Introduction

For a few glorious weeks each spring, strawberries are in season and ripe for the picking. For home canners, strawberry jam is often the first project of the season and, with a little planning, the sweet, succulent fruit can be part of the menu long after fields have been cleared. This easy recipe for homemade strawberry jam skips the commercial pectin and reduces the ingredients needed for the delicious spread to the fundamentals. Whether you’re new to canning or a seasoned pro, making strawberry jam at home is surprisingly easy and will make you a superstar when it comes to preserving the harvest.

Step 1

Step 1, Getting Started

Step 1, Getting Started

Getting Started

Many recipes for strawberry jam call for the addition of commercial pectin, but the natural pectin present in strawberries is enough to create a thick, flavorful jam without extra help. With a little time, two quarts of fresh strawberries, six cups of sugar and a little lemon juice are you’ll need to make your own homemade strawberry jam.

Step 2

Step 2, Prepare Strawberries

Step 2, Prepare Strawberries

Prepare Strawberries

Strawberries do not continue to ripen after harvesting, so select berries that are completely red and still a little bit firm for picking. Freshly picked strawberries will yield the most flavor. Hold off washing your bounty until it’s time to use them (washed strawberries spoil faster). When it’s time to make your jam, wash berries thoroughly, discard any bruised or blemished berries and use a paring knife of huller to remove the stems from two quarts of ripe strawberries.

Step 3

Step 3, Mash Strawberries

Step 3, Mash Strawberries

Mash Strawberries

Use a potato masher to crush berries, releasing the juices and reducing the volume to about six cups. Chunks of strawberries should still be present to give jam a pleasing texture and consistency.

Step 4

Step 4, Add Lemon Juice

Step 4, Add Lemon Juice

Add Lemon Juice

Lemon juice not only brightens flavor, the citric acid will keep any bacteria at bay when canning jam for long-term storage. Use a juicer to extract the juice from one lemon (3-4 tablespoons) and stir it into the mashed strawberries.

Step 5

Step 5, Combine Sugar and Strawberries

Step 5, Combine Sugar and Strawberries

Combine Sugar and Strawberries

In a large, heavy pot, stir together strawberry/lemon juice mix and six cups of sugar. Do not reduce the amount of sugar used. It may seem like a lot, but the combination of sugar and pectin is what gives natural jam its desired consistency.

Step 6

Step 6, Cooking Jam

Step 6, Cooking Jam

Cook Jam

Place a candy thermometer in the pot and cook over high heat, allowing it to reach a rolling boil. Jam must reach a “gel point” of 220 degrees before it thickens. Expect this to take anywhere from 35-45 minutes. Stay close and stir frequently with a wooden spoon to keep the bubbling, sticky jam from burning to the bottom of the pot. While you await the transformation, fill a water bath halfway with water and bring to boil on a second burner so it will be ready when it’s time to can the jam.

Step 7

Step 7, Gel Point

Step 7, Gel Point

Gel Point

When the temperature reads 220 degrees on your thermometer, something magical will happen. The jam will become thick and viscous. Although the transition is fairly obvious, don’t remove the jam from the heat until you’ve hit that crucial 220 degrees. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, a “cold plate” test may also be employed to confirm the jam will cool to a nice “jammy” thickness. Place a plate in the freezer and when the jam looks like it’s thick enough, drip a glob on the plate. If the jam doesn’t drip and wrinkles at the touch, it’s ready to go.

Step 8

Step 8, Canning Jam

Step 8, Canning Jam

Can Jam

Remove the jam from heat and ladle into sterile half-pint jars, leaving 1/4” of headspace. Washed jars should be sterilized before use by boiling in a pot of water for ten minutes to destroy any bacteria.

Step 9

Step 9, Sealing Jars

Step 9, Sealing Jars

Seal Jars

Wipe rims of jars with a rag and cap with fresh lids and bands. Finger tighten bands and place in boiling water bath for ten minutes to seal. Remove jars from bath and allow to cool to room temperature on the counter. After a few minutes of cooling, you may hear a satisfying “ping” from each jar as a vacuum is established, ensuring the jars are safely sealed for shelf-storage.

Step 10

Step 10, Storing Jam

Step 10, Storing Jam

Store Jam

Your homemade jam will be ready to eat in about 24 hours, but may be stored up to a year without significant loss of flavor. Before storing, press on the lid of each jar with your fingertips. If there is no give, the jar has successfully sealed and is ready for the pantry. Label jars with the contents and canning date.