Here in Central Indiana, the strawberries are in their peak season, full of juicy sweetness. So last week, I invited a friend to go pick strawberries with me at a nearby farm. It was a perfect morning, sunny with cool breezes. It was a perfect farm, complete with beautiful farm house, big white barn, and a country store. Mothers pushed babies in strollers between rows, and little hands enjoyed picking and sampling, too. In less than two hours, I'd picked fifteen pounds of strawberries.
Yep, that's a lot of strawberries! I knew I had to work fast to preserve them. I went out to my garden and harvested the rhubarb for a batch of strawberry rhubarb jam. I love it when I can add elements from my garden to my kitchen concoctions!
The day before strawberry picking, I had gone to the store to purchase the necessary items for jam preserving: Ball canning jars, sugar, and pectin. If you've never made jam, I can promise you that it's easy if you follow directions. The pectin boxes always include recipes as well. For starters, you need to wash all of the canning jars and lids and rings in hot soapy water, and then sterilize them in boiling water on the stove. It's important to keep all of your tools sterile in this process.
The canning jars now include these adorable sticker labels. How handy is that? My husband actually thought I'd hand stamped the labels, bless his little heart. :)
I like to make freezer jam because it does not require the extra step of the hot water bath. After combining all the ingredients and filling jars, you have to leave them in a nice quiet place for twenty-four hours where they will not be disturbed.
And twenty-four hours later, you can pop them right into the freezer!
Over a two day period, I made thirty large and small jars of jam! Strawberry jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, and triple berry jam (which is my new favorite!).
It was the perfect week for jam making, too, as they made the sweetest gifts for Sam's teacher and bus driver on the last day of school!
I thought that thirty jars would last me a long time. I have to confess...my family has already consumed two jars! I may need to make more jam before the berry season is over! This jam is so delicious. Last night, we had the triple berry jam on top of vanilla ice cream...so good!
I think that canning and preserving the harvest is a lost art. Sure, it takes a little time, but it is so worth it when you look in your freezer at all of those bejeweled jars. I think that the increasingly high cost of foods in recent years has many people like me giving some serious thought to growing and preserving now. At one of my grocery stores, the boxes of Sure Jell pectin were completely gone, which makes me think I'm not the only one making her own jam these days.
I recently picked up a copy of Ball's Blue Book Guide to Preserving. Now that I have the canning bug, I'm anxious to try more recipes. The boys would like to try canning salsa this summer, and I'm hoping to try some basic tomato sauces as well. I'm also looking toward the fall, when I can make my own apple butter.
The berries are ripe for picking, folks! Try your hand at some jam making this week. You'll be glad you did!