“Bread and jam, jam and bread…”. I love “The Sound of Music” and often think of the Von Trapp’s singing their rendition of the Do-Re-Mi lyrics. It elevated the humble jam and bread to some pretty sophisticated heights.
Song aside, jam and bread are simple, heart warming foods that make us happy and peaceful.
The first time I ever made strawberry jam, it took me forever…mostly because I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. I didn’t know that jam sets up as it cools. I didn’t know about adding pectin, or that fruit has it’s own pectin which allows it to get thicker as it cools. I just kept cooking and cooking my jam, waiting for that magical “setting up” thickened stage, not realizing that would happen after the jam had a chance to cool. Yes, I was pretty uneducated in the kitchen. And remember, there was no internet, so I couldn’t quickly learn from other’s experiences. My girlfriend’s were no more knowledgeable than me, so no help there. My mom had never made jam, so my older and wiser cooking resource was also no help on this one.
Eventually I learned about jam making and things went a lot smoother. I even branched out into fruit syrups, which was an especially fun thing to do one year when the market was flooded with lots of inexpensive blueberries.
There was a period of time when jam fell out of favor because of sugar. Good moms only fed their kids honey, not the sugary jams which were suddenly viewed as the enemy. Sugar really got a bad reputation. Poor sugar, it still does get frowned upon quite often.
As for me and my house, however, we will continue to use sugar AND try various sugar substitutes (mostly because my man is diabetic). I flirt with using agave in various ways and have had a few successes as well as some failures. I haven’t quite mastered using it with consistent results.
The simple strawberry freezer jam recipe provided here is from the Sure Jell pectin package insert. I have been very pleased with the results for this recipe. The strawberry flavor shines through beautifully and the color remains vibrant. I did try an agave strawberry jam recipe that I found on the internet, but I am not pleased with the results as a jam. It will work as a strawberry syrup, but not as a jam because it is quite runny; good flavor, though, and not overly sweet.
Although I have made jam without the addition of pectin, my best jam results have come with the use of pectin. Pectin is naturally present in fruits and helps them to ‘set up’ when making jams and jellies. (For the more chemically minded: pectin is a gelatinous polysaccharide.) Pectin products such as Sure Jell, are simply pure forms of pectin which have been concentrated from fruits. It aids in helping jams and jellies set up with less or no cooking. There are other manufacturers of pectin, such as Ball or MCP, but Sure Jell is the most readily available in the stores where I shop.
Sure Jell also makes a no or low-sugar pectin, which comes in a pink box. The two types of pectin, for the regular sugar jams (yellow box) and for the no or low-sugar jams, are not interchangeable. So, make sure that you purchase the correct box of pectin for the type of jam that you are making.
Additionally, there will be a difference in the ‘set’ of the two types of jam. The no- or low-sugar jam will have a softer set. In other words, it will be more runny, more like a syrup than a jam. It’s chemistry, guys, and you really can’t change the laws of nature. They are what they are.
Note: When the jam is in it’s frozen state, it will be cloudy. Not to worry. As soon as it defrosts it will be that beautiful clear red color once again.
Makes approximately 5 cups of jam
- 2 cups crushed strawberries (about 1 pound)
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 box pectin
- 3/4 cup water
- Before beginning jam, clean jelly jars or other appropriate freezer containers.
- Wash and hull strawberries. Set aside in a large bowl.
- Smash strawberries with a potato masher until desired consistency. I pulsed my strawberries in a food processor until they reached the consistency that I wanted. I like finer pieces of fruit in my jam.
- Stir the 4 cups of sugar into the crushed strawberries. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, bring the 3/4 cup water to a boil.
- Add the pectin and stir continuously until mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir for 1 minute.
- Pour pectin into the strawberry sugar mixture. Stir continuously until the sugar has melted. This will take about 3 minutes.
- Pour jam into prepared containers. Place lids on containers. Allow the jam to sit for 24 hours before putting in freezer.
- Strawberry jam will keep for 1 year in the freezer or up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
I had to put things on hold for a day while I was making this jam, so I froze the puree. When I went to get it out of the freezer, it had built itself a tower in the center with ice crystals for decorations. Curious.