Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Jam

During strawberry season this spring, it seemed anytime I thought of the words "strawberry jam" together, that song "Strawberry Wine" by Deana Carter started going in my head... That's a blast from the past, huh? Anyway, homemade strawberry jam is sooooo easy. Make it once and you'll wonder why you didn't realize before how easy it was. You'll also be sold on how stinking delicious it is and will swear to never buy store-bought again. Maybe not, but that's pretty much been the case for us! Last year I made a bunch but didn't know how much we would need to get us through the year. We barely made it and had to buy a small jar or two. Ours was much better, though. This year, I tried to do the same (but didn't write down how much I made last year, so I had to guess again...), but then we had a TON of rain during the season, which ended it and left us without quite as much as I wanted. *Sigh* And where is that rain now...?

Anyway, strawberry season is over here, but it is still in season in many other areas, so if you want to make some... Go for it!! Here's how we do it.

First, go get some strawberries! Get a bunch. From a local farm (that doesn't use pesticides) where you pick them yourself. That way will get you the best strawberries. And it's fun. :) If you're around the Triangle, our favorite is Phillips Farm. Here are pictures from our picking trips. We made plenty.

2011 April ~ Strawberry season!

Then run to the store to get some pectin. We tried out a couple brands but didn't get to try out a third one that looked promising. Strawberry season ended abruptly due to too much rain. I'll let you know what we thought of the two we tried.

Pectin #1 SureJell

Smash the berries. Don't puree. You want some chunks.

Add sugar. Does it look like a lot of sugar? Well, that's because it is. (There is a low/no sugar variety, but we haven't tried that one.) Basically, this one uses more sugar than berries... 2 cups crushed fruit + 4 cups sugar.

Boil some water with the pectin. This only means cooking for a minute or so, but there is some cooking involved...  

Mix that in with the fruit/sugar and pour into your jars. Sit overnight to set the jam before freezing. 

Pectin #2 Ball

This one uses twice the berries and less than half the sugar. You can see the difference in the amount of sugar if you compare this picture to the one above... 4 cups of berries + 1 1/2 cups sugar.

No cooking at all. Just combine ingredients and stir!

And there you go!

I did a blind taste-test with Ryan to determine which jam he preferred...the one with more sugar or less. He chose the one with less. He didn't know it was the one with less sugar, but he said he thought the other was sweeter and good..but this one had more of a strawberry taste. It does use more berries, but when you pick them from a farm yourself...that doesn't mean much more cost at all! So, that was fine by us. Of course, we didn't know the season was going to end early, so we ended up with a little less than we wanted. The Ball pectin also makes a jam that is slightly softer than the other, but it's not a huge difference and not one that bothers us.

I did have some Pomona's Pectin to try. This is more natural, has no preservatives, and you can adjust the amount of sugar (or honey, etc) that you use. But we didn't get to try it out in the end. You would think we had enough berries, as much as we DID pick, but...we didn't.

Here are some other details, in case you're interested.
  • Pectin costs...  SureJell: $3.37 for a 2-pack / Ball Pectin: $2.32 for a 2-pack (less sugar AND cheaper!) Unfortunately, I didn't write down how many boxes of pectin we used, but each packet of pectin gives between 3 and 3 1/2 pints of jam. 
  • I also had to use jars for freezing, of course. They will run about $8 or so for a case of 12 wide mouth pint-sized jars or about $6 for a case of 12 8-oz jelly jars. I already had most of these but did buy another case of the pint-sized jars. I ended up freezing 21 pints of jam... You can use other containers, of course, but if you go with glass, make sure it's freezer safe first.
  • Strawberries from a nearby farm $1.50 per pound. We bought 81.56 pounds of berries, totaling $135.99. (We did buy 15lbs from another farm that had a few berries left after our favorite had run out, and they charge a bit more.) 
This gave us 21 pints of jam and 40 cups of frozen berries (2 cups per bag, 20 bags).

I was totally going to try to figure out how much it cost me to make the jam versus buying, but...it was getting too complicated. Trying to figure out the cost of the sugar and berries (when I measured per cup and bought per pound) and...blah, blah. It's probably cheaper to make it, esp since we buy organic strawberry jam; either way, it does taste better, and it's nice to have a big stash in your freezer whenever you run out.

If you're wondering how in the world we use so much jam over the year... Well, no we don't eat that many pb&j sandwiches or that much toast and jam. We use a bit of the jam in plain, homemade yogurt instead of buying flavored (way less sugar that way, too!). Every now and then when I need a decent lunch right now and don't have something made up, Aiden loves peanut or sunflower butter in a bowl with a bit of jam and then eaten with crackers. It's great as an ice cream topping, as well.

We've also made some blueberry jam (not sure if I'm going to be crazy about that one) and mango jam, when there was an awesome deal on champagne mangos at Whole Foods. Love those things! I only made half a batch of each of those, about three half-pints.

These are frosty because I took them out of the freezer for the picture... In order: Champagne Mango, Strawberry, and Blueberry jams


Becky said...

I have wanted to go strawberry picking for years but we never seem to make it. This year it has just been too crazy with school finishing up. I'm hoping to get out for the blackberries but that is even iffy with the baby due at the end of august.. Anyway, this is the recipe I've bookmarked from last year to try for strawberry jam..no pectin at all, and must lower sugar.


She swears it works, so I figured I would try it.

Amanda English said...

I too have wanted to go strawberry picking for the last few years! Hopefully next year we can make it out there! =)

Love all your food post. =)

Daisy and Ryan said...

I hope you both get to do it next year!

And Amanda - the place we go to isn't too far from you all. It's in Cary - right off of Morrisville Carpenter. We go there in the fall to their pumpkin farm, too. We'll be going plenty next spring. You all are welcome to join us if you want! :)

Becky said...

Just an update, in case you were at the edge of you seat (Ha!) I took the fam strawberry picking while we are vacationing in Ocean City, and I just finished making the jam recipe that I posted. It is OUTSTANDING! I used 2 cups of sugar because the strawberries weren't very sweet but it probably would have been fine with 1.5 cups. SO SO good.. It is pretty thin but that could just be because it is so fresh. The recipe only made 4.25 8 oz jars...someone else said they got 6 jars. I can't wait to eat more!