(Not-too-Sweet) Strawberry Jam

The good news is that after my expression of teen angst last Friday San Francisco turned on a dime, helping us to forget a soggy week by giving us a glorious weekend of sun, (mostly) blue skies, and a good, strong wind that blew out the cobwebs rattling around my brain — so, yeah. I’m over it. (For now.) (Thank you for your nice notes and emails.)

The other good news is that I spent a good portion of the past week/end cooking — mostly working up recipes for an upcoming article (all about souffles, if you must know) — and thinking about cooking and also stuffing my fridge with farmers’ market bounty and beauty. I misread one recipe and went nuts for strawberries thinking I needed more than I did; the bonus was that after eating them out of hand, in my granola, and atop vanilla ice cream I still had a lot. So I made jam. I small-batched it and came out with just three wee jars, but I preserved them properly so they will last for a good few months (if indeed we can make them last that long).

Which brings me to my point of the day: what to do when you have too many berries? Can ’em, o’course.

I know – breaking news.

Still, I can’t help but sing the praises of home preserving yet again: it’s (fairly) easy; it’s (pretty) cheap; it’s (very) pretty in general; it’s actually quite fun, no modifier necessary. I indulged myself in a few Weck jars and used them for my strawberry jam, mostly because the size of the Ball jars – a flat of which is currently perched atop a length of my kitchen cupboards; small apartment kitchens for the win! – are a bit too large for the kind of canning I wanted to do. (Oh and also I truly love the funky shapes and pretty lids of Weck jars, even if they’re a tiny bit more fussy to use what with the rubber ring and the metal clamps. I used Weck jars for my blackberry jam wedding gift project last summer and have a real fondness now.) We have one jar leftover from the Great Blackberry Jam Project of ’11, and it’s of a medium size, which means we can’t linger over it too long lest it go bad – which is fine, who needs an excuse to eat jam? But I think canning in smaller jars is more to my taste. Especially since I don’t eat jam every day.

Sunday afternoon after I slid a batch of chocolate ‘soufflettes’ (my new favorite made-up word) into the oven, I cut the tops off the extra strawberries I’d picked up at the farmers’ market, sliced them in half, and put them in a pot with a sprinkling of sugar and lemon juice. Meanwhile I sterilized about 4 jars – I ended up needing 3 – so I’d be prepared, started my Sunday Dinner prep and tidied the kitchen, every so often turning to stir and check the jam as it simmered. The Giants game continued its progress in the other room, the sun shone, and it was a fine place to be, my kitchen on a weekend afternoon with my run done and tucked away, the laundry filed, the dishes done.

I like to make the simplest kind of jam, and skip pectin when possible (this latest batch lacked pectin for the simple reason that I didn’t have any one hand and didn’t feel like going to the store). I use a light hand with the sugar and let the jam simmer as long as it needs ’til it becomes thicker and ready to can. I am not one to experiment with more exotic flavor combinations, but I’m letting myself consider it, and will check out the fruit options at tomorrow’s market to see what I might concoct. Still, though: I like simple, fresh, clear flavors that taste of themselves and will probably keep my jams that way for a long time to come.

I’m including my basic jam recipe here, with lots of notes, exactly as I cooked it last weekend. Maybe this weekend will be your weekend to make jam. Something to consider, at any rate.



Join the Conversation

  1. You had me till “I don’t eat jam every day.”
    I don’t either, but I could. Easily!

  2. This is great! I made (and canned) a large batch of strawberry jam last season that everyone I gave it to seemed to love–but it was way too sweet for me. I’ll try this w/the berries I get at the market this weekend.

  3. If you leave the berries and strawberries to sit for even as little as 20 minutes before heating they will become release some of their juice and you should not need any water. I am jealous looking at your jam because we used up the last of last summers strawberry jam a month ago and they should not be in season for another 2 months. Although with the crazy weather we have been having, who knows…

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