It’s been about a week or so since I cooked up a batch of strawberry jam and I am still amazed I actually did it.
It all started when I bought three baskets of strawberries at the La Jolla Farmers market one Sunday. I spent eight dollars on those babies because they looked so dark and ripe. Now I know better. Dark berries will be quite ripe, but not necessarily more sweet and certainly not any more fresh. When I got home and washed the soft berries, I realized they were going to spoil within two days, tops. It was so disappointing! I tried to think of ways to salvage the situation and realized I could cook them down, the way people did before refrigeration days. I thought, I could preserve them somehow! Then cue light bulb — I could make jam! It’s something I’ve always wanted to try and the inner pioneer girl in me screamed, “yes, try. You’ve got to!”
So I tried, and LO and BEHOLD, the strawberries actually jelled and turned to jam. While the entire affair was a lot easier than I thought it would be, the initial dive into the project was very challenging. The more I read about making jam, the more it seemed like a horribly arduous task. There are all sorts of instructions on sanitizing jars in boiling hot water, dipping the metal spoon in the same boiling water, using pectin, using underripe berries, etc. I eventually modified a simpler recipe I read here.
This is what you do:
Wash, hull, and halve each strawberry (I had about two pints of berries). Toss them in a pot and simmer on high heat with about one cup of sugar. Cook until sugar dissolves. Lower the heat a tad and continue to cook and stir. Many recipes call for pectin, but some quick google research told me cooking the fruit in sugar alone will get it going. Like magic, the fruit started to thicken and become jammy. After testing it, I poured it in a glass pickling jar that I bought at a World Market. Once it cooled down, I tasted it and was awe-struck by how similar it was to, you know, jam you buy at the store.
I so expected an incredible jam failure but everything turned out to be OK. There’s an odd thrill in making your own jam. Perhaps it’s the resourcefulness of it all. I am not sure how long my jam will last, as I was not very careful with the sanitizing process. Properly prepared preserves can last months. But it’s not like I was canning the summer strawberries for the long winter. I was going for the experience. And, I could probably still slather some on hot buttered biscuits within the next few weeks.