First fruits of summer

In our area strawberry season is short and usually doesn’t come till around Father’s day.  I say short because being from California , I remember that from spring till mid or late summer we were going to get strawberries by a field near my  paternal Grandma’s apartment. We would go and get a few boxes and then come home and she would put on her apron and get to making the worlds best jam. I would sit and watch and help stir. Licking my fingers if any of it got on me.

I was meaning to look to see how the heck she put that wax layer on the top of her jams only because I remember popping that thing out and making sure I got it clean of anything good. I just have not taken the time to Google it.  A fun childhood memory that I am sure might be as exciting for my kids as it was more me.

On the news it was announced that a local farm’s strawberry crop was ready two weeks early thanks to some warm weather we had. With the temps cooler today and no real plans we decided to take advantage and get up early and head out to the farm.

It was gorgeous out there in the morning hours. The strawberries we snacked on were just getting warm from the sun and were bursting with juice.  I have not seen so many large berries at this farm in a long time. We filled our berry box with over 12 lbs and hit the store for some larger jars and home we went.

Now in years past I stupidly just tossed berries (minus the hulls of course) in bags and froze them. This year I decided to try and actually follow directions and not only take the hulls off but line a cookie sheet with wax paper and lay out the strawberries in a single layer and set them in the freezer. It has already been a couple hours now and I can see why this is a much better idea. I am going to look forward to these strawberries for smoothies and other things and have a much easier time getting at them. So much so I am debating another tray at the moment once I get the first batch into the bags and in the larger freezer.

I also did jam. Now before my Grandmother passed away I asked her what her recipe for jam was. I have the letter that says she laughed when I said it was the worlds best and I just can’t make it like she did.  She told me the recipe was on the package of Sure Jell Pectin she used. I will never forget reading her letter and thinking all this time I had the recipe but figured  that one was not going to taste anywhere near what my grandmother’s did. I remember her putting butter in it and the ones I used never said to do that. So when I scanned the recipe sure enough, there it was, butter.

Today I did something similar. Ok I mixed the farmer’s recipe with the pectin recipe  and added the butter. Why? The weight and math was easier to figure out and I am sure that they were the same anyhow.  My 10 year old son had fun asking “mom want me to do the math?” He was so excited to help in the kitchen. Well till that new Cooking Channel had a show on ice cream come on and then I totally lost him. That’s ok I got to lick all the utensils while he was watching how Baked Alaskan is made.

I think the best tip I can give to anyone doing jams or jellies for the first time is get all your prep work done first. I use to never do this. I have since learned the importance of getting everything ready and today was a prime example of how something that simple can make things go much easier in the kitchen.

Here is the recipe you will find in the Sure Jell Pectin. There is one for freezer jam but I have never done that. Saw the nice plastic jars (are they jars if they are plastic?) with cute green lids at the store but I am a sucker for doing things the old fashioned way.

STRAWBERRY JAM

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts strawberries, cut and crushed to yield 5 cups crushed berries
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 1 box powder Sure-Jell

Directions

  1. Pour crushed berries into large boiler.

  2. Measure sugar into seperate container and set aside.

  3. Stir package of Sure-Jell into strawberries.

  4. Add butter. (this does add to the flavor a bit but also helps reduce the foam)

  5. Bring berries and Sure-Jell to a full rolling boil (a boil that does not stop bubbling when stirred) then add sugar.

  6. Stir constantly.

  7. Stir in sugar, quickly.

  8. Return mixture to a full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.

  9. Remove from heat.

  10. Skim foam from top with metal spoon.

  11. Ladle quickly into jars that have been cleaned and preheated.

  12. Clean rims of jars with clean hot cloth. ( I kept mine in a pan of very hot water on the counter was easier for next step)

  13. Place heated lids (lids that have been placed in simmering water for 1 minute) on jars and tighten rings.

  14. Place jars in water bath canner for 10 mins.

15.
Remove jars from water bath and place a towel to cool. Leave for 24 hours.
You can check to make sure the jars  sealed properly once they are cooled by pressing down on the lid. If it springs back it didn’t seal. That’s ok. Just pop it in the fridge to store it.  I always seem to have one jar that doesn’t seal.
Enjoy!
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