I've been dabbling in teaching myself how to "put up" and so far I've had some success. I've made apple sauce, stewed tomatoes, apple butter, and now this absolutely positively fabulous strawberry jam. Even with off season strawberries this jam is good! As the strawberries were simmering, the house smelled of the sweet fragrance of strawberries, a wonderful aroma in the dark days of February.
Ole Sweetie-Pi bought me a couple of cookbooks (An early Valentine's present? A just-because present? It doesn't matter, he saw a cookbook I had been admiring, Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook, and he bought it for me). Like most cookbook lovers, I immediately saw down and started reading it like a novel and found several things I wanted to make. My mouth was watering as I fingered the pages and read the anecdotes that went with the recipes.
I was actually looking for perhaps a strawberry cake or a strawberry tart recipe (I had purchased two quarts of strawberries for another reason that did not come to fruition, smiles) and needed to find a way to use them. And there it was, strawberry jam. Now, the first time I tried strawberry jam was years ago, and it came out like strawberry sauce, telling me I didn't cook it long enough or hard enough. It was delicious, but it was not jam. Ate a lot of ice cream with strawberry sauce that year as I recall, with plenty to share with friends.
Time to put on my big girl pants and try it again, I decided. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert at canning. There's lots of helpful information at the Ball Canning site to get you started; they have been the trusted source in my family for decades but the USDA also has some invaluable information if you care to google it, so I am not going to bore you here with how to sterilize the jars and all that. This jam is so simple you'll wonder why you never tried it before. I know this is one that I will many times.
(Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook)
8 cups strawberries, cleaned, hulled, crushed
8 cups (4 pounds) sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a large soup pot (or similar large pot, keeping in mind that you'll need to have room enough for the syrup to bubble and boil) aalternate layers of strawberries with layers of sugar. (I put in two cups strawberries, two cups sugar, etc., ending with two cups of sugar). Let stand in cool place for 5 hours.
Place the pot over medium-high heat and slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes, until it reaches the jelling point. As the preserves thicken, stir frequently to prevent burning and sticking to the pot. Stir in the lemon juice and boil for 2 minutes longer. Remove the pot from the heat and skim off any foam.
Ladle the hot preserves into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Seal immediately following canning instructions.
**MY NOTES ~ As I mentioned, I think the mistake I made in the past (and this time too until I corrected it because it wasn't gelling) was that I was not cooking the preserves at a rapid boil. A rapid boil means that there will be large bubbles rising, rolling, and popping on the surface. I can attest from experience that a simmer will not gel your preserves.