CAS and I made our first attempt at jam this weekend.
CAS at least had some experience with jam. Her mom and grandmother used to can, and she remembered the hot and steamy kitchen, although not much in the way of specifics. But her mom relayed the recipe over the phone, so between that and the instructions from the fine folks at Ball, we were ok.
I was concerned we might not have enough berries. We had harvested a lot last weekend, and Amy F harvested so for her family in mid-week.
Yeah, not really a problem. In about an hour, we picked 5 mixing bowls worth of berries. See left.
2 quarts crushed strawberries
6 cups sugar
Bring slowly to boil, then boil until thickened, about 40 minutes. Ladle into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, then process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
The first step was separating out the fresh eating berries from the ones we wanted for jam. Even after I pulled out a mixing bowl's worth to eat fresh, we still spent another hour or so hulling and crushing berries. I didn't have a potato masher, so I used my hands. (Strawberry juice looks luridly like blood, especially when you're crushing berries through your fingers. "Out, damned spot! Out, I say!")
We needed 2 quarts (8 cups) worth of crushed berries to make 8 jars of jam. We had 5 quarts of crushed berries. There was a short intermission while we bought more sugar and made a detour to the Tractor Supply Company.
Back at the Farmstead, we added 15 cups of sugar to our 20 cups of fruit (8 cups berries: 6 cups sugar, for those of you who have issues with fractions). The jam was supposed to boil for 40 minutes, but between the pink foam that nearly boiled over the top of the stock pot, the mucking around trying to get the temperature right to keep it at a boil but not a boil over, and the fact we weren't quite sure what "thickened" meant (syrup-like? custard-like? jello-like?) we probably kept it on the stove for more like an hour and a half.
We washed the jars in the dishwasher, then kept them in there to stay hot (boiling hot jam + cool jar = explosion). We kept the lids in a pot of hot (not boiling) water on the stove. We put six jars in the canning rack, filled them to within 1/4 inch of the top, wiped off the rims with a wet dishcloth (by the way, I now have about 6 towels and 8 washcloths that will never be the same again), dropped the lid on, and tightened the bands.
The rack with jars went into the canner to boil gently for 15 minutes. As we brought them out, we heard several satisfying pops as the vaccuum sealed the lids. We moved them over to my newly cleaned seed-starting bookcase to cool.
We did three batches of jars, plus 2 that we kept as freezer jam/ice cream topping to use in the next few weeks. (We had it over ice cream last night; it was fabulous.)
Its true that it was a fair amount of work, although we had fun. Plus it's much more fun with two people, not to mention faster.
Mainly, though, that's about 5 quarts of fresh berries that might have gone to waste (we used the not-so-perfect ones in the jam) that CAS and I now have for eating at home and impressing people with as gifts.
And strawberry season isn't even over yet!