In my last post about strawberry picking and jam making, I concluded with how to properly go about picking berries and making jam. I learned this through not doing it that way, of course, and in the end, I wound up going back to the berry field one last time on the last possible day to pick berries, and getting another 6 pounds of strawberries. I must be insane. I also got the worst, most painful sunburn on one little strip of skin on my lower back. I had sunscreen on everywhere else, but didn't think to put it there. Word to the wise: if you go berry picking, your shirt will come up in the back and your lower back will be exposed. Yowza.
First batch: I made Strawberry Rose Freezer Jam. I reduced the sugar by a cup and added a tablespoon of rose water. So pretty! I left it to sit and set for 24 hours and carried on to making a batch of preserved jam.
I'm so obsessed with Rose Pavlova, and really adding rosewater to anything that it might be good in, that I added rosewater to the preserved jam, too. Rosewater like this is cheap and easy to find. It was with all of the cocktail mixers - bitters, Rose's Grenadine, that sort of thing - at our local natural foods grocery.
So let's get clear on something before we go any further. Canning is not fun. It is actually kind of miserable. It takes place in the summer because that is when things grow. Things grow because it is hot and sunny. I had the blinds closed, but the kitchen still got so hot with that offending cauldron of simmering water on the stove. It was like a little radiator making the place unbearably hot.
Then there's the huge box of canning supplies I borrowed from my mom and sister, and the even bigger bag of evil sugar. Yikes! I do have the feeling that winter Lindsey will be very grateful to summer Lindsey for having made the jam, though. We'll just have to see.
Preserves are made with pectin, of course, and you boil the life out of the strawberries for a while. I understood right then why strawberry jam tastes like strawberry stew, and why strawberry freezer jam tastes like strawberries. Hmmm...
Once the jam mixture is made, you put it in the hot jars and then you put them back in the canning pot and boil them like there's no tomorrow for ten minutes or so. That's when your kitchen really becomes unbearable. As luck would have it, that day was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Today it's currently 74 and cloudy. Go figure!
Spokane has very hard water, so once the jars were out, they looked dusty from the calc! But, as a rule, you shouldn't handle or touch the jars while the seal is setting - for 24 whole hours. So I left them alone to set. For batch two, I used the adorable little 4 ounce jam jars. I'll be giving jam to everyone for Christmas. ;) Then, I was all done...or so I thought.
The next day, when the freezer jam had sat for 24 hours, I managed to make space for all of them in our freezer and opened a jar to try it. Much to my dismay, it was runny and the rose taste actually covered the sweet taste of the strawberries. No! So that's how I ended up back at the strawberry patch, picking more berries and getting sunburned.
Batch three, I did freezer jam, but did not reduce the sugar by even a tablespoon, and did not add anything. It turned out perfectly! I had gotten these adorable jars with a rounded body and fruity motif on the side, but then realized that for freezer jam, the jars have to be straight so that they don't break when the jam freezes and pushes upward. I used these cute, squat jars instead. This batch really was a winner!
Batch four was also freezer jam, (I wanted to have a lot!) but I used these plastic jars specifically for freezer jam and then, I ran out of time because I had to get out the door to yoga (more on that later this week.) I put the berries and sugar in the fridge overnight and then continued and added the boiled water and pectin in the morning. I'm not sure if this batch set perfectly, but hopefully!
Now I have a freezer full of jam. Probably more than we'll ever eat in two years, so I guess I'll be giving quite a bit away! But it was all about the learning process, you know? Will I ever make jam again? Now that I have it all figured out, yes. I will definitely make freezer jam again. It is so delicious! I had it on my toast this morning and couldn't get over how yummy it is. But, preserves with the big canning pot? I don't know about that.
This is probably way more than you ever cared to know about making jam, but if not, you're welcome! ;) Next June, I'll be so slick making my jam all in one day now that I know the ins and outs. Do you make jam or can things? I have a San Marzano tomato plant that I had hoped to can tomatoes for winter from, but so far, we've only got one tiny green tomato! Oh well. Maybe just buying stuff at the grocery store is the way to go! ;)