June 16, 2005 2:21 AM | By Adam Roberts | 17 Comments

Pump Up The Jam (Strawberry, That Is)

Enter this post at your own risk: I made jam like a madman yesterday. A madman you say? Yes I do. Why a madman? Because I broke many jam making rules. The biggest rule? The rule comes to us from Christine Ferber who is a jam genius: her jam book "Mes Confitures" was recommended to me by Clotilde and all the jams in it look delicious. Here's Chrissy's rule: "Ideally, the fruit should be prepared a few hours after picking--the next day at the latest (and, if so, the fruit must be kept cool)--because it loses quality quickly."

The next day you say? Oh Christine. How you'd howl if you saw what I did yesterday. See these strawberries?


They were five days old! I bought them for Stella's party and there were lots and lots of them and they never got et. So yesterday, when I spied them in the fridge, I said: "Something must be done!" I tasted one and it tasted fine. "Screw the French jam master!" I said ruefully. "I'm making jam!"

This month's Martha Stewart Living (yes, occassionally I buy Martha Stewart living) has a recipe for strawberry preserves. I combined that recipe with some tips and quantities from "Mes Confitures" and I was on my way.

If you are going to do this, go to the Container Store and buy jars. That's the only place I've found thusfar that sells jars. I'm sure that's nuts--there's plenty of places to buy jars. But that's the one I know. I bought four jars, but only used one and a half.

When you're ready to make the jam, rinse and clean your jars with soap and water and a sponge. Dry thoroughly and put on a baking sheet. I lined the sheet with parchament because I knew later, when I was ladeling hot jam into the jars, I'd want paper down to catch what I spilled. (And I did spill.)

Turn the oven up to 220, let it preheat. When you have five minutes left on your jam cooking, put the jars in the oven to sterilize them. This is Christine's technique and it's really easy. It's either that or throw some penicillin in the pot.

Now for the jam making. Watch how easy. You need: 2 lbs strawberries, 1 Tbs plus 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice, and 1 cup sugar.*

*That 1 cup is from Martha Stewart. But in Christine's book for the same quantity of strawberries she recommends two cups. So I compromised and used 1.5 cups. I think you should negotiate this number based on how sweet your strawberries are.

Here we go:

1. Put strawberries and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Cook, stirring occassionally, over low heat until juices are released, about 40 minutes. Stir in sugar.


2. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occassionally, until mixture registers 210* on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely; skim foam from surface with a spoon. Preserves can be refrigerated in an air tight container, up to 2 months.

*Step 2 is all Martha. Christine says to get the temp up to 221 on a candy thermometer. Since Martha's making preserves and Christine's making jam, I decided to go the jam route and get it up to 221. I took a tip from Clotilde and put a plate in the freezer before I started so when the temp got close to 221 (it actually never quite got there) I could "check the set" on the cold plate. You just spoon some of the boiling liquid on to the plate and feel its consistency. If it's runny you know the jam'll be runny. It's really quite simple. Here's my boiling apparatus:


Instead of following Martha's instructions to let it cool, I immediately ladeled the hot mixture (after checking the set) into the sterilized jars. You put the lids on and store them upside down (not sure why) until they come to room temperature.

Despite all these rules, the jam came out great. So don't be intimidated by rules or standards or lofty jam expectations. Put summer in a bottle and make some jam. Your winter self will thank you.


you can get ball jars at supermarket, hardware store, drugstore, walmart/target, etc, and they're way cheaper than the expensive imported ones at container store.

Great post! I like to kick out the jams (heh) sometimes myself too. There is a great book called "Art of Preserving" by Jan Berry that has great recipes and beautiful photos to boot. And if you ever want cool bottles for cheap, www.specialtybottle.com is a good place to get 'em.

The only problem with Ball jars is that they're hideously ugly. I'm surprised they aren't covered in NASCAR logos at this point. That Specialty Bottle link is a keeper, though.

Adam--get thee a digital thermometer! Those dial ones are often only accurate to within 10 degrees, which makes them really hard to use right. The creme de la creme is the Thermapen, which is like 80 bucks, but you can get a Pyrex or a Polder with a probe for around 20.

Surely you have Sun La Tables in the city. They carry an assortment of very pretty canning jars. My personal favorite are the Weck Jars from Germany. They're attractive, strong for reuse (I've had and used mine for 4 years or more) and they seal beautifully.

Williams-Sonoma once carried them but I'm not sure they still do. In any case, Sur La Table also sells replacement seals.

PS Consider processing them in a water bath next time. It adds little to the preparation time and, come winter, when you're wondering how good a job you actually did at achieving an effective seal, it will ease your mind before you slather it on toast.

I'm not an expert on preserves, but I'm guessing you store the jams upside down to cool to prevent air seepage. In the case of an imperfect seal, the wieght of the goop should help prevent air trying to make its way in with nasty bugs while the jam is at the best temperature for bacteria and other bugs.

Another good way to get jars is at flea markets and garage sales. If you do a lot of canning and preserving and like to give it away (as my mom does), buying jars gets pretty expensive. She always finds lots for cheap at garage sales over the summer. Just make sure you clean thoroughly, of course.

We always boiled our jars to sterilize them. Highly effective but we have very hard water so even with vinegar added, we ended up with a white chalky residue on our jars. We'll have to try to oven method next time.

After applying lids and rings, I turn the jars upside down for 5 minutes and then turn them rightside up. After that, I hear ping, ping, ping as the lids seal themselves to the jars. This is called the inversion method, which I usually use and I haven't poisoned anyone...yet.

The boiling water bath also is a way of making sure your jars are sealed. After you remove them from the bath, the lid is checked for a seal by pressing on the enter of each lid. If the center is pulled down and doesn't flex, then you can remove the band and gently try to pull the lid off the jar. If it doesn't budge, the seal is good.

I've done my season's worth of raspberry jam and am looking forward to the apricot crop - however, it's raining yet again here in NoCalif.

Another good source of info for this type of thing is the Ball Blue Book of Preserving (no, not the BLUE Ball Book).

Another way to do the sterilization is to wash them in the dishwasher on a "Sanitizer" cycle and hold them by putting it back on "Dry" while you cook the fruit. But you'll still need to keep the rubber rings or the metal lids with the rubber compound in a simmering pot of water until you put them on the filled jars.

We did a very easy, delicious Strawberry Freezer Jam over at the Bottom Feeder a couple of weeks ago. Took 10 minutes, cleanup was a breeze, and it was delicious. You should try it out!

Broadway Panhandler has jars and other canning supplies. http://www.broadwaypanhandler.com/broadway/

why do strawberries rise to top ofjar?

The Jamlady Cookbook by Beverly Ellen Schoonmaker Alfeld (Pelican Publishing, 2004) has 500 recipes for making jellies, jams, preserves, and butters. There are also recipes for baking with jams and making liqueurs. The Jamlady Cookbook is a reference cookbook and has information on fruits and vegetables --so it is also a horticulture book. Very complete.

hey..this is geat help

add more pictures!

I made the strawberry jam and it was delicious!Would this recipe work just as well with other berries, though? Maybe blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries?

How can you pevent runny strawberry freezer jam

I just made this jam and it is delicious! I didn't use as much of the sugar, though, and it was still a little sweet for my taste. Thanks for the how-to guide, Adam!

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