Some people ‘nest’ by cleaning, organizing, and decorating their homes. I preserve food. Few things make me feel as cozy and homey as spending an evening hovering over the stove, filling hot jars with steaming jam and knowing that they’ll be tucked away on a shelf in the basement for future consumption on some cold winter morning.
That’s how I found myself in the strawberry field this afternoon, picking till my hands were stained red, my back ached, and I’d filled every container I brought. This is an annual ritual. Every time I do it, I wonder why I put myself through the agony when I could just drive down the road and buy a flat of pre-picked berries. But no, as soon as June hits, I look forward to it as much as I dread the inconvenience.
Tonight saw the production of eight beautiful jars of strawberry jam, made simply with berries, sugar, and lemon juice – just as my grandma taught me. It’s the perfect jam, with a fresh taste and loose texture, the sort you can dribble over your toast and that drips down your chin if you’re not careful.
Here’s the recipe.
1. In wide bowl, lightly crush berries 1 cup at a time with a potato masher. Measure mashed fruit to make 4 cups.
2. In a large Dutch oven or non-reactive pot, combine crushed berries, 4 cups granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. Stir over low heat to dissolve sugar, then boil on medium-high for 10-15 minutes. Stir often, until setting point is reached. Skim off pink foam.
(To test for setting point, put a plate in the freezer to chill. Pour 1/2 tsp of jam onto plate, let cool, and poke with a fork. If surface wrinkles, it’s ready. If not, keep boiling and try again in a few minutes.)
3. Have 5 250-mL jars sterilized and ready to go. Work quickly by filling each jar with hot jam, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Put on sterilized discs and bands. Let sit undisturbed overnight, then tighten up the bands in the morning and wipe down any stickiness.
Note: Grandma and I do not process our strawberry jam in a boiling water canner. She said she hasn’t had a problem with a single jar in 60 years of canning, so I don’t do it either. If a jar doesn’t seal properly, it goes into the fridge instead.
Make about 5 cups.