Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Easiest strawberry jam recipe, ever!

I love good tasting preserves: jams, jellies, chutneys -- you name it. In fact, one of my earliest farm-to-kitchen connections lies within a sweet memory of strawberry freezer jam.

One of my best friends from grade school always had the yummiest jam sandwiches. The fruit was chunky and perfectly sweet, not the sugary, cavity-inducing smack I was used to in store-bought jam. When she told me it was homemade, I remember thinking, "You can do that?"

My mum was a creative cook, but not a preserver. So when my friend invited me over to share in her family's jam making day, it was an eye-opening and fascinating experience for me.

I don't have very clear memories of the actual process, beyond marvelling at the redness of the berries and the wonder of actually making your own jam. I do remember bringing home a few yogurt containers filled with berry goodness and carefully rationing them because I knew when the last container was empty, the jam was gone until next year.

While I didn't realize it at the time, it was my first life lesson of eating in season.

So when Ella and I brought home a flat (eight pints) plus four quarts of berries yesterday, I knew strawberry freezer jam was on the top of my "to make" list.

If you've ever wanted to make homemade jam but you think you can't or you're too busy or you don't have the canning supplies for cooked jam, then freezer jam is for you. It's easy and quick and little fingers can help along every step of the way because there's no cooking or boiling water involved.

To show just how easy it is, I've put together our step-by-step tutorial.

For each batch of jam, you need:

• 4 cups of crushed strawberries
• 1.5 cups of granulated sugar
• 1 45 g pouch of freezer/uncooked jam gelling powder

Yep, that's it.

Step 1: Sort the fruit to ensure there are no mouldy or rotten bits. I can't get her to clean her room but she'll do this without being asked.

Step 2: Wash and hull the berries. Feed the tops to the chickens. You'll be their favourite person Forever.

Step 3: Mash the berries but don't puree them. Wonder what your daughter means when she says, "Mama -- I love to smoosh things." Decide it's not worth investigating further.

Step 4: Measure four cups of mashed berries into a bowl. Ignore your daughter's comment that, "It looks like guts."

Step 5: Slowly add sugar to bowl of berries and gently stir. Agree with your daughter that yes, it does kind of look like quicksand. Resolve to ask your husband what kind of stories he's been reading to the children lately. Allow mixture to stand for 15 minutes.

Step 6: During those 15 minutes, chase strawberry-snatching son out of the kitchen and remind him that although he did just get home from school, it's only been an hour since last snack and he can't really be that hungry, can he?

Step 7: Slowly sprinkle gelling powder into mixture while stirring for 3 minutes. Reassure eldest child that 3 minutes isn't really that long and no, his arm won't fall off from the strain.

Step 8: Allow to stand for five minutes. Then gently stir for one minute more. The jam, not the eldest child.
Step 9: Give starving masses (aka the children) a taste test before they pop with anticipation.
Step 10: Enjoy the two minutes of happy munching sounds. Go back to step 9 - repeat three more times.

Step 11: Ladle into containers, leaving about an inch at the top for the jam to expand in the freezer.

Step 12: Repeat step 1 through 11 until you have enough jam to last until next June (we've got at least one more batch to go). Jam lasts six weeks in the refrigerator and one year in the freezer.

According to the gelling package, this entire process only takes 30 minutes but it took us significantly longer. Of course, we had to make time for some silliness.

Who knew quart containers could make so many things such as...
... hats,
... and beds,

... the Eiffel tower (apparently, lamby passed out due to oxygen deprivation that high up)

... and a super hero car.

What's your favourite super simple preserve?


Amy L. said...

This sounds like the perfect experience with your kiddos! You've inspired me...I pass a u-pick farm on my way to and from work. I think I'll have to make a day trip and try your recipe! said...

Thanks, Amy! It was loads of fun. And there wasn't the fussing with canning equipment. Now if I could only figure out a way to make freezer pickles... and salsa... and... lol!

Mama Pea said...

Dee-lightful tutorial! Where in the world did you hire those child actors? They could not have been more perfect for the part. (Why oh why oh why do we have to lose that wonderful sense of imagination and playfulness when we become big people? It comes so naturally and easily when we're kids.)

That recipe is so fantastic . . . in a year or two Ella (and/or Jack, too, of course) could do it totally by herself if she so desired. While you took a little nap in the hammock. :o)

David said...

Fiona, this is an awesome post. I sure hope that it can be used for Mulberries. I’ve been thinking about picking the ripe Mulberries that grow wild here in Nebraska and having my 5 year old Grandson help me make Jelly. This recipe looks like just the thing. I bought Suregel but your jam gelling powder looks to be a much simpler way. I’ll have to scout out the box stores for the un cook stuff.

We just had 1.8 more inches of rain in the last couple days. That brings the total for June up to almost 13 inches of rain. Our total for the year usually runs between 15 – 17 inches a year. I’m sure glad that my garden beds are raised 8 inches above the ground or I would be planting rice in the paddies.

I really like to read your down to earth real farm life posting. Keep up the regular posting.

Christine Peets said...

I've learned that I don't digest strawberries well, but cooking them helps. While this isn't cooking, I think smooshing them will make them easier to digest. One thing--can I borrow your helpers? They make the jam-making look so much more fun.

Erin said...

I started doing freezer jam last year, you are right, it is just so much easier! I think it keeps it's color and flavor better too, and has waaaayyyy less sugar!

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