Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Jam

With all the fabulous fresh Florida strawberries in the markets these days, I couldn't resist the impulse to make homemade Strawberry Jam, and arrived home with 4-pounds of the little lovelies. I renewed my love affair with the sweet red berries recently, while I was at Giuliano and Lael Hazan's cooking class in Sarasota this past month. Giuliano made the most outrageously delicious Strawberry Gelato, and from that moment on, I was besotted. Having not made jam before, I was somewhat daunted by the process, but soon realized that the ingredients are really quite straight forward. Just an enormous quantity of berries and an equally enormous quantity of sugar!

So with berries in hand, I began to hull and chop all 4-pounds of the little guys. Within moments, a wonderful sweet perfume permeated the entire kitchen, and with great anticipation, I then plunged them into the vat of boiling sugar!

As the strawberries cooked, succumbing to their delicious destiny as my inaugural batch of homemade jam, the berries slowly softened and rose into a pink pillowy mass of bubbling sugar, lemon juice and curls of lemon zest. The setting of jam depends on the presence of pectin, and because Strawberries are low in pectin, they need to cook a bit longer. Or you can add powdered pectin, a pectin rich fruit such as red currants, or as I did — used lemon juice — making the 'setting' process worry-free. So with over an hour of 'boil, boil, toil and very little trouble', the jam was perfectly set and carefully ladled into sterilized mason jars.

The real test came as I served my homemade jam with fresh baked scones and Devonshire cream for Afternoon Tea at my in-laws. Born in Britain and not unaccustomed to a proper Cream Tea, I was delighted when they licked their lips in appreciation. My first jam too! I was thrilled.

Strawberry Jam
Makes 20 cups (10 500ml jars)

4lb strawberries
4lb granulated sugar
3 lemons, juice and zest


Bernnardin© 500ml Mason Jars and caps
Bernnardin© snap lid sealing discs
Jar Lifter
Canning Funnel

Wash, hull and quarter the strawberries, discarding any berries with bruises or that are overripe.

Place a saucer into the freezer to chill — you'll need this when you test the setting point of the jam.

Sterilize the mason jars and sealing discs, by placing them in a large pot of boiling water — I use Bernnardin products which can be found at Canadian Tire.

Combine the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and a cup of water into a large pot, and cook over medium heat until the sugar has partially dissolved, about 30 minutes. Add the strawberries and continue to cook over medium heat, as the strawberries release their juices and the mixture boils slowly, for about 45-50 minutes. The mixture will rise as it boils, so be careful.

To test the setting point, remove the jam from the heat. Take your saucer from the freezer and place a drop of jam onto the cold plate. After a few seconds push the jam with your finger. If the jam surface wrinkles then it has reached it's setting point and is ready. If it slides about as a liquid, then it hasn't reached setting point yet, and should be returned to the heat and boiled for a few more minutes before testing again. When the setting point has been reached, turn off the heat. Let the jam cool and thicken for about 10-15 minutes, so that the strawberries don't all sink to the bottom in the jam jars.

Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the sterilised jars one at a time from boiling water. Then using a jam funnel, ladle the jam carefully into the sterilised jars, and cover immediately with a snap lid while it's still very hot! The seal with a screw-on lid and tighten it halfway. You'll hear the sealing discs 'pop' as the jam cools and the seal is complete. The lids can then be fastened tightly. Once the jam jars are completely cooled, label and store them in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year — that is, if you don't gobble them all up before then!