Every year, my Mom and I anxiously awaited the arrival of strawberry season in Schuylkill County. The berries popped up in chipboard baskets — sometimes speckled with red stains from the juicy berries — at roadside stands and farmers markets across the region.
Mom and I watched with eagle eyes and baited breath for the big strawberry-shaped sign to appear outside the barn at a farm that grew strawberries on Rt. 443 outside Friedensburg (PA). Although that was one of our favorite places to buy berries, we were also surrounded by what felt like the motherland of locations offering up the sweet, juicy, luscious fruit like Renninger’s Market, Hometown Farmers Market, and Crossroad Market in Gratz.
After so many times buying strawberries in the particular quantity needed for a dish we planned on making only to come up short because Mom and I polished off a box on the way home, we got wise and started purchasing an extra box.
Mom and i loved the berries unadulterated; the rest of the family liked them made into desserts like strawberry shortcake, strawberry glaze pie, or my Nana’s perennial favorite — strawberry rhubarb crumb pie.
Pop would not touch a drop of commercially prepared strawberry jam or jelly. He would mumble under his breathe, expressing his displeasure if the holder on the table at the local diner contained only those little foil-covered packets in strawberry flavor.
The first year ‘I made my own strawberry jam, I expected Mom and I would be the only ones who would eat it, and we would be working our way through it well into winter or even early spring of the next year. I was wrong. The family gobbled it up slathering it on toast, pancakes, and muffins. My Pop — the notorious strawberry jam hater — would occasionally sit at the kitchen table and down spoonfuls right from the jar.
It has been many years since I made this jam. The beautiful strawberries of the kind I had grown up with in The Coal Region were extremely elusive in New England. I got lucky one season and found some local berries that met my standards and whipped up a batch. Even my husband James, who was not a strawberry fan, found he really enjoyed the jam on his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Only back home in PA since mid-summer 2018 and through two berry seasons, I had planned on making a batch this summer, but fate stepped in and changed my plans. Now that James has passed away, I no longer have my “right hand man” to help with the challenges Rheumatoid Arthritis presents when cooking and no longer need jam in large quantities.
My days of making jam may be over, but as I held the recipe card for this strawberry jam in my hands, I closed my eyes and was back sitting alongside my Mom on the front bench seat of my family’s Buick on a beautiful, warm summer day, radio on, windows down, wind tossing our hair about, laughing and talking and looking forward to the line up of cooling, just processed sweet ruby-red strawberry jam that would adorn the counter-top that evening. These kinds of memories are the precious gifts my Mom gave me that will live forever and for those gifts I am eternally grateful. Miss you so much, Mom. So much..
Quick, easy and delicious
Rather than cook the fruit to develop the pectin, I have used Certo liquid pectin since I made my very first batch. It is easy and quick, and I have had batch after batch turn out and set up perfectly. The recipe here uses the liquid pectin — if you choose to use powdered pectin or another method, your results may vary and you will need to use a recipe specifically for powdered pectin or your chosen method and follow those specific instructions closely.
Homemade jam is a great way to use up under-sized berries or those that are not picture-perfect in appearance, but never use over-ripe fruit or fruit with soft or rotten spots. Use safe canning practices whenever preserving any food.
Homemade Strawberry JamCourse: miscellaneous, CondimentsDifficulty: Easy
4 cups prepared (step 2 in directions) fully ripe strawberries, about 2 quarts
7 cups granulated sugar, measure into separate bowl and set aside
1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine (optional – reduces foaming)
1 pouch CERTO Fruit Pectin
- Bring boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot, soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
- Stem and crush strawberries thoroughly, one layer at a time, in a bowl. Measure exactly 4 cups crushed strawberries into 6 or 8-quart saucepan.
- Cut top off pouch of liquid pectin and stand it upright in a wide mug or canning jar. Set aside.
- Add sugar to strawberries in pot; stir. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) over high heat, stirring constantly. When a full rolling boil is reached, stir in pectin. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam from the surface with metal spoon and discard.
- Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary)
- ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENTS – At altitudes above 1,000 feet, increase processing time as indicated: 1,001 to 3,000 feet-increase processing time by 5 minutes; 3,001 to 6,000 feet-increase processing time by 10 minutes; 6,001 to 8,000 feet-increase processing time by 15 minutes; 8,001 to 10,000 feet-increase processing time by 20 minutes.
- If berries are extra ripe, use 3-3/4 cups prepared fruit and add 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice.
- To get exact level cup measures of sugar, spoon sugar into dry metal or plastic measuring cups, then level by scraping excess sugar from top of cup with straight-edged knife.