Strawberries. Lots of them.

Strawberries. Lots of them.

Today while I was driving home from my weekly guitar lesson I spotted a sign at the local garden center. It said “Fresh Local Strawberries.” This is not a sign I can drive past.

I bought a full case of strawberries (8 quarts) to take home and turn into jam. I had planned to do this today anyway, but my plans had included taking the family out to the no-doubt-muddy-after-all-that-rain strawberry farm and let (make) them pick berries for me. Getting the same local berries from a favorite local business got my family off the hook.

This afternoon those 8 quarts of strawberries were transformed into 2 batches of strawberry jam (a dozen 12-ounce jars), a batch of strawberry lemon marmalade (7 8-ounce jars), and a batch of strawberry mint preserves (4 8-ounce jars). That’s a whole lot of jam now cooling on my counter.

Here’s how I made all that jam, following the recipe that came with the powdered pectin:

Step one: Wash jars in hot water and put them in the canner and fill with enough water to cover the jars by an inch. Bring this to a boil. This will both sterilize the jars and get them ready to be filled with molten hot jam.

Step two: While the water in the canner comes to a boil, rinse, hull, cut, and crush the berries according the the directions of whatever recipe you use (always use a proven recipe, please, especially if you are a beginner). Put this in a big pot (I use and 8 quart soup pot), with lemon juice, a little butter (less than 1/2 tsp), and the pectin. At about this time I take a few ladles of hot water from the canner and put it in the heat proof bowl with the lids to soften them.

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Step three: Turn the heat on high, and bring the berries to a rolling boil. Then add lots and lots of sugar, and stir well to dissolve. Bring this to a rolling boil again, stirring constantly, then boil at like crazy for a minute. Remove from heat.

Step four: Skim the foam off the top of the jam, if you want. I usually do, but I don’t actually know if this is strictly necessary or just for show. Remove the very hot jars from the hot water and drain (I drain them right into the canner). Fill with hot jam using a funnel to within 1/4″ of the top. Be careful, this stuff is HOT.

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Step five: Place the lid on the jar. Be careful, those mothers are HOT.

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Step six: Put the bands on over the lids and tighten just a bit with your hands, but do not force. I use a special tool to hold the hot jars steady while I do this. Be careful, all this stuff is still really HOT.

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Step seven: Put the jars back into the canner and bring to a boil. I am at sea level here, so I boil for 10 minutes. Your boiling time will vary radically depending on where you are, so read the directions.

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Step eight: Remove the jars from the canner and place them on a towel someplace where you don’t mind them being for the next 12-24 hours. Hang around for a while to hear the pleasing popping sound each jar makes at it cools, which tells you that you’ve made a perfect vacuum seal.

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Step nine: The next day, once the jars are totally cool, check the lids by removing the bands. Label the jars and include the date. Use within a year.

One more safety note: when you are placing the jam into the jars, everything is hot. The jars are hot. The jam is hot. Any water dripping off the jars or lids is hot. Things will drip, so be smart and wear something that protects your precious feet fro molten jam. Don’t be an fool and wear flip flops. Hubby took a photo of my feet, which demonstrates that I was poorly raised and act like a fool:

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