Strawberry season is a treasured time of the year. Eaten fresh, sliced for shortcake, or sweetened and mashed for homemade ice cream, strawberries are full of amazing flavor when they're in season. If you still have berries left over after all that eating, extend your strawberry pleasure by making jam.
There are two basic types of strawberry jam - freezer and cooked. Freezer jam is quick and easy to make, retains the bright red color of strawberries, but will occupy space in your freezer. Cooked jam changes color to a dark red and the flavor is greatly altered, but interesting fruit combinations (such as strawberry-rhubarb) are an option and cooked jam can be easily stored on a shelf in the pantry.
Honestly, everyone uses the strawberry freezer jam recipe included with the powdered or liquid fruit pectin (causes jam to get) that you buy in most any grocery or variety store. There really aren't any secret family recipes for this stuff. Just follow the directions and keep these tips in mind:
1. Use strawberries at room temperature.
2. Follow the recipe exactly - don't decrease or increase any ingredient.
3. Check the expiration date on your box of fruit pectin BEFORE you begin making the jam.
4. When instructions call for a "rolling boil", this means a very bubbly, sometimes messy boil.
5. Be sure to let the sugar dissolve completely, even by allowing it to sit longer than the recipe states. Otherwise you'll end up with grainy jam.
6. Freezer jam lasts three weeks in the refrigerator or up to a year in the freezer.
Cooked strawberry jam is easy to make, too. Try adding rhubarb for an interesting combination.
6 large stalks rhubarb, sliced (1 cup when cooked)
1 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and mashed (2 1/2 cups when mashed)
6 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 envelope powdered (1 3/4 oz.) or 1 pouch liquid (85 ml) fruit pectin
1. To a large saucepan or stockpot, add about 1/2 cup water (enough to cover bottom of pan) and sliced rhubarb. Cook and stir over medium heat, without boiling, until rhubarb is stringy and mushy.
2. Add strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir constantly and bring to a hard, rolling boil for 1 minute.
3. Remove from heat and stir in fruit pectin. Skim off any foam that develops. Allow jam to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Fill clean, sterilized jars with jam to 1/2 inch from rim and top with jar lids and metal rings. At this point you can store jam in the refrigerator for several weeks OR for a much longer non-refrigerated shelf life, use a hot water bath to form a vacuum seal.
(Note: for hot water bath instructions, begin with step 5 and process for about 20 minutes)