Strawberry jam allows us to capture the bright flavor of fresh strawberries so we can have a fleeting taste of summer all year long. The jars full of jam lined up in my freezer are like frosted, sparkling jewels, promising a bit of luxury in the bare winter. It takes some time and effort to make jam, but when I taste a spoonful of the delicious stuff on my toast, it is all worth it. And though it has a softer set, freezer jam is much quicker to make than the cooked version.
My kids and I went over to my mom’s house a couple of days ago to make strawberry jam. My husband was at work that day, or he would have come too. We have been doing this for a number of years now. It is always a festive atmosphere, probably because strawberry season makes it feel like summer is really here, and we are taking part in it, savoring and preserving its sweetness. One of my nieces was born a few years ago while we making jam, and one of my nephews was born right around that time too, so I think I also associate jam-making with new possibilities. The juneberries are almost always ripe at the same time as strawberry jam-making time, so the kids often slip away on breaks to eat juneberries off of the huge bush in the back yard. This year, my daughter and son were both old enough to be extremely helpful and key players in the process. It is fun to see them grow and take on new responsibilities.
When the kids were younger, my dad was always part of the strawberry jam operation–mainly he took photos of us and entertained the kids when they were tired of mashing strawberries. This year was the second time he was not with us, and we missed him dearly. There is an empty spot now where he used to be, but I believe he is with us in spirit, glad we are carrying on the tradition, and laughing with us each time my mom sends me to the store to get more jelly jars or more sugar. We never seem to have our supplies organized. But the jam always turns out well anyway.
Savoring the moment and trying to capture it and preserve it for the future are two seemingly opposing forces. But somehow they connect for me when I am working with food or with photographs. Strawberries are really best when eaten right after they have been picked. Eating a fresh strawberry is a wonderful way to experience the feeling of summer; it grounds us in the moment. Preserving the lovely and unforgettable taste of strawberries in jam is honoring the moment, because we know it is brief and fleeting, and very soon there will be no more local strawberries till next year. To me, making jam symbolizes the honoring of moments and the passing of moments. We try to make the most of each moment and each season as it comes.
The recipe below is adapted from the one found in the Sure-jell packet. The recipe is for making approximately four 12 ounce jars of jam, but you can definitely double, triple, or quadruple it, depending on how many strawberries you have, how much jam you want, and how much time you want to spend in the kitchen–we made 40 jars! It may seem like the recipe calls for a lot of sugar, but the sugar helps the jam set properly. As long as a person doesn’t eat a whole jar of jam in one sitting, it really isn’t that much sugar per spoonful of jam, and at least it is real sugar, and not high fructose corn syrup! The freezer jam is easy to make, and truly preserves the wonderful fresh flavor of the fruit.
Strawberry Freezer Jam
- 4 cups of strawberries (they become about 2 cups when mashed)
- 4 cups of sugar, preferably pure cane sugar
- 1 package of Sure-Jell pectin
- glass jam/jelly jars used for canning, with lids and seals
- a funnel
- medium saucepan
- dry measuring cup
- liquid measuring cup
- 2 large bowls
- a ladle
Wash your canning jars, lids and screw tops in very hot, soapy water (or the jars can go in the dishwasher, but tops probably should not–thoroughly was them by hand). Make sure they are thoroughly dry. (Because you are storing the jars in the freezer, they don’t need to be officially sterilized and sealed.) Some people use plastic freezer jars too, but I like the look of the glass jars.
Thoroughly wash the strawberries. Gently pull the stems off of the berries, and measure four cups of them (with a dry measuring cup) into a large bowl. Mash the strawberries with a potato masher, leaving some bits of the fruit–don’t mash it into a complete liquid. Stir in four cups of sugar. It is important to use the exact amount of sugar, in order for the jam to set properly. Let the strawberry-sugar mixture sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir 1 package of Sure-Jell Premium Fruit Pectin and 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the pectin mixture to the strawberry-sugar mixture. Stir for 3 minutes, or unitl the sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy (it’s okay if a few sugar crystals remain). Immediately fill the jars (this is where a funnel comes in really handy!), leaving a half-inch space at the tops for expansion during freezing. Wipe the lid area clean of any sticky drips with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with lids. If you are using the screw-top lids, make sure the lids are secured tightly.
Let the jam stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Then refrigerate for up to three weeks, or put in the freezer for up to one year. If the jam is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator before using. Enjoy!
This recipe is adapted from the recipe found in the package of Sure-Jell.
Make sure you use the exact amount of sugar called for in the recipe, in order for the jam to set properly.
If you are doubling, tripling, etc., the recipe, do it by making a batch at a time.