Typically, I am not one to buy produce like strawberries out of season. But occasionally, a little splurge is called for — like Valentine’s Day, when I love to give little tokens of my love to a few of my very favorite people in the world. The deep, ruby-red color and luscious, vibrant flavor of strawberry jam makes it kind of a perfect contender.
Jam-making can be tricky; in these instances I heed the advice of those who’ve been at it a while. Among my favorites is Marisa McLellan’s site Food in Jars. This delectable preserve is perfect paired with dark chocolates, a rich cheese, or at breakfast with pancakes or toast.
Adapted from Food in Jars
2 pounds fresh strawberries, stemmed and chopped (about 7-8 cups chopped strawberries)
2 cups sugar
Juice and zest of two lemons
1 package no-sugar pectin
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper, optional
5-6 1/2 pint jam jars
Note: Different types of pectin have varying directions for when and how much to be added to the jam. Make sure you follow the instructions of the pectin you’ve purchased.
In a large, non-reactive pot, combine the strawberries with one cup of sugar to macerate. Allow them to sit for at least one hour, letting their juices begin to release.
While the strawberries macerate, thoroughly wash your jam jars with hot, soapy water.
In a large pot (a stock pot will do if you don’t have a canning pot) fitted with a rack (a small baking rack will work), arrange the jars and lids to prepare them for a water bath. Fill the pot with water and set on the stove — but don’t bring to a boil just yet.
Combine the pectin with the remaining sugar. Sprinkle over the strawberry mix and stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir. Add the black pepper now if using. (It will give a subtle little zing to the jam.)
Bring the jam to a vigorous boil, stirring frequently to keep the jam mix from burning. Strawberry jam can be quite frothy. Skim the foam off with a spoon as needed. You can reserve the foam and top yogurt or pancakes with it.
Continue to boil the jam, stirring often, until the consistency thickens, about 15-20 minutes.
While the jam boils, bring the water bath with the jars to a low simmer. You want the jars to be hot when they’re filled with jam. Some people simmer the gummy lids or rubber rings separately in a shallow pan. I toss them all into the same pot.
Once the consistency of the jam is thicker, turn off heat.
Using tongs or jar grabbers, carefully remove the jars and lids from their water bath, placing them on a dish towel.
With a wide-mouth funnel placed over the mouth of the jar, carefully ladle hot jam into each jar, leaving 1/2 inch of space between the jam and the top of the jar. Continue with each jar. Wipe the rims clean. Finish by affixing lids to each according to the directions of the jar manufacturers.
Place jars back into water bath. Bring to a boil and boil for at least 10 minutes to process. Remove jars and let sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. After that time, remove the metal rings or metal clips to test for a strong seal. Gently lift the jams by their lid, without the seal, to test. If the lids stay affixed, they have been properly sealed and can stored in a cool, dark place. If the lids come off, they don’t have a strong seal and should be stored in the fridge and used within a couple weeks.
All photos by Kimberley Hasselbrink.