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Every year during strawberry season I make strawberry jam that has less sugar, is gluten and dye-free. This recipe is for canning jam, and is a cooked method.
I just love strawberry season! After my latest post about making homemade fruit popsicles, I thought I’d write about making jam, another favorite strawberry season recipe.
Since my kids were little they’ve enjoyed fresh strawberries. Here’s a picture of my oldest the first time we went – the evidence is clear that there was a lot of eating going on.
You might ask why one would go to all of the trouble, when the local grocery store has several to choose from. Well, I have two main reasons:
- Nothing from the grocery store will taste better than this farm-to-table recipe.
- So many (processed) jams have additives like dyes or high fructose corn syrup.
When my daughter was 4, we started looking at food from a health perspective. I quickly realized there wasn’t much real food in processed food. To this day we scrutinize labels and try to stay away from highly processed foods.
Today is it much easier to find organic products with few ingredients. When we started on this journey, however, that was not the case. We’ve been canning strawberry jam for 10 years, and in my opinion, there’s nothing like it.
My kids put jam on toast, pancakes, sandwiches, yogurt and ice cream. Typical jam recipes call for 7 cups of sugar (yikes!) but we use the pectin for a low-sugar recipe, and cut that down to 4. Keep in mind the 4 cups of sugar sweetens eight 8oz jars. It’s important to use some sugar to both create the right consistency as well as to properly preserve the jam.
I’d recommend finding homegrown strawberries from a local farmer. We buy organic strawberries, but it’s not necessary to make jam. If you’re really ambitious (or have small kids) pick your own! This year we didn’t pick our own, but have – it’s a fun family activity. Store bought or frozen strawberries will work as well if you want to make this recipe outside of strawberry season.
For foundational information on how to safely can foods, I’d recommend the Ball/Kerr website where you will find recipes, guides and equipment. I’ve used their Blue Book Preserving Guide for years, it’s my go-to.
There are up-front costs of canning for the jars and equipment, however, jars and rings are reusable year after year. You will need new lids each time. If you put the word out that you’re canning, you’ll find that friends who have jars (that they don’t use) will give them to you. Yard sales is another great place to find them. Because they are glass, they clean and sterilze well.
Sometimes you’ll spend less by canning, and sometimes you won’t. One year, I found a great deal on apples – the farmer’s market about to end, so the farmer was selling boxes of apples $2 each. That year I loaded a gazillion of those boxes into my car, which made apple juice, apple jelly and apple pie filling.
When I spend a bit more (than I would in a grocery store) I don’t mind because I know every ingredient that’s in it.
As for the strawberry jam this year, I bought a flat of organic strawberries for $48 – which was 8 quarts of berries. For the two batches of jam I made, I used 4 quarts of berries ($24) and got 16, 8oz jars. I spent about $1.30 for the sugar, and $6 for 2 boxes of Sure-Gel. So, this season it costs about $1.95 per 8 oz. of jam.
We also made strawberry chips and fruit leather from the rest, but that’s another post!
Refined or Minimally Processed Sugar
I prefer to use organic sugar, but the cost has gone up like crazy (more than $2 per lb), so I have opted for Zulka Morena, a certified non-GMO 100% cane sugar from Aldi, where I can get a 4lb bag for $2.59.
Morena is a Mexican term that describes the light brownish color of the sugar. There are some notable differences between this cane sugar and white refined sugar:
- It is not processed to remove color like white sugar; it’s not refined. This sugar is naturally golden brown.
- Morena is minimally processed and therefore, less of the flavor and nutrients of the sugar cane are lost. T
- his sugar has more depth of flavor (almost caramel-like).
- This sugar has larger crystals than refined, white sugar.
Whether using white, refined sugar, organic or other minimally processed granulated sugar the measurements won’t change in this recipe.
This recipe calls for 12 cups of whole strawberries, which makes 6 cups of mashed strawberries. (One cup of whole strawberries = 1/2 cup of mashed)
We always start by washing the strawberries with vinegar and water. Next, cut the tops off. Then, halve or quarter them, as it will make it easier to mash. Additionally, cutting them will allow you to see (and remove) any bad spots, which is super important for preserving the jam.
Now, you absolutely can use a food processor to mash the strawberries, however, it makes the jam look foamy, and it won’t leave any little chunks. For that reason, I don’t recommend it. I use a potato masher and mash them to my liking. I enjoy some little bits of strawberry in my jam.
What you’ll need
I have a canning pot, however, you don’t need one for this recipe. Use a large stock pot with a lid. Place a rack on the bottom of the pot to keep the jars off the bottom (to lift jars up off of the bottom a bit).
You will need eight 8 oz. glass jam jars made for canning (like Ball brand). Purchase jars at most any store, including WalMart. For smaller portions, use sixteen 4 oz. jars instead. The picture below shows a typical jar style (quilted). Really, any decorative jar can be used, as long as it is made for canning.
You will also need a funnel for getting the hot jam into jars and a good pair of tongs to pull jars out of the water.
I can make 1 batch in about an hour. It’s basically washing, cutting and mashing strawberries, adding pectin, bring the mix to a boil, add sugar, pour into jars, process jars for 5 minutes.
Homemade Strawberry Jam
- Canning pot
- If no canning pot, use a large stock pot with a lid and a rack to keep jars off the bottom
- eight 8 oz glass canning jars, rings and lids
- Potato masher
- 12 cups whole strawberries 1 cup whole strawberries = 1/2 cup of mashed strawberries
- 4 cups granulated sugar We use Non-GMO, 100% pure cane sugar, but white, refined sugar can be used
- 1 box Sure Jell Pectin Sure-Jell Premium Fruit Pectin for Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes. Using regular Sure Jell will require 7 cups of sugar.
- Wash the strawberries.
- Fill canning pot with water and place on stove. Be sure there is a rack or something to elevate the jars so they don't touch the bottom of the pan. Start heating water to a boil.
- Ready canning jars, ladle and funnel.
- Measure 4 cups of sugar and place into a bowl. Set aside.
- In another bowl, place pectin and a 1/4 cup of the measured sugar.
- Cut off the tops and quarter strawberries. Place quartered strawberries into a saucepan.
- Mash strawberries using a potato masher to desired consistency.
- Mix pectin and sugar mixture into the mashed strawberries. Add a pat of butter (about 1 Tbsp) to reduce foaming, if desired. Heat, stirring often, to a boil.
- Once at a rolling boil, add the sugar, stirring constantly until dissolved. Let boil for 1 minute.
- Skim off foam. Ladle hot jam into canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.
- Using a damp cloth or paper towel, wipe the rim of each jar.
- Place lids onto jars, and hand tighten rings.
- Use the tongs to place jars into the boiling water in the pot (or canner). Allow to boil for 5 minutes.
- Remove jars using tongs and allow to cool and set for 24 hours. After 24 hours have passed, make sure jars are sealed. Check by pressing the center of each lid. If there is no give, they are properly sealed.
- Yield is eight 8oz jars of jam! Jars can remain on the shelf for 1 to 2 years. Always check for spoilage. Once opened, it should be refrigerated and will last about 4 weeks.
I hope you’ll try making strawberry jam this season! Drop me a line and let me know how it goes!
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