Thursday, June 16, 2011

We Were Making Jaamm, Strawberry Jaammmmm

Saturday morning found me itching
To get on over to my grandma's kitchen
Where the sweetest little berries was cooking up right
And then we'd put them in a canning jar and seal them up tight

We were making jam
Strawberry jam
If you want the best jam
You've gotta make your own
 -- Michelle Shocked

First, I will warn you right up front: today was NOT a good camera day for me. I don't think I got a single shot that had a combination of both the right exposure and a proper focus. But I'm posting them anyway... strawberries are just too much a part of this time of year to not write about just because of my photographic incompetence!!

Yesterday, my mom and I spent 45 minutes picking strawberries in the local U-pick patch. I walked out with twelve pounds of the sweet, juicy bursting-with-ripeness fruit. Oh, and there were quite a few in my belly too... you know how that "just a taste here and there" thing goes, right?

The first order of business of course was to consume them in the form of strawberry shortcake. We got very lucky and my mom shared her second pan of shortcake with us, so all we had to do was slice the berries and add sugar. Yummm... though I have to admit that I can't tell which part I like more when I eat it - the berries or the shortcake. I'll have to share that recipe soon too.

Having taken care of that, I moved on to the remaining (many) pounds of berries. Jam was next on the list.

Did you know that the "regular" jam recipe in the Sure-Jell pectin box calls for more sugar than it does fruit? Yup. I guess that's why the sweet-tooths of the world love it, huh? 

In an effort to make some preserves that were mostly fruit, last year I tried Ball's no-sugar pectin recipe that uses either Cran-Raspberry or Apple Juice as the sweetener. The flavor was fantastic, but alas, it didn't set up at all. 

Now for me, that's not really an issue; nearly all of the jam I eat is consumed mixed in with my yogurt in the morning. Runny-ness matters not. However, I do share a house with two men (well, OK, one man and one soon-to-be man - see pictures at the end of this post) who L.O.V.E. their PB&J's. There, my runny jam doesn't go over quite so well.

Given that, yet still wanting to try to make something that was at least more fruit than it was sugar, this year I tried Sure-Jell's low sugar recipe. It still has what seems like a lot of sugar, but at least the ratio is leaning in the right direction! 

At first it seemed to have failed completely. The jam separated, with the solids floating to the top and a clear jelly-like layer forming at the bottom of all the jars. Several hours have passed now since bottling it, and though it's not what I'd call "stiff", I think it's at least not totally runny. The flavor passed the "spoon lick" test at the end of the process too, so I have this funny feeling that no matter what, it's going to be consumed!

"Low Sugar" Strawberry Jam

4 cups crushed berries (this was, for me, just over two pounds once cleaned and trimmed).
3 cups sugar, mixed with one box pectin (Sure-Jell, sugar free variety) and one cup water.

Mix and heat sugar, pectin and water until boiling. Boil hard for one minute.

Immediately add pectin/sugar mixture to crushed fruit and stir for one minute.
Ladle into clean jars, wipe rims, seal with new canning lids and tighten with canning rings.
Allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours to set up.
In my experience it keeps up to, if not more than, one year.
Makes about six cups.


In other local happenings:

This is my Dad and Mom on their front porch, opening Mom's birthday present. It's the camera that we took with us to the strawberry field but was so small in her pocket that we forgot we had it and so never took any pictures!
Here are the new little birds, enjoying the out of doors for the first time this week. We're keeping them sectioned off from the old ladies until they get used to each other, but hope to have the little ones out of the garage by next week.

The blueberry plants that we put in last year have berries on them now!

We've gone canoeing three times now with Sam - he LOVES it, especially when we go check out the light houses! We are so excited to have the canoe right there at the lake this summer and hope to get out often, even if only for a few minutes each time!

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