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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strawberry Jam

Last weekend a small band of my friends and I decided to get an early start on strawberry season at Kruger Farms in Sauve Island, Oregon. The afternoon involved several trips to the beer garden for the guys and ears of corn fire grilled.

Here is Julie with Mr Jaxon on his first trip strawberry picking. We first met Jaxon at the Pumpkin Patch before Halloween on Sauve Island.

Brent, Julie, Jaxon and Christina

Mr Jaxon's first time on a wagon!

Jen and her awesome parasol, Spencer pulling Jaxon and Christina, the proud mom snapping photos.

Cutest proud parent moment ever - who can blame them since their son is a sweetie.

And this was taken while I was sitting in a strawberry field picking berries. The rains have been just crazy this year in Oregon but we still managed to get a pretty good haul of sweet berries.

Start by rinsing off your berries - be thorough and only do a pint or two at a time so your collander is not too crowded.

I try to make jam as soon as possible after picking the berries to maintain the fresh color and taste - jam turns out much better with the freshest ingredients. Here is me mashing them up in my heavy stock pot. Some people puree in a food processor but I prefer doing everything by hand because I like the fruit chunks that come with homemade jam. I just take extra time mashing and ripe berries should mash pretty easily. I refuse now to buy jam in the stores after making my own. Plus there is something special about knowing you not only made it but you know exactly what is in it as well! For one batch of strawberry jam you will need 6 very full pints of berries. After you have completed the mashing process add 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice to the berries. This helps also maintain the color of your berries during cooking though because of the amount you will add more sugar to compensate.

Add one box of natural fruit pectin (make sure it is the cooking style and not the no sugar or freezer jam styles - this recipe is for processed jam with sugar). Cook the jam over medium high heat and bring to a full boil (the kind which does not cease when stirred). Once it comes to a boil cook, stirring constantly for one minute and add 7 1/2 cups sugar. Stir in the sugar quickly and bring back up to a boil for three minutes. Remove from heat and let settle for a few moments and then skim as much foam off as possible before ladling into jars. There are three must haves for canning - a canning funnel, a jar lifter and a proper ladle. Make sure to leave 1/4 inch minimum at the top of your jars.

Processing jars is easy - you want at least an inch of water over the jars when processing. I do not have a canner. I use a standard large stock pot filled with water and I put a steamer tray raised about 1/2 inch from the bottom of my pan to process my jars and it works great. Boil the water and process each jar 20 minutes. The secret to not loosing jars is to make sure to keep your jars hot. If you make the jam fresh and process immediately you should be fine. If you are waiting to process though you will want to put the hottest water possible in your sink and let the jars bathe while waiting for your water to boil.

I use Avery round labels #8293 for the tops of my jars and I process alot of jams and jellies every year as gifts for Yule.

I, of course, wait until the jars had cooled and dried before labeling.

Make sure to let your jam settle for a minimum of six days before refrigerating and eating because it needs to set. Enjoy!

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