or just a hot pad if you’re using a steam canner), move your jars to the counter. I usually set them on a towel and let them cool overnight in a non-drafty area.
About 24 hours later, remove the rings, wash the jars and check the seal. Pull up lightly on the flat lid with your finger to test the seal. If it pulls off easily, the jar did not seal right. Don’t fret because you can put the jar in the fridge to use now.
All the jars that sealed well can be stored for years in your pantry or any other relatively cool and dark location. Label them with the year and contents so that you can keep your food storage rotated.
Is it worth it?
You’re probably thinking that all sounds like a lot of work, especially if you’ve never canned anything or made homemade jam. It is work and does have a larger clean-up time than your average kitchen project. To make my jam-making (or canning in general) a more efficient process, I always do things in bulk. You will have the same number of dirty dishes if you do 8 batches as you would doing a single batch.
Making your own jam can save money, especially if you grow your own berries or pick them for free. Berries can be expensive to buy, so making your own jam isn’t always cheaper. That being said, homemade jam is much more delicious than store-bought jam and making it yourself is pretty satisfying. With all that sugar, it’s probably not on anyone’s list as nutritious, but compared with all the preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup that are in store-bought jam you might say that homemade is more nutritious.
What is pectin and do you have to use pectin for strawberry jam?
Pectin, which naturally occurs in fruit, is what causes the jam to set when mixed with sugar and acidity. Different fruits have different amounts of pectin. The powdered pectin that you can buy is a concentrated pectin made from apple pectin. While you can absolutely make strawberry jam without pectin (just like your great grandmother did), it requires a much longer cooking time and more sugar. Cooking longer means you you’re cooking away more of the flavor and nutrients of the fruit and you also don’t have time to make as many batches. Pectin is a completely natural ingredient that will speed up the jam-making process. When purchased in bulk (rather than in the box), it’s also very economical.
Why are my berries floating? Is that safe?
Floating berries in strawberry jam is actually pretty normal and completely safe. It just might not look as beautiful as nicely mixed jam. To prevent floating berries there are a few things you can do. First, puree your berries more finely by using a blender instead of mashing by hand. Next, before putting the jam in jars, let the it cool for about five minutes and then stir the fruit in well before pouring or ladling it. If the jam comes out of the canner with fruit floating you can turn the jars every hour or two while it cools. Or, the easiest solution, is just to let it be. When you open the jam to serve it, just give it a good stir.
You made strawberry jam!
You did it! That wasn’t too complicated, was it? After several batches, you can fill your shelves so you won’t need to buy any jam from the store.
I should also warn you that after enjoying delicious homemade strawberry jam, your family may refuse to eat any jam that comes from the store, because homemade is just that much better! So get busy and stock up!
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