A few weeks ago Jordan surprised me with some canning supplies as we’ve decided it would be really smart to can the goods we don’t use from the garden this summer. Along with the supplies, he got me the Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation which is a great book for beginning and experienced canners. As a beginner, I found it helpful because it contains extra information about how the cans seal, the difference between pressure and water bath canning, what types of food need to be pressure canned rather than water bathed, and a lot more.
Today I decided to practice my canning skills and can some homemade strawberry jam. It was quite an experience. Since it’s only February, we had to buy the fruit we needed from the store because it’s really not the right season for any fresh produce here. I am eager to use my canning stuff! Plus, by making this jam at home, I know everything that is in it. Canning is a very good skill to have to be self-sustaining because you prolong the shelf life of what you have grown from your garden.
For this process, I made an investment in a water bath canner. It’s 21.5 quarts, comes with a rack and the best part, it’s made in the United States so I am supporting the country I live in (this is something that is important to me, to support the country you live in, wherever it may be!). Also, because it has steel in it, this should last me a long time (if not forever).
So here was how it went. Any readers who see things they would have done differently, or have any secret ingredients to add, please share!
As I cut the strawberries, Jordan cut crisp apples and a lemon, and we put them all in a large sauce pan with water and brought to a boil for 20 minutes. It was amazing how the quickly the fruits cooked down and expelled a sweet, citrusy aroma. Your kitchen will smell wonderful while making this.
At this point I had already made a mistake by adding the strawberries. I wasn’t supposed to do that yet! Basically you’re supposed to make an apple sauce for the base but I decided that strawberry applesauce would make it be even better! (Plus, luckily I had extra strawberries to add at the appropriate time.)
Next I put the mixture into a sieve and mashed the fruit through the tiny holes to make the strawberry applesauce. (This can be tiring. I was glad to have Jordan when my little arms couldn’t hold the sieve up any more.)
Then, you take about 3 cups of the applesauce, the halved strawberries, and the HUGE amount of sugar and put it back into the cleaned sauce pan to boil for another 20 minutes.
Put the hot jam into your jars, which should be sweltering (watch your hands!) and sterilized from sitting in the simmering water in the canner. Wipe rim and jar of excess jam, leave ¼ inch headspace. Place cap (which also should be hot and sterilized by sitting in simmering water) on jar and screw your band on so no water will get into your jam. This part, ladies and gentleman, was not graceful at all. Imagine 5’2” me and 6’3” Jordan within inches of each other, arms tangled, wielding scalding jars out of boiling water, pouring hot jam, attempting to wipe the jars clean without burning fingers, all the while doing so quickly to keep the jam from cooling. Yeah, there was a big mess and some minor burns to the fingers.
After that fiasco, boil in canner for 10 minutes and then take the lid off the canner and let cool for 5 minutes.
After the 5 minutes of cooling, take out each can and place somewhere where they won’t be bothered for 24 hours.
The best part was, because I messed up, I had extra strawberry applesauce to eat!
We’ll see how my mess-up affected the taste of the jam though. Hopefully it won’t! It certainly was sticky like jam because the pans were really hard to clean. Next time I will have a hot bath of soapy water to put the pots in pronto so the jam doesn’t have time to cool and jell.
We’ll see in 24 hours how it tastes!
The jam was successful! After poking the tops of the lids every time I passed by the cans to see if they sealed, I finally got to open one. It tasted like the sun warming your skin on a summer morning on the back deck. Next time I may actually reduce the amount of sugar because it is awfully sweet. The chunks of strawberries are a nice change in consistency within the jam and I am glad I made the mistake of adding the strawberries too soon because otherwise there would have been too many strawberry chunks in the jam for my liking. Oh, and I would recommend not poking the lids as I said I did. The instructions said this could interfere with the sealing process but I was too curious.