Strawberry season is barely a month long. One day the plants are covered in delicate, white flowers, and the next you’re drowning in ripe, ruby red berries. It’s an excellent problem to have.
We have a really small strawberry patch. It’s only two rows, each about 50 feet long. We grow only one variety, called “Sparkle.” They are on the smaller side and it takes a strong thumbnail to break through the vine, but there is not a sweeter strawberry to be had.
Josh’s grandfather has been in the berry business for more than 30 years. He keeps the Sparkle patch tucked away, separate from the Pick-Your-Own plot. It isn’t open to the public. Kids that aren’t direct descendants aren’t allowed. To get in, you need to know that it exists and even then, you’re being watched as you pick. One wrong move and you may not be informed when the patch gets relocated.
Sparkle strawberries make the best jam. They don’t need a lot of doctoring, and you can get away with using very little sugar as the berries are already plenty sweet on their own. We’re not dealing with California strawberries here. No offense to you California, but I get the feeling that you keep all the good berries to yourself and send all the rejects to the East Coast in the winter, because you know that we’re desperate for even the slightest reminder of summer.
I know I have said it before, but I will say it again, sanitize EVERYTHING when you’re canning. Every inch of my countertops, the stovetop, my canning tools, jars, lid and bands all get sanitized.
I use a particular type of fruit pectin, the Sure-Jell in the pink box. It has recipes that call for far less sugar than traditional recipes. In big bold letters, it says that you cannot reduce the amount of sugar that is called for, but in the recipe below, I decreased the amount of crushed strawberries used and increased the amount of pectin. This allows me to reduce the amount of sugar and still get a jam that sets up. The more sugar you use, the firmer the jam will be.
- 10 cups crushed strawberries
- 3-6 cups white granulated sugar (depending on taste)
- 2 boxes SURE-JELL For Less or No Sugar Recipe Fruit Pectin (pink box)
- Prep your space by getting your water bath canner, large saucepot and medium-sized pot in place on the stove. Fill you canner ¾ of the way full before placing on the stove so that it will be ready when you are.
- Sanitize your jars. This can be done one of two ways. If your dishwasher has a sanitize feature, you can time it so that your jars are sanitized and kept warm, using the heated dry feature, until you are ready to use them. Otherwise, fill your sink with boiling water and soap and soak your jars for fifteen minutes, scrub them and rinse. Once they have been rinsed, pop them in the oven on the lowest or warm setting and leave them there until ready to fill. If your jars are not warm when you fill them with the jam, they will shatter from the heat of the sauce. Set aside your jar lids and bands. Those will be sanitized later in the process.
- Wash, hull and crush strawberries until you have the needed 10 cups of crushed berries. Place crushed strawberries in a large saucepan.
- Scrub your lids and bands using soap and hot water. Dry thoroughly and set aside in a clean place.
- In a small bowl, mix together ½ cup sugar and both boxes of pectin. Add mixture to the crushed berries and stir well.
- Heat the berry mix over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a rolling boil.
- Add the remaining sugar and mix thoroughly. Bring the the mixture to a rolling boil once again and boil for one minute. Then remove from heat.
- This is where things move quickly. Make sure you have a clean, dry paper towel, a wide-mouth funnel, a ladle and a metal butter knife on hand. Remove jars from the oven or dishwasher. Place the funnel and butter knife in the first jar and ladle in the hot jam. Leave ¼ inch of headspace from the top of the jar. Repeat this process until all 4 or 5 jars are filled.
- Using the paper towel, wipe the rim of the first jar so that it is dry. Top with a jar lid and band. Do not over tighten the band. Just twist until it resists and don’t push it. Repeat until all the jars have covers.
- Very carefully lower your jars into the boiling water in your canner. Most canners come with a rack that you can load and lower into the water. If you’re like me and you have lost this rack, use a jar grabber or rubber tipped tongs to lower the jars into the water. I really do recommend using the rack though. Make sure the jars are covered with at least 1 inch of water. Cover the canner and process cans for 10 minutes.
- Once the jars have processed for 10 minutes, transfer them to a towel that has been laid out on a flat surface. Wrap the jars with the towel and let them sit for 24 hours. Check the lids to make sure they have sealed properly. Sealed jam can be stored for up to a year. Once it has been opened, it will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.