Monday, May 14, 2012

Strawberry Jam: diabetes in a jar

So this post may be a long one but it's worth it. if you like jam, which everyone does. By the way in case you wanted to know, the difference between jam, jelly and preserves is the form of the fruit.
  • jelly-the fruit is in juice form
  • jam-the fruit is a pulp or crushed
  • preserves-the fruit has big chunks in a jam
Anyways! On Wednesday I woke up at 8am and dragged my boyfriend to the strawberry patch with me to go strawberry picking before my 11am class. IT WAS WORTH IT. I think even he would say so. I knew I wanted to make jam with the strawberries because that's what every mom, aunt, and grandma does with fruit (or maybe that's just my awesome family) and i knew i wanted to freeze some and eat some fresh so I thought we'd need a lot...we picked 5 buckets worth. Turned out, that was a lot more strawberries than we needed, but it was really fun and the weather was cool because we went early and it only took about an hour to pick that many. If you have never been fruit picking of any kind I highly suggest you go and then i highly suggest you follow the rest of my blog and make JAM! you could probably pick about 2 buckets and have enough to eat, freeze and make jam :)

Ok so now the part where I tell you how to make jam...that's not going to happen. you know why? because I called my mother to get her super delicious homemade recipe and this is what she told me "buy sure-jell near the canning supplies at the store and look at the recipe inside the box". This happens often, I used to brag about my mom's awesome chocolate chip cookies and how amazing and special they were and when I asked her for the recipe she said "it's on the back of the chocolate chip package". So here's some advice: if you want a delicious recipe, it's probably on the packaging of the key ingredient. and it's probably better than all the recipes that you have to actually buy out of a book.

But my experiences with jam making were good and it paid off, but here's a few tips...

Preparing your fruit:
  • dump fruit in a bowl of room temperature water to clean it. Move the berries around gently with your fingers then take berries out and put in a strainer. This is the best way to clean them without bruising them and it also helps you notice the gross crushed berries.
  • Put in a strainer to drain for 10 minutes. 
  • Cut off all the tops
  • I then sorted my berries into 3 Tupperware containers: those to freeze, those to keep fresh, and those to make into jam. The jam ones were the most ripe ones or the ones that were bruised. 
  • *technically you shouldn't wash berries until you're ready to eat them because they could mold but I did and mine stayed fresh in a Tupperware container for at least 5 days in the fridge. I think you just need to make sure you give them plenty of time to dry off before closing them up.
  • For the strawberries you freeze make sure you use a freezer bag and when you thaw them the best way is to do it in the fridge for a day and then they won't get that nasty soggy texture.
Making your jam:
  • Make freezer jam. It's much easier and quicker to make. You don't have to seal the jars in a hot water bath afterwards which requires special pots and things. I also think it tastes better just make sure you have enough room in your freezer to store it. When you want to use it put a jar in your fridge and it will last a month there.
  • I made ten jars of jam. This required me running to the store multiple times and I ended up using almost 2 entire bags of sugar and 4 packages of sure-jell. So keep in mind if you got 5 buckets of strawberries haha you'll probably need more than 1 pack of sure-jell and more than one bag of sugar.
  • My Kroger did not carry any kind of fruit pectin so I had to go to Publix. I would call ahead and ask if you live in a stupid anti-jam city.
  • Buy new jars (or if you already own canning jars buy new lids) even though it's freezer jam everything needs to be pretty sterilized. I boiled my lids for 2 minutes on the stove and ran the glass jars through the dishwasher alone. 
  • Follow the sure-jell instructions exactly (or your other brand of pectin such as Certo). They're really helpful and detailed. Make sure you measure your fruit (after its crushed) and your sugar exactly or else it may not "jam" right. I think the technical term is "set" but I really like the word jam haha
  • You will be alarmed by the amount of sugar. There's about 4 cups of sugar and 2 cups of fruit for every jar of jam. If you want a less sugar recipe (although come on, it's jam- live a little) you can buy the reduced sugar sure-jell packets and follow those directions. 
  • INVEST IN A FUNNEL. I didn't and my entire kitchen was a disaster zone from trying to pour the jam into jars. 
  • My way may be a hard way. But I didn't try to make several batches of jam at once because I was worried about my measurements etc so I just made my four batches one after the other. It took a while, but once I got rolling and put on some music it was relaxing.
  • clean off your jar tops before screwing on the lids. The jam can get really funky if you don't. I used a hot damp paper towel.  
Good Luck! Happy Jamming!

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