Sunday, April 4, 2010

Strawberry Jam Makin' (and canning)...

How better to celebrate spring than by happening upon organic strawberries at Costco at a great price and deciding to go ahead and can a years worth of strawberry jam?  :)  We're not complicated people, when it comes to fruit spreads we go for strawberry jam and apple butter.  The first is self-explanatory because really...who doesn't like strawberry jam?  And the second is because apple butter reminds me of my grandmother on my father's side...seems like she always had it around when we'd visit and so it has a special place in my heart, and on my palate.

I'm starting to wonder if I have some sort of illness when it comes to breaking down all of my experiences into steps...I've been told I have OCD tendencies at times...perhaps my detractors are right?  Oh we go again!

STEP 1:  Gather all your supplies.  This is not a picture of all of my supplies.  I can see quite a few missing, in fact.  I'm sharing it with you anyway to show you the awesome canning book that I's the bible for canning and gives you step by step instructions (and you know how much I love that) and tons of tips, tricks, hints, and even some hand holding when you need it.  In a word, it's awesome.
Anyway, so basically read your instructions and have all of your supplies clean and ready.  Put your mason jars in the dishwasher on "quick wash" in order to sanitize them unless you have a water bath canner in which case boil your jars that way.  I have a steam canner because it uses WAY less water and does a fine job.  

STEP 2:  Rinse your strawberries and, using the potato eye remover end of your veggie peeler, de-hull them.  How many strawberries you will need depends on your recipe.

STEP 3:  In a flat bottomed dish (such as a pie pan or cake pan) put a layer of strawberries and crush into a pulp with a potato masher.  Invite small children to help you with this.  They like the violence of it all.  In my recipe I (and my assistant) smashed 5 cups of strawberries and put them into my 8qt heavy stockpot.  Once they were in, I added my lemon juice and pectin and whisked them together.  Turn your heat on high.

STEP 4:  Stirring frequently, wait for your mixture to come to a hard rolling boil.  Once it has, add your sweetner (granulated sugar or honey).  Then you need to stir it constantly and wait for it to come to a hard rolling boil AGAIN that can't be stirred down.  This takes longer than you'd 20 min or so depending.  Let it do it's hard rolling boil thing for about 1 minute, stirring constantly or it'll overflow...this is the adrenaline pumping portion of our program.  Take it off the heat and place it near where you'll be filling jars.  (FYI, the timing of all of this varies slightly if you're using honey as your sweetener and the no-sugar pectin so make sure you check the specific directions for your recipe).

STEP 5:  Skim the foam off the top...some people add a pat of butter to their recipes to combat the foam issue...I haven't tried that yet.

STEP 6:  Fill your jars!  Use a canning funnel if you have one or use a pyrex measuring cup to pour it in...don't worry if you have drips, you can always wipe up any spills.  Once they're full, wipe the rims and threads at the top of your jars with a damp cloth so that the lids will form a seal when in the canner.

STEP 7:  This whole time, you've had your lids in a small pot of warm water (just trust me...).  Now use your magnetic lid lifter thingy and take each lid and place it on your jars.

STEP 8:  Take your jar lifter thingy (like my technical terms?) and place your really hot jars onto the rack of the steam canner which has been filled with water up to the level of the rack.  Put the steam canner lid on and turn your heat up to high until the water is boiling and you see A LOT of steam shooting out the little holes on the sides.  Set your timer for whatever your recipe says.  My water bath canning instructions say for 10 min but I do 20 since I'm using the steam canner.

STEP 9:  Once you've steamed it for the amount of time you determine, turn off the heat and wait 5 min. Lift the lid off the canner TILTING THE LID TOWARDS YOU SO THAT THE STEAM ESCAPES TOWARDS THE BACK OF YOUR STOVE (or you'll get a steam burn on your face...and that would suck).  You'll most likely hear some of the lids making a popping sound as the cold air hits them and they seal.  Using your jar lifter again, transfer them onto a dry towel in some draft free place to cool completely, undisturbed for 24 hours.  If any of your lids don't seal you can just re-process them or pop them in the fridge and use them first!

You should give this a try.  The first time I canned (about 2 summers ago) I was intimidated by the whole idea but seriously, it's pretty brainless once you've done it the first time.  And with a guide like the Ball Canning book holding your's a breeze!  My goal this summer is to can all the tomatoes (diced, whole, sauce) that we'll need for the year since they've come out with all the info on how canned tomatoes are the worst things to buy in a can because their acidity level leeches out a lot of BPA from the can liner.  Oh, and a word about BPA.  Home canning helps you escape MOST of that.  Scroll back up to the picture of the lids...see that white part on the bottom?  Yup.  Contains BPA.  I'm good with that, knowing that my jars will spend their lives sitting upright and no part of my food will be touching it.  There are jars that you can buy in the UK that have glass lids and rubber gaskets but they are hella expensive so that just isn't happening.

I hope this post will help give you the boost you need to give canning a try this summer!  Currently I'm saving for a pressure canner so that I can make soups and stews to can...and also to can low acid veggies and'd be awesome to be able to open a jar of my own chicken soup and heat it up for a quick meal...I'll need plenty of easy and healthy food for after the baby is born!

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