how to make strawberry and mixed berry jam for beginners from a novice

This post is a little delayed...ok a lot delayed but I finally had time to put it together so here goes! I took Avy Gravy strawberry picking (The Dude was way too busy playing basketball in the driveway with his new hoop to come with) and despite the fact that it was SUPER HOT and Avy was ready to leave after 5 minutes, we filled two boxes with some small super sweet berries. I picked up a few stalks of rhubarb when we were paying but had no specific plan for any of our goodies. But at the very least I could rely on my fave Strawberry Almond Gelato or Strawbery Rhubarb Crumble which you guys seemed to love.

Someone stole my sunglasses before we got out of the car. 

Someone stole my sunglasses before we got out of the car. 

Avy taking a break from the sun! 

Avy taking a break from the sun! 

Then I posted a photo of our harvest on Instagram and my fabulous Martha Stewart loving friend Kate said "Make jam!" My brain was all "Yeah, no way that's too complicated." The science and boiling jars is not my bag and let's get real, how country am I? Not THAT country! But I like a challenge so I decided to approach this from a place of yes and instead of place of fear. (You like that huh? Sounds all brave and stuff but we are still just talking about making jam, don't worry.) 

So I asked my dear friend Karen who had given me some seriously delicious homemade pepper jelly for Christmas for canning tips. She wrote it all down and I felt pretty good about where I was going. I collected my canning supplies at my grocery store, which I wanted to be minimal in case this all went to hell. Yes, I said that. I searched Pinterest and found a bunch of recipes for Strawberry Jam but I'm not gonna lie...I didn't have enough strawberries for any of them, so I decided to add some other berries and use a recipe for reference but I winged it. Oh dear god.



What you need

3 1/2 pounds of strawberries 

1 pint blueberries

2 pints blackberries  

3 cups sugar

4 tablespoons pectin

Juice of half a lemon

canning jars

discs and rings (new ones, you can not reuse these)

Disclaimer: there are not pictures of the actual canning process because I was hyper focused on the process, it went faster than I thought so there was NO time for photography and let's face it, I wasn't completely convinced this was going to pan out.

I prepared by putting all of the jars in a big pot and filled it with water, turned it on to boil. I put the discs in a small pot with water covered it and turned it on to medium low so they are hot and ready but not boiling. I squeezed the lemon juice into a bowl and measured the sugar and pectin so I was ready when it was time.

Next I chopped all of the strawberries (this took the most time and was when I thought about giving up and how I'd never eat it because I'll hate strawberries by the time I'm done but I digress, as usual.) I placed one third in pot over medium high heat with the blackberries and blueberries and added a couple tablespoons of water. As the fruit started to break down I smashed it with a wooden spoon then added another third of the strawberries. I continued stirring and smashing and after a few minutes added the last batch. Adding the strawberries in various stages allowed for some of them to break down completely and others to stay chunkier creating a really nice texture so I recommend it. I added the lemon juice, sugar and pectin and stirred for a minute. I removed it from the heat and scrapped the foam off the top for a clearer jam. If you don't care how it looks skip this step, it tastes the same.

Now the scary part...screaming hot jars and jam, I was convinced I'd end up with third degree burns. Place of yes..Like Bethenney says "Come from a place of yes." Do you think she's ever canned anything? (If you don't know...Bethenney Frankle, RHofNY, Skinny Girl, now you know.)

So I carefully removed all the jars from the boiling water and lined them up on a folded bath towel on my counter. I immediately began to ladle the jam into each jar leaving a quarter inch of room from the top of the jam to the top of the jar for expansion. I wiped the rims clean with a hot wet dishcloth, if there's anything on the rim the jar won't seal thing I wish I had but didn't wasn't a funnel so if you don't have one get one it makes this part easier.

Then I placed the disks on each jar and followed that with the rings which I was told to just twist until a felt a little resistance as they would tighten later. I placed all the jars back in the boiling water for 10 minutes then removed them with tongs and placed them back on the towel on the counter. I listened for the symphony of tops popping and started to get excited thinking this whole charade might actually be working. Karen says popping noise is good! I tested each jar after they had cooled hours later by pushing the top, if you can't flex the center up and down, it's sealed. Then I tested further by holding the jar from the edge of the rim with the ring off and lifting it a few inches from the counter. If the disc held it was sealed! If they aren't sealed properly pop them in the fridge and eat those first. All sealed.

I tested some one a piece of a baguette...a-mazing. I'm like a professional canner, what else can I can now?

So the bottom line is simple: it's a lot of steps but if you prepare everything in advance you'll be all set since it goes fast and it's not hard at all. I honestly can't wait until a cold winter morning and I can wake up to a little jar of sunshine to spread on my bagel. I'm going to try raspberry jam soon and I'm determined to make a serious bacon jam too.

(Side not of praise: The Big Guy took one to work to use on his morning bagel and then stole another when I wasn't paying attention...that's some serious applause since you know cooking for him is like cooking for a NY Times food critic)

So happy canning and let me know if you make anything!