With strawberry season coming to a close I decided that it was time to dive in to jam making. This is something I've always wanted to do, and the thought of jams, jellies, pickles and other preserved goods sets my soul a tingling...strange perhaps, but each step forward brings me a step closer to the sustainable lifestyle I hope someday to achieve.
This past week I had been searching strawberry jam recipes on line, and found one I liked. So yesterday, Peanut, Hubby and I hit the local farmers supply store to get the canning materials. We purchased a large canning bath, a magnetic lid lifter, a large funnel, a jar grabber, a box of pectin and two dozen Ball jar sets. The folks at the store were hugely helpful, and in all the materials cost less than $75. What we got was good quality too, so overall I felt great about the investment!
Nourse Farms in Whately, MA for our berry picking extravaganza. I was planning on getting three quarts of strawberries, and hopefully the same of raspberries. Given that it's tail end of strawberry season, and very early raspberry season, that was probably a little too idealistic. In the end, we felt good that we were actually able to get three quarts of strawberries, and a pint of raspberries. We also got a pint of really delicious (though really small) blackberries. I realized though why bears eat blackberries so much, they have enough fur to protect them from the thorns! I have the battle wounds today to prove my victory over a pint of blackberries. (Ouch) Not to mention the blue and purple hue my skin and clothes took over.
Today was jam making day. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. :) As we cut strawberries, I had to remind myself to breathe, and that this was supposed to be fun, not scary. But the perfectionist in me was terribly frightened of anything going wrong. Needless to say, I didn't get a whole lot of photos of the actual jam making process, because I was so focused on doing it! However, I did manage to snap two pics, one of the containers of sugar/pectin/lemon juice ready to go, and our strawberries prior to hulling.
We sterilized our jars and bands in the dishwasher, and then sterilized the covers in the canning bath. We cut and mashed the full three quarts of strawberries, which in the end netted us about 5.5 cups. In the end, I followed the recipe that came with the pectin box (thanks for the tip Naturalista!) Which basically called for the strawberries, a box of pectin, a quarter cup of lemon juice and 7 cups of sugar.
In the end I was worried that the covers wouldn't be sterilized in time, but they were and with the help of my awesome hubby we filled 11 ball jars of jam, covered and screwed on the bands, and set them back into the canner for processing. When our 10 minutes of boiling were up, I used my handy jar grabber to pull them out and put them on a towel on a cookie sheet. As I laid each one down, the glorious sound of the covers sealing (pop!) filled the air. Now, we leave them in a safe place for 12-24 hours, after which we will check to see if they've actually sealed and are safe to eat. SQUEE!!!!!!!
I am just honestly over the moon about all of this. I'm really, really hoping they're all sealed and they've all gelled properly. They say to give the jam a couple of weeks to fully set, so hopefully after that time we will be enjoying the literal fruits of our labor this weekend.
Hooray for jam!!!