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Canning Strawberry Jam–round 2

March 11, 2012

The biggest benefit I have discovered of living in Florida is the abundance of fresh, ripe produce pretty much all year long.  Even now, in the middle of winter, it is the heart of strawberry season.  Living in Minnesota, this meant an influx of packages of strawberries with lower prices, but they were usually pretty bland in flavor having been picked early to survive the trip up north without going bad.  The best thing to do was to wait until summer for the local crop to produce.  But they never quite achieved the same level of sheer, wonderful abundance available here.

So while I have not had a chance to make it back out to any of the local farms, nor have I run across any of my favorite temporary fruit stands (typically a pick up truck at a gas station), the prices on strawberries were low enough in my normal produce stands to justify picking up another flat of strawberries and giving canning another go.  I also stopped at the store and picked up half pint jars so I could share the results of my efforts more easily with friends and family (assuming they were successful).  The key to this round of canning, though, was not going to be a change in supplies or a difference in the fruit I bought–but rather my genius in picking up my mother to “hang out” for the day–which roughly translates into the girls being totally absorbed by playing with a devoted grandmother and a little more leeway for me in getting things done around the house.  We did some shopping and grabbed lunch out, then returned to the house where my youngest Abby promptly went down for a nap.

My oldest, Mary, and grandma settled onto the floor with a pile of Duplo blocks to build castles and towers and trains and all sorts of things, and I headed into the kitchen to start prepping eight pounds of strawberries.  This time, I spent a few minutes meticulously reviewing my recipes and instructions, although I felt fairly confident since my second batch had turned out well in the last round.  As “motivation,” I dipped a spoon into an opened jar of strawberry jam from my last round and savored its sweetness.  There is definitely a reason, far beyond cost savings, for doing this.  It is so much better than store bought.  I snagged a second spoonful, and got back to work.  I started mashing strawberries, a few at a time, using a potato masher until about half of the strawberries had been turned into a semi-liquid mush.  I added lemon juice, a half of a pat of butter (to reduce foaming when boiled) and pectin, and poured the mixture into my pot.  I brought it to a boil, added sugar, and brought it back to a hard boil for a few minutes.  Next, I filled the canning jars, and, in two batches, finished sealing them in my water bath canner.  I’m still working off of my “discover canning kit” from Ball, so I cannot do as many at once as I otherwise could.  Now that I am confident I enjoy canning I am more willing to invest in equipment, but I just haven’t had the chance yet.  The jam jars don’t need to be boiled nearly as long as I would have thought, though, so doing them in two batches isn’t that much of a problem.

The biggest challenge I am consistently running into is that of timing–working off a less than ideal electric apartment stove and very limited counter space, there is definitely a timing to everything.  This time I did a better job of getting the jars to finish in the dishwasher and come out nice and hot just in time for the jam to be poured into them.  I also did a better job of having the water bath water boiling at the right point when the jars were ready to go in.  It went all in all pretty smoothly.  I think time and practice will probably refine this into a solid routine.  At this point, however, it is far from perfect.  And I still seem to be incapable of doing the whole process without getting at least one big drop of jam on the floor that I don’t notice until I step in it.  All in all, however, it is going well.  And I am enjoying it, which is the most important thing.  Strawberry season will be in full bloom for a little while–although I don’t know how much jam one person could possibly need, but I am sure I will end up with more of it than that–and next will come blueberries, raspberries, and (oh joy!) peaches.  I am thinking of tackling pie filings next–both in preparation for peach season but also because I suspect I can eat more pies than jam somehow.  I am also beginning to suspect that my experiments in canning will be good for my pocketbook, but not for my waistline.

From → canning

  1. Looks beautiful! Wait till your friends find out you are a jam and jelly maker – you might not have enough jars for you and your family left!

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