I couldn’t let June go by, let all the strawberries ripen, without making at least one batch of strawberry jam. So yesterday I did. It’s not the strawberry-jalapeno jam a customer told me about Tuesday night; it’s not the balsamic strawberry jam I saw in a cookbook at the library on Monday; it’s just plain old strawberry jam made from the recipe in the Sure-Jell box. It’s the kind of strawberry jam you’re happy to take out of the pantry and spread on toast when the snow has long since covered the garden.
Strawberries are on the very, very low end of the pectin spectrum, so as much as I like the idea of just using fruit and sugar and maybe some lemon juice, my fear of the jam not setting is greater. To allay my fears I decided to turn to boxed pectin. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any in the cabin, but with some searching and climbing of ladders Y. was able to find several packages of Sure-Jell For Lower Sugar in the barn.
Inside the Sure-Jell For Lower Sugar box was a sheet of recipes for fruit jams and jellies, both cooked and frozen, and a set of instructions. I understand that in jam making, as in baking, precise measurement is important, but the instructions in the Sure-Jell package make you think that your kitchen might blow up if you add even one granule too much sugar. They use bold type; bold, red type; bold, red, ALL CAPS type; bold, red, ALL CAPS type that they then highlight. It’s enough to put one off jam making altogether, especially when all of one’s (my) measuring cups and spoons are locked safe in a seafaring container at the bottom of the hill. I decided that I wasn’t sending anyone to outer space in my jam, so measuring my sugar in a mason jar and weighing my strawberries by means of a rudimentary scale composed of a bicycle tube box, a piece of wood and a can of scungilli would probably be good enough. Judging by the results—delicious, perfectly set jam—one doesn't have to be quite as EXACT (red, bold, highlighted) as they lead one to believe.
Adapted from the Sure-Jell For Lower Sugar instructions
- 6 cups quartered and crushed strawberries,
- about 3 pounds unprepared fruit
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 box Sure-Jell For Lower Sugar
- Wash and sterilize enough jars to hold 8 cups jam. Pour boiling water over dome lids and allow to soak, off heat, until ready to use.
- Core and quarter strawberries, then mash them with either a fork or potato masher. If some pieces don't get crushed, that's okay--it's nice to have some recognizable pieces of strawberry in the finished jam. Measure out six cups of fruit and place in large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot.
- Measure out sugar. Mix 1/4 cup of it with one package pectin and combine this mixture with fruit. Bring this mixture to a full rolling boil (one that won't stop bubbling when stirred) over high heat, stirring constantly. Add remaining sugar and bring back to a full rolling boil, still stirring constantly. Allow to boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.
- Give it another stir, then ladle into prepared jars, leaving 1/8-1/4 inch of headroom. Wipe off rims and threads and place lids and rings on jars, tightening only finger tight. Place jars on a rack in a canner, if you have one, or a very large pot, if you don't, and cover by 1-2 inches with water. Bring water to a gentle boil. After 10 minutes remove jars and place on a towel to cool. The lids should make a satisfying pop within minutes, indicating that they've sealed. Store in a cool, dark place; refrigerate after opening.
Sealed, will keep at least a year.
Now that I have preserved a taste of June to open in December or February, when I'll really need it, I might risk trying a batch of Sure-Jell free strawberry jam. Besides, if it doesn't set, it will still taste just as good stirred into yoghurt or spooned over ice cream.