May 10, 2016
I do love a strawberry. I love a strawberry shortcake, strawberries and creme fraiche, strawberries in yogurt, strawberry pie, strawberry cake, strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar.
And it’s strawberry season here in Arkansas, and strawberries are having an exceptional year. Big, sweet, plentiful.
So today I made strawberry jam.
Friend Kate was visiting, and she’s awfully fond of strawberry jam. We’d talked about making some last year, and just didn’t do it (and berries weren’t too good last year, anyway). We determined we wouldn’t let this year’s season get away.
This morning, we ventured to the area produce market, a little country store in the next town over that doesn’t have a huge variety of produce, but will most assuredly have plenty of whatever’s in season locally. Sure enough, they had local Arkansas berries, the same kind I stopped off at the stand in another town and picked up a couple of weeks ago, for the piddling sum of $24 for a flat, or eight quarts.
We got two flats.
If anyone is counting, that translates to four gallons of strawberries. Which cooked down into just under a gallon — 30 half-pints — of strawberry jam.
I know I have helped Mama make strawberry jam before. We always grew strawberries, and froze a good many of them, but I’m all but positive we also made jam. Why I don’t remember making strawberry jam, I’m not exactly sure. But I don’t. Eh. No matter. I know I’d never made fig jam before I decided on the fly to make some, when I first ventured into canning on my own, back six or seven years ago. That’s why they make the Interwebs, right? So you can google recipes for stuff you never made before?
According to the Ball canning site, one uses a cup of sugar for every pint of berries. I thought that sounded like way too much sugar, as is the case in most recipes for jams and jellies. So I cut it down to a cup per pound of cut-up berries.
As prep goes, strawberries are among the easiest fruit to get ready to make jam or jelly. One merely cuts off the cap, or leafy stem, and cuts the berries in half. We wound up with almost 15 pounds of cut-up berries, to which I added about 5 pounds of sugar, divided between the two largest stockpots I own. A half-cup of lemon juice and a half-box of Sure-Jell in each one, and we were off to the races.
At which point, of course, I let one of the pots boil over and coated the top of the stove in strawberry syrup. Sweet, sticky strawberry syrup. I had a ball cleaning that up.
Pretty stuff. A good, dark, luscious looking red. It’s enough to make me want to make biscuits in the morning. And it’s a good warm-up for the blackberry jam I plan to make next month when the blackberries come in. There’s a pick-your-own place nearby, and I don’t mind picking blackberries, which, unlike strawberries, grow at a reasonable height and don’t kill either your knees or your back. And there’ll be fig jam later in the summer, followed by pear preserves this fall.
H’mm. I’m thinking Christmas baskets this year may be jam and some of the kids’ Nut Butter Nation peanut butter. Maybe with a loaf of homemade bread. PB&J, anyone?
Now, see, if you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em are REAL good all year….