Thursday, June 18, 2015

Strawberry Freezer Jam

The distressing thing about being a mother is the realization that mothers are supposed to know everything. I know this because my mother knew everything when I was growing up, especially all things relating to food. My mother-in-law knows everything, too: how to make the perfect roast, the perfect gravy, the perfect chocolate drop cookies, and the perfect strawberry-peach jam.

In fact, my hubbie and I have had a few conversations about our mothers' jams. I'd talk about how wonderful my mother's strawberry jam was, and he'd add that his mother's strawberry-peach jam was the best jam ever (which implies it is superior to the peach-less jam of my childhood). We'd carry on about the sweet, flavorful, deliciousness of these jams for a while, trying to one-up each other in our profuse praise.

Then a few weeks ago, as I was bragging to my mother about the cartons of strawberries on sale for $1, she immediately asked if I got enough to make jam. Shoot. I blew it. Mothers should know that $1/lb strawberries mean that it's time to make jam, and I totally missed my chance. I was pretty chagrined.

Nonetheless, the very next week, these sweet berries were on sale at a different store for the very same price, and I promptly bought 4 lbs! As I know nothing about jam making, I called up the source of wisdom to ask her to share her secret recipe, and now I'm going to share it with all of you.
Our phone conversation went something like this:

Me: Great news! I found some more cheap strawberries and am going to make some of your fabulous jam!

Mom: Oh good! I'm glad you were able to find another great sale.

Me: Me too. Would you mind sending me your recipe when you have the chance?

Mom: Oh, just look on the back of the pectin box, dear. It will tell you what you need to do.

Me: No, you don't understand. I want to make your special version of strawberry jam.

Mom: Yes, yes. Just follow the directions on the back of the pectin box like I always do. It will be delicious.

Me: (stunned silence.)

Are you serious?!? All this time, all that arguing with my husband, and your recipe is from the box??? I couldn't believe it. Yet now that I've made the jam, I can. And you know what? It is still incredibly good. Amazingly delicious and ridiculously easy. So this is a post to demonstrate that you, too, can make absurdly easy strawberry jam.

Here's what you need:

Something to hold five cups worth of finished product. Plastic containers are great for freezer jam, but I already had these glass jars on hand and wanted to make this jam experience as inexpensive as possible. I sanitized my jars by boiling them (or you can rinse your plastic containers in boiling water).

One box of pectin. Actually, I wished I'd purchased 2 boxes, but this was my first time and I had no idea what I was doing. As promised, the box has instructions for both freezer jams/jellies and cooked jams/jellies. My mom always made strawberry freezer jam. It has a softer set than cooked jam and is prepared in half the time. It is also crazy-good. Win-win-win.

One box of pectin needs 4 cups of strawberries or 2 cups of crushed strawberries. I basically bought twice as many strawberries as I needed (or half as much pectin, really; we're going through this jam super-fast!) 2 lbs of strawberries was ample.

So, remove the stems, thoroughly wash, and crush your strawberries!

My parents-in-law bought me this beautiful Cuisinart food processor which I used for the crushing.

Next, you need 4 cups of sugar. That's right, jam has twice as much sugar as fruit. Let's not dwell on that fact. Stir sugar into fruit and let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then, stir your pectin and 3/4 cup of water together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Let boil one minute while you continue to stir. Then, remove from heat.

Add the pectin mixture to the fruit mixture and stir for 3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the jam is not grainy. Except a few sugar crystals will remain, which sounds like a few "grains" to me. Whatever.

Fill containers immediately, leaving 1/2 inch at the top for it to expand when frozen.

Cover and let stand for 24 hours or until set.

Oh-my-yum, that was easy. Slather onto delicious homemade bread like mama's artisan hazelnut bread.

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