It is my firm opinion that if you are going to jam, don’t use the junk strawberries from the grocery store. Pick right from the plant and make your jam within 24 hours. It’s just better. Period.
Every late spring to early summer in Minnesota we get huge amounts of wild (up north mostly) and farmed strawberries. My family has own small strawberry garden, but if we need more it is easy to find a strawberry farm. Start your own search for a farm near you at pickyourown.org. Be careful, though, strawberries have a very short season on the farms. By short I mean just a matter of a handful of days. Make sure you call in advance so you don’t miss the season. Also call for prices. You will be surprised at the difference in pricing.
If you make the time to go to a farm and pick, you will not be disappointed. In a short time, you will certainly have collected pounds of strawberries. Use the to make your jam, freeze them for smoothies, make them into pies, or eat them fresh.
Besides getting superior produce and very fresh strawberries, picking is a great family activity. Below, I attached a few pictures of the kiddos from last spring at Afton Apple.
In a short hour and a half, we picked about 23 pounds of strawberries. I’m writing this in March of the following year and I think we just recently ran out of our frozen strawberries and still have a few bottles of our jam.
How to Make Strawberry Jam
The first step in preserving your strawberries in any way is to pick through each one pulling off the stems and washing in cold water. We put some aside for eating over the next day or two and then took 13 cups for our homemade strawberry jam recipe. The remainder were frozen.
We simply use pectin from the store to make our jam. Each brand will have specific instructions for making jam with their product. Just pick up a box of pectin at your local store and follow the canning directions on it, but I will show you the basic steps below:
It is important to sterilize your jars and lids before you do anything. We boil our jars and lids for 10 minutes leaving at least 1 inch of water over the tops. Then we put the now-sterile jars into an oven at 250 degrees. This will keep them steril and will keep them hot so the glass won’t crack when you pour in the hot jam in a minute.
The first step is to sterilize your jars.
Then simmer the strawberries until they turn into mush.
Third, add sugar and basil (per the pectin box’s instructions) for flavor. Bring to a rolling boil. Then add the pectin and boil hard for one minute before hot packing sanitized cans.
When instructions mean boiling hard, they mean boiling HARD. You won’t burn it. A hard boil is when you can stir and the boiling does not slow down. This batch was not hard boiled enough and the jam separated.
Fourth, pack the cans. To do this, pull the cans out of the oven and set on a clean cloth. Pour the jam into the can leaving a small amount of headspace on the top of the can as shown below.
Finally, set the lids and bands on the jars. Then water bath the cans as required in your pectin boxes instructions. This will pasteurize the jam and make sure it lasts for the year (or years).