Have you ever tried to make jam? If you have, do you remember your first go at it? This was my first try. It wasn't hard, per se, but it was more time consuming than the recipe I used led me to believe. And that makes it feel like it wasn't as easy as I was hoping it would be!
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My number one issue I have with most recipes is that they always have a "cooking time" or other time listed. In her blog entry, the author states that she made a half batch of this jam in just over an hour (second to last point under "From one beginner to another, a few key points"). That got me all psyched that this wouldn't take me all day. So when I started this adventure, after heading to Walmart to buy an actual canning pot, it was about 4pm...
We had picked the strawberries a few days earlier at a farm we tried to go to last year for pick-your-own. Last year we ended up getting to the farm at about 2pm on a Saturday and were told they had already been picked clean out! So Chupie and I went on a Friday morning when it was threatening to rain and got tons of berries! I have to say though, Chupie was more interested in the rocks that lined the paths than even the strawberries. What a stinker! I had to put her in her overalls (thanks, Auntie, for the hand-me-downs!) to go to the farm! If you're in the Houston area, they have a petting zoo and other fun stuff too! It's called Blessington Farms. Definitely check them out if you'd like to pick-your-own!
I then tried my vegetable peeler which I had read could be used. You apparently use the end that is meant to get the eyes out of potatoes to sort of jab and scoop out the hull. Well, again, I had giant strawberries, many irregularly shaped (why pick the nice ones if they are going to be chopped up anyway?), and they were ripe, but not smushy ripe. The peeler basically smushed them just like that. It bruised the berry, and left me covered in juice. Again, gotta try something else...
So, the way that everyone complains about for taking too long is the way I went: Take a paring knife, hold it at an angle, and cut a cone out of the top of the berry. This worked so well. It was relatively easy to do, clean, and didn't waste tons of berry. Just right. The only problem was the leaves. They kept getting in the way. So I finally took my pile of berries and removed all the leaves. This was very easy to do. Don't worry about the stem--that is hard to yank off. The leaves are a piece of cake, seriously. It freaked me out how easy it was. You just grab the leaves and pull. The stem stays put, but it doesn't matter because you're going to cut it out anyway. Once the leaves are gone it is much easier to see what you're cutting.
The process sped along, but there were 6 pounds of strawberries to be hulled. This sounds like A LOT, but it wasn't as much as I had expected, and didn't take too long. Maybe an hour. Okay, so I am almost already in the hole when it comes to "making a half batch in just over an hour."
Well, I was not going to sit there and cut them in half too--that was pushing my "time" button. So, I got out my NINJA food processor and threw them in! I probably chopped them up a bit much...but I don't mind not seeing whole huge pieces of berry in my jam. In fact, I find those big chunks irritating. Away they went with one more hit on the "PULSE" button! I also used the NINJA to chop up the apples. Cut the pieces away from the core and threw them in. Easy as...jam.
The next part is just letting it cook...and cook....annnnnd coooook. I didn't want it to be too watery (next time I may just find a recipe with pectin) so I cooked it for a very long time. The recipe warns that the jam will be more watery than store bought, but that you can cook it for longer and it will become less watery. It also says that you can test if the jam is done by seeing if it sticks to the back of a spoon or sets up on a cold plate. It took over an hour of straight cooking time (adjusting the temperature up and down so it didn't burn and stirring occasionally) for this to happen. Plus I wanted it to be a little less watery, so I kept it cooking until it looked a little thicker than when it was just barely sticking to the spoon.
And of course during this time, the rest of life has to go on! So I had to pause and get back to Chupie now and then! I had to make her dinner. She was coming in the kitchen, bringing toys and blankets for me to trip all over! If she could talk more, I'm sure she would've said, "Please, mom, please pay attention to me!"
The steps are pretty easy. You put the jars into the boiling water and wait. And not very long either. It was only a few minutes before they were all done. The tricky part here was ensuring that my jars and lids were sterilized. Unfortunately, my dishwasher was stuffed and so I couldn't sterilize them in there. So I used the canning water to first sterilize the jars. Just to holler out there--if any of you are experts and I did any of this wrong, please let me know so I don't screw up again next time! I did read (after I had canned everything, of course) that you don't need to sterilize the bands for the jars, but I had already done this anyway. Whoops!
After ten minutes in the boiling water, the canning process was done! Then I Googled how to test if the jars were sealed properly. And according to this site (and a few others I checked) it seemed they were! Now I would just have to watch them carefully and make sure they stayed sealed! Click the picture for the website from PickYourOwn.org:
Have a favorite jam recipe you've tried? I'm out to pick blueberries from the same farm in May when they switch over from strawberries. I'll have to try my awesome jam making skills again! And this time I won't have to worry about the best way to hull a blueberry!!!