Special thanks to my dear friend, Mari, for sharing the photos from her recent trip to Sweet Berry Farm with her adorable girls! (My 4 were not in the mood for pics yesterday and I wasn’t about to force it.)
After being isolated at home for weeks, and still under shelter-in-place orders, getting the time we need outside is getting tricky, yet so necessary for all of us to maintain our health and sanity. I was thrilled to find out that Sweet Berry Farm is still open for business 6 days a week (closed on Wednesdays), so we planned a field trip to Marble Falls yesterday afternoon.
The farm is a 1 hour drive with stunning views through the Hill Country to quaint Marble Falls. There was quite a crowd there for a Thursday afternoon, but the rows are spaced well, making social distancing compliance simple. And it was just good for my soul to see people, and even chat across the rows! Is it obvious that I’m craving human interaction outside of the 5 people I live with?
We reached home with about 12 lbs of berries which we promptly washed and sorted into large bowls for eating now, eating later and making jam. Any that were a little shriveled, soft or had defects we put in the bowl for jam and came out with the perfect amount for the recipe below. This is the bowl with the less desirables which happened to make the most delicious jam:
Honestly, I read a number of recipes, decided to go my own way and see how it turned out and the first go-round is a smashing success. Most recipes called for a shocking amount of sugar which I more than halved, and still feel like I could have reduced further and it would have been plenty sweet. But you know what? We’re quarantined, so let’s live it up with a little extra sugar, right? So here we go…
Crystal’s Smashing Strawberry Jam
Makes 4 13oz jars, plus some for immediate enjoyment
8 cups strawberries (washed well with stems removed)
Juice of one large lemon, strained
One package of Certo Liquid Fruit Pectin
3 cups of sugar (I know, I can’t believe I just typed that, but most recipes called for 7 or 8!)
Sterilized jars and lids for canning, or plastic storage containers for freezing.
- Smash or blend strawberries and lemon juice until it reaches your preferred consistency. We wanted chunky!
- Transfer to a large pot, stir in fruit pectin until well mixed and then bring to a full boil.
- Add sugar and stir well until sugar is dissolved. Bring back to a full boil and allow to boil for 1 minute. This should be a boil that continues to roll even while stirring, so you may want to wear an oven mitt to protect your hand.
- Turn off heat. Skim the foamy layer off of the top. I put this in the fridge for an ice cream or yogurt topping, so nothing goes to waste!
- If you are canning, you want to make sure your jars are free of any chips along the top rim. Chips or cracks will prevent proper sealing. Your jars can be sterilized by boiling them or by running them through the dishwasher just before the canning process. You want the jars to still be hot!
- Ladle the jam into the jars and wipe the rim clean if any jam has landed there in the process. Leave at least a 1/4-1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar. Put the lids securely on the jars, but not twisting tightly. There needs to be space allowing air to escape for a proper seal to form. Leave the jars on the counter undisturbed until sealed.
- While the jam cools, something scientific happens (this crisis-schooling parent is having a good laugh at herself right now), and you’ll know you have a secure seal if the center of the lid makes a thud sound when you tap the top. If you can still press the middle down and it pops back up, it hasn’t sealed and you’ll need to eat that one up quick, or I’ve shared another sealing method below (which worked on one of mine that didn’t seal on the first try).
- If you are using plastic containers, wait until your jam has cooled a bit then pour into your containers. Fully cool on the countertop before refrigerating what you will use quickly and freeze the rest for later!
Congratulations! Enjoy your homemade jam, you domestic lady!
In my experience with canning… this was the first time in awhile, but I used to do it often overseas… there is often one jar that just doesn’t seal with no apparent reason. In that case, you will need to use the water bath method or find a lot of uses for jam in the near future.
For the water bath method, you will want a deep pot that can fit a trivet (to keep your jar elevated above the bottom of the pot) and enough space for an inch of water above your jar, and tongs. I had to use the large tongs we use when we grill, but canning tongs are the best if you have them because they make the process easier and safer. Here is a link to the Norpro Canning Jar Lifter, in case you see a lot of canning in your future.
Place the trivet in the bottom of your pot, with your jar or jars on top of the trivet. Put the lids on as in the original recipe (secure but not tight). Fill the pot with HOT water to an inch above the lid of your jar. Bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Put a hot pad on the counter next to your pot. Using tongs, carefully transfer your jar to the hot pad on the counter. As the jar cools, science will happen *BA DUM BUM CHH* and your jar should seal this time!
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