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Strawberry Jam

Strawberry stains are back in my life and I have no complaints about it. Strawberries, or as my youngest son calls them "strawbooies," have been smearing faces in our backyard for a couple weeks now. The kids pluck the warm, ripe berries in the afternoon sunshine leaving their chins and forearms dripping with red juice. Despite the stains, their appetite for fresh berries eases my frustration about their rejection of vegetables, especially by my youngest kiddo, at the dinner table. 

But my backyard berries weren't going to be enough when a new project came my way last week. Chef Heidi Fink, who also writes the blog Lip Smacking, asked if I would like to participate in some demonstrations she was organizing this summer on the new Chef's Stage at Moss Street Market, a local farmers market. I quickly found myself lined up to be the first presenter, making fresh strawberry jam three times in two hours from a flat of local berries. Gulp! But I did and it was lovely and I enjoyed chatting with folks about their fond memories of canning with grannies and great aunts while they enjoyed a sampling of the warm, fresh jam.

This recipe makes what I think is the ideal strawberry jam - not too thick and not too loose, and cooked just briefly to retain that vibrant colour and heavenly fresh strawberry flavour. I use pectin in this recipe to get that ideal texture, colour and flavour. But if you want to make a strawberry jam with no added pectin, I have a recipe for that too. However, it results in a darker strawberry jam that requires a longer cooking time.

To prepare:
  • Clean jars with hot soapy water and leave to air dry, or wash in a dishwasher.
  • Bring the lids and ring bands to a boil in a small saucepan and leave in hot water until ready for use.
Strawberry Jam
Fills seven 250 mL (1 cup/half pint) jars

2 1/2 lb hulled strawberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 57 g/2 oz package of regular pectin crystals
6 cups granulated white sugar
Crush the strawberries in a very large pot with a masher (you should have 4 1/2 cups of crushed berries). Stir in the lemon juice and pectin crystals. Bring to a hard boil over highest heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sugar and bring it back up to a hard, foamy boil over highest heat (the entire surface of the jam should be foamy and bubbling hard in order to activate the pectin). Once at that hard foamy boil, keep it there for one minute then remove the jam from the heat. For about five minutes, gently stir the jam while skimming as much of the foamy scum off the surface as you can (this results in a clearer, less cloudy jam).
Ladle the hot jam into 7 clean 250 mL (1 cup/half pint) jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth to remove any spills. Secure the lids in place with the bands just until finger tight. Lower the jars into the rack of an already-boiling water bath canner, resting 1-2 inches below the water surface. Process for 15 minutes (start timing when it comes back to a full boil), then remove from the canner to cool for 12-24 hours and form a seal (the centre of the lids should stay down when pressed). Store up to 1 year.

What's your ideal strawberry jam? Do you have memories of canning with grannies and great aunts? Leave a comment and share your stories.