It’s strawberry season, that time of year when you can head out to great U Pick places like Fairwinds Farm in Bowdoinham to get your fill – and more – of the plump juicy red fruit. This year, I learned how to make a very simple strawberry jam that not only is sweet and tasty, it has less than half the amount of sugar of regular jam. My tutor was one of Maine’s expert master preservers, Kate McCarty from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Falmouth.
The most important ingredient in this recipe, of course, are the strawberries. McCarty says they should be ripe and free of green or yellow spots, and firm, not soft to the touch or mushy. Beyond the strawberries and pectin, you also need sugar or honey and a few very useful kitchen utensils including a wide mouth funnel, a rubberized jar lifter for removing hot jars from heat, a timer, a magnetic lid lifter and a headspace measure. Most of these are included in a beginner’s canning kit such as the one Ball makes.
The berries are hulled and destemmed and put to boil with the other ingredients in the jam recipe, listed below. The mixture is boiled until it becomes what McCarty calls a “rolling boil,” which means the boiling does not cease when you take a spoon to it. As the boiling process ensues, McCarty says, you also work to sterilize the jam jars (less than $20 a dozen at your local hardware or department store) as well as the two-piece lids. This is done in a separate pot.
When everything is done, fill the jars with the hot jam mixture, being careful to leave the recommended “headspace” between the jam and top of jar. This is done to help ensure a vacuum seal and to ward off any possible contamination.
As a last step, McCarty says the covers are placed in a hot water bath for approximately 10 minutes to seal the covers. You know the seals are set, she says, if after removing the filled jam jars from the hot water, the lids have no flex.
So easy and a great way to have a taste of fresh local strawberries well into the winter.
Low Sugar Strawberry Jam
Yield: Four 8-oz. jars
4 cups prepared strawberries
2 teaspoons calcium water
3/4 to 2 cups sugar or 1/2 to 1 cup honey
2 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin powder
Prepare calcium water according to directions. Wash strawberries and dry. Remove stems and hulls; mash fruit. Fill hot water bath canner halfway. Bring to a simmer on medium heat. Wash and rinse four 8-ounce canning jars; let stand in hot canner water. Let lids stand in hot water.
Measure fruit into stockpot. Add calcium water and stir well. Measure sugar or honey into separate bowl. Thoroughly mix proper amount of pectin powder into sugar or honey.
Bring fruit to a boil. Add pectin-sugar/honey mixture; stir vigorously 1 to 2 minutes while cooking to dissolve pectin. Return to a boil and remove from heat.
Pour hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Apply two-part lids and tighten screw band until fingertip-tight. Process half-pints for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.