Count Broccula's veg-head ramblings

My home experiments with vegetarian cooking. Focused on seasonal produce with some vegan stuff thrown in for good measure. I may include random other food-related stuff as I please.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Strawberry jam

I have recently decided to try canning, and wanted to start with something fairly simple that I would eat the dickens out of. I LOVE strawberry jam, so it was an easy pick. I started by buying a half flat of strawberries at the farmers market. I probably only really needed about three pints, but I was also making ice cream, and we eat a lot of them as well.

First, I set out all my materials.

I sliced up strawberries and mashed them with a potato masher until I had four cups.


Then I added four cups of sugar (it's a lot, I know) and some lemon juice. I also put on some jamming (get it?) music. I'm going to recommend it as a crucial ingredient.

In the canner is water coming up to a boil. In the red pan are the lids. The jam has the thermometer in it. The old-fashioned way is to just bring it to a rolling boil, but I am nervous about correct temperatures. I also do my candy with a thermometer -- I never trust the methods for testing whether it's at "soft ball" or whatever.

It came up to temperature fairly quickly. I had memorized the steps for putting things in the cans and canning them, but I was still a bit edgy about it all. The worst case scenario is botulism. Anyway, I put the jam in the first jar, wiped the rim, put on the lid and ring, and set it into the can holder thing. But it was off-balance! I couldn't figure out how to get it not to tip the darn thing over. I finally just set it in the middle. The next two were easier to balance.

I then dropped the contraption into the water. The Ball canning book I'd read said the pot needed to be about half-full of water in order for the jars to be covered when you lowered them. It also said I'd "get the feel for it." Well, I guess I didn't have that, because they weren't covered and I had to hurriedly add more hot water to cover them, then bring it all to a boil. I had looked up the water processing times for strawberry jam, and the times varied from 5 to 15 minutes. Once recipe noted that too short a processing time wouldn't seal the jars and kill bacteria properly. Another said that too long a processing time would lead to dark, runny jam. I erred on the side of caution and went with 15 minutes.

Oops, I almost forgot the cold plate test to see if it jelled!

Here's the finished product.

There were just a few tablespoons left after I'd canned it, so I toasted half a pita and spread the jam on. It was heavenly.

A few things I learned: If you're making a small batch with only three quart-sized jars, you definitely need to boil more water than half the pot.

Although it was delightful, I also wouldn't mind if it were a bit less sweet, so I might look for a different recipe next time. (For reference, I used this one.)

Canning was not as intimidating as I thought. I tested the jars this morning, and they had all sealed properly. It also took only an hour, all told. For someone like me, who actually enjoys cooking and baking and candy-making, it was a pleasant way to spend an hour.

One of my jars had all the fruit float to the top. No one online can seem to come up with a single answer as to why, but all said that stirring and skimming the foam off can prevent it. Many people recommended turning or rolling the jars while they're setting. They also all said it didn't affect the taste; you just have to stir it up before using it.

I'm taking a class on canning tomatoes on Saturday, and then I'm on my way to canning greatness! Keep your eye on this space for that, and my adventures in sourdough.


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